DETROIT — Friday afternoon the Tigers officially announced they had re-signed designated hitter, Victor Martinez, to a four-year contract, keeping him in Detroit for the remainder of his career. Tigers owner, Mike Ilitch, President and CEO of Ilitch Holdings, Chris Ilitch, Tigers president and GM, Dave Dombrowski, and Martinez's representative, Scott Pacino, were all present for the announcement.
Martinez discussed his reasons for wanting to remain in Detroit with his entire family in attendance. After having a career-year at 35-years-old, Martinez had his pick of any team in baseball, but he wouldn't discuss it. He was asked on more than one occasion about whether he had considered any other teams, or if he had received any other serious offers.
"You know, this is where I am right now," Martinez said. "I think that shows everybody how much I love the city, how much I love the fans. My only focus was just to try and get something done, and come back for the next few years here to Detroit."
After being asked to confirm other offers, Martinez remained mum on the topic and focused completely on his decision to remain with the Tigers. "I don't think it's fair to talk about the other teams," he said. "I'm here just to let everybody know how happy we are, my family are, to come back to Detroit."
VMart and his adorable family. pic.twitter.com/BRhziiCx45
— Catherine Slonksnis (@CSlonksnis) November 14, 2014
Ilitch was in good spirits as he talked about Martinez and how much the slugger means to him. In regards to how much of a win-now message the move sent, Mr. Ilitch made a lighthearted joke as he searched his pockets and physically checked his wallet.
"Yeah, I'm OK," Ilitch laughed. "I've got some $20s in here. You know how I feel about the same way, since I've had the Club. I love baseball, being a minor leaguer it's in your blood. It's a great sport and I'm very fortunate, being an owner of a major league team, and I'm just a happy man."
After the conference, Ilitch further talked about Martinez and his presence at the plate and in the clubhouse.
"He's just as cool as a cucumber and his teammates think the world of him," Ilitch said with a smile.
Mr. Ilitch and Victor Martinez pic.twitter.com/bX7EhyB3Aj
— Catherine Slonksnis (@CSlonksnis) November 14, 2014
Perhaps one of the best assessments to come of what influenced the Tigers to keep Martinez, outside of the obvious, came by way of the Tigers owner once again. Ilitch's analysis of why he likes Martinez, beyond his dedication and work ethic, stood out.
"The thing that impresses me most about (Martinez) with the bat is very seldom, well first of all he's so serious when he's in there," Ilitch said. "He just is a different person. He goes in there and he is very selective of pitches, he very seldom swings at a bad pitch way outside. He hangs in there and waits, has a lot of patience to get the good pitch. It goes to show you the type of player that he is because of the great discipline."
After the press conference, Dombrowski spoke about remaining moves the Tigers have as the offseason continues. In regards to the outfield Dombrowski acknowledged the team is still analyzing what additional options are available, noting internal minor league options such as Tyler Collins and Steven Moya.
Dombrowski would not discuss any rumors regarding catcher Alex Avila, however, and he said the team doesn't expect to be in the mix for Max Scherzer. Considering who Scherzer is represented by in Scott Boras, however, and how slowly he moves, Dombrowski noted it's still too early to delve too deeply into that discussion. Dombrowski also wouldn't confirm or discount whether the signing of Martinez rules out any possibility of signing Scherzer in the future.
During the season, Dombrowski said the team wasn't entirely confident they would be able to sign Martinez because there were several teams during the season that were interested in the DH, despite Martinez's noted desire to stay with the Tigers.
"I thought we always had a real strong chance," Dombrowski said. "I know that there were a couple of clubs that had really strong interest, a couple that were really strongly interested, so I didn't feel 100 percent confident."
With the middle of the lineup taken care of, the Tigers are expecting their outfield to be set, but they haven't fully committed to it. Newly acquired center fielder, Anthony Gose, will be given a chance to be the Tigers' everyday position player (with Rajai Davis taking one of the corner positions), but Dombrowski said Gose will have to earn that responsibility. Gose, who doesn't hit lefties well (a career .208 hitter), will need to improve his performance at the plate as well, not just do well on the field.
With Joakim Soria, Bruce Rondon, and Joe Nathan in the back end of the bullpen, the Tigers are comfortable with how their bullpen is shaping up. That doesn't mean, however, that they're finished with that either. Don't expect any large moves though, they'll likely come via smaller moves or trades. Dombrowski said starters who aren't able to take the fifth starter role (if solved internally) would be able to fill in some of the bullpen instead.
"I'm not saying we're done but sometimes they're not the big splashy ones, they don't have to be big dollars and big splashes," Dombrowski said. "Sometimes you can get guys to step up and do the job. We've also talked about, we haven't really done as much in the past, we'll have to protect ourselves at the minor-league level, sending somebody else down. But we might slide some of those guys into the bullpen too, if they don't make our club."