The Seattle Mariners surprised baseball on Sunday when they designated center fielder Leonys Martin for assignment amid a flurry of roster moves. The 29-year-old Martin has been praised as an excellent defender, and was worth 2.2 fWAR in 143 games for the Mariners last season. The reason for his DFA? A poor offensive profile that culminated in a .302 OPS — yes, OPS — in 15 games this season.
Naturally, the Detroit Tigers could be interested. We haven’t heard anything definitive yet, but it has only been a few hours since the move. The Tigers were busy beating up on the Minnesota Twins at the time as well.
Still, the interest should be there. Center field has been a major question for the Tigers for months now, and the team isn’t any closer to locking things down. JaCoby Jones started off the year nicely, but is hitting .150/.244/.300 for the season. Plus, he is currently on the disabled list after being hit in the face with a pitch on Saturday. Andrew Romine has also cooled after a hot start, and is currently in a 3-for-31 skid.
If the Tigers were to pursue Martin in any way — more on that in a minute — they would be banking on upside that Martin has not fully reached yet. He has compiled 8.4 fWAR in his career, but much of that is tied up in his defensive value and baserunning. As a hitter, Martin is batting just .248/.301/.359 in 2095 career plate appearances. He has been worth 22.5 baserunning runs (BsR) since his debut in 2011, one of the highest totals in baseball. He also has 112 career stolen bases, and is 4-for-5 in stealing bags this season.
Once again, the biggest obstacle for the Tigers might be money. Any team that claims Martin on waivers is responsible for his entire $4.85 million salary, and the Tigers would pay a 30 percent premium on that because they are over the luxury tax threshold. If Martin passes through waivers, the Mariners can outright him to the minor leagues without his consent, giving the Tigers no chance to sign him as a free agent.
It’s also worth questioning whether Martin represents a significant upgrade over the Tigers’ in-house options. He is a great defender and baserunner, but has never shown the type of offensive consistency the Tigers might be looking for from their center fielder. Martin hit 15 home runs and stole 24 bases last season, but finished the year with a meager .306 on-base percentage and .684 OPS.
Should the Tigers try to acquire Leonys Martin?
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