First, the bad news for Victor Martinez: He’ll be 36 in December and is a defensive nonentity. The good news? He’s coming off the best offensive season of his career.

That second part should outweigh the first if Martinez becomes a free agent, as he’s expected to. The Detroit Tigers extended Martinez the qualifying offer of $15.3 million Friday, per Jason Beck of But, as‘s Jon Heyman reports, he will almost surely reject it and test the open market.

How much will he get? The answer may hinge less on dollars and more on years.

Martinez was unequivocally one of the best hitters in baseball last season, hitting .335 with 32 home runs and 103 RBI. His .409 on-base percentage led the American League, and his .974 OPS led all of baseball. Those are middle-of-the-order numbers any team would drool over. And how about this, from Ace of MLB Stats:

But again, Martinez is entering his age-36 season. And other than the odd inning at first base or behind the plate, he’s almost exclusively a designated hitter, which wipes half the prospective suitors off the board.

According to Heyman, Martinez is seeking a four-year deal. That’s the same contract length he got from Detroit prior to the 2011 season, when he was 31. Martinez posted a .330/.380/.470 slash line in the first year of that deal, but he missed all of 2012 with a knee injury.

His 2013 campaign started slowly, but he hit .361 after the All-Star break and carried that performance into 2014—when he helped carry the Tigers to the postseason, with visions of a title run. 

“This team’s been built for something bigger,” Martinez told Tony Paul of The Detroit News before Detroit was swept out of the American League Division Series by the Baltimore Orioles.

Now, Martinez is arguably the biggest bat on the market, assuming he goes that route. By extending him the qualifying offer, the Tigers haven’t taken themselves out of the mix for the switch-hitting slugger; they just ensured they’ll net a draft pick if he walks away.

In fact, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe reports, Martinez “prefers to work something out with the Tigers, so they will get first crack at him.” 

One complication for Detroit is the status of Miguel Cabrera, who underwent offseason ankle surgery. As Kurt Mensching notes in The Detroit News:

Finding a way to keep Cabrera healthy and contributing at his highest level should be a priority for the club at this point.

It’s too early to talk about making Cabrera a full-time designated hitter; besides that, he really wouldn’t like it. Somewhere along the way, though, you have to find a way to preserve Cabrera’s body for the long haul.

So maybe it’s time to stop having a full-time DH and open the door for Cabrera to take more days off from the field.

Where does that leave Martinez? Possibly on another team. Last offseason, the New York Yankees gave three years and $45 million to a 36-year-old Carlos Beltran. And New York’s designated hitters posted an anemic .230/.290/.372 slash line in 2014.

So there’s one possible suitor. Then there are the Orioles, who are looking to stay atop the AL East and could look to Martinez if they lose DH Nelson Cruz to free agency, as Ray Frager of CSN Baltimore speculated. In August, Bruce Levine of 670 The Score in Chicago predicted the White Sox would be offseason players for Martinez as well.

Heck, expect nearly every AL contender with cash to burn to at least kick the tires on V-Mart. 

All of which points toward Martinez getting the deal he wants. Is there risk involved in signing a guy with an injury history through his age-40 season? Of course.

But every risk has to be balanced against the reward…and Martinez offers plenty of reward.


All statistics courtesy of unless otherwise noted. 

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