Unless you work in the Boston front office, the Detroit Tigers signing Victor Martinez to a 4-year/$50 million deal didn't register as much of a surprise. The Tigers have money to burn (in respect to the city of Detroit, everything about that opening clause was inappropriate), and the production they received from their catchers and their DH's certainly could use some improvement. Now with Vic in tow, they have it, and also a reason to make Indians fans sigh with regret 19 times next season.
What was pretty surprising is the report came from El Nacional en Venezuela
(the first, but hopefully not the last time I cite them) that the Tigers
outbid a 3 year/$48 million offer from the White Sox. For a team that
has hinted at having extreme hesitance on heavy spending this offseason,
this would have certainly been a bold move for someone who it wasn't
widely known was on their radar. Martinez would surely be just as
useful for the Sox as he's going to be for the Tigers, but his defensive
deficiencies behind the plate and the fact that he wouldn't match the
power of Konerko or Dunn would also be something to consider.
As fun as it would be for the newspaper of Vic's home country to have the
drop on all of the Detroit and Chicago beat writers, the Tribune has
come and spoiled the party by indicating that "No, this did not really happen," and dismissing notions that the Sox struck out aggressively, or that V-mart went for an extra year instead of a significantly higher pay-rate.
Still, it's pretty clear that the White Sox thought about it, right around the time that they were determining to offer arbitration to Paul Konerko. This would have represented quite the financial risk for the Sox. While the offer of arbitration to Konerko is certainly an attempt to ensure the team will get something if he leaves as it is anything else, signing Martinez is not signing Adam Dunn, or someone other clear replacement for Paulie, and if he were to accept arbitration it would have put the Sox on the hook for $30 million in 2011.
But this is all idle speculation because Martinez is in Detroit now, so that he may hit in his least favorite stadium for the last useful years of his career. The Tigers are stronger, but November is far too early to start worrying about the strength of your rivals, it's the time to be building a team that can win 95-100 games and make the playoffs no matter the situation; if you're trying to slip in at 90 wins from the inception of free agency, you're always going to end up screwed. No, the effect of V-mart on the Sox is the market.
In a rare article where he didn't make me swear out loud, Phil Rogers covered this topic fairly competently (ouch, my soul!). Martinez coming off the market ticks up the desperation for two teams looking for a power bat and/or a catcher, or both: the Red Sox and the Rangers. Both teams need catchers, and could possibly push up the contract for Pierzynski, and both teams have room for a power-hitting first baseman (most teams do).
It's obviously not clear yet whether the Sox non-tendered A.J. so that they could make sure they were rid of him as they pursue Olivo or play Flowers, or just to lower his price, but the drying up of the catcher market would adversely affect the latter, and Rogers clearly feels the latter scenario is at work. Previously I was firmly in the camp that A.J. should be allowed to go, but now I'm a beaten man who has just accepted that the White Sox are going to have a poor-hitting catcher no matter what happens.
With one less power hitter on the market, this could also drive up the price for Konerko. Now, I say this as someone who has a heckuva lot of sentimental connections for Paul Konerko, and would celebrate his return heartily, but if the Sox feel like they can throw $16 mil a season at someone, I think they get the most value by using that money on Adam Dunn, getting a supplemental pick and a 1st round pick to replace the one they'd lose in getting The Big Donkey (actually his nickname).
It's clear that the Sox are very determined to secure a left-handed bat, because why else would they dangle Gavin Floyd to get one? I understand that you have to give up something to get something in a trade (because this isn't the NBA), but you'd really hope it wouldn't have to be one of the two young bedrock arms of the franchise to solve this problem. If they can the lefty hitting they crave in a less destructive manner, I might wind up drinking less next summer.
On the happy and non-speculative side, J.J. Putz was offered arbitration (What? Don't you like one-year deals J.J.?), and Manny Ramirez wasn't (Bad man! Away! Away!)