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Victor Martinez signs with Detroit Tigers, Rockies Wish List Dwindling

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Based on reports from Ignacio Serrano of ESPN Deportes, Catcher Victor Martinez has signed a 4-year, $50M contract with the Detroit Tigers, taking one of the stronger members of the 2010 free agent class off of the market.

Martinez, 31, came up with the Indians in 2002 and spent the majority of his career in Cleveland, but was traded during the 2009 season to Boston.

Martinez, while never known for strong defense, has spent time between 1B and C, and is mostly an offensive threat. Still, this offensive threat comes at a premium defensive position, even if he has to bounce between C and 1B.

The average 162-game season for Martinez looks as follows: .300/.369/.469, 21 HR (.360 wOBA, 121 OPS+/122 wRC+). That's pretty outstanding for a catcher.

So the frustration for Colorado fans is that another major acquisition target for Colorado is now unavailable, and players who could fit the team's needs are also running short. Detroit is paying a lot of money for a catcher who already has shown injury problems and probably doesn't have nearly a strong enough bat to rationalize the money he'll be making at 1B, when he inevitably moves there.

Click past the jump for some analysis on aging catchers.

For starters, take a look at this fun little table:



OPS+



150

125

100

75

50

Less than 50

Age

32

1

5

19

27

28

2

33

0

9

19

34

17

1

34

0

1

12

27

14

0

35

1

1

13

31

19

2

 

That table is OPS+ ranges vs Age since 1980 (and 200+ PA). You can see that there are only two catchers who bat in that elite 150 OPS+ category at any age. One of them is 2003 Javy Lopez and the other is 2007 Jorge Posada. Victor Martinez is not either of these catchers. Addtionally, once you get past age 33, there are only 2 other catchers who are up above 125 wRC+ mark, and they are 1983 Carlton Fisk and 2003 Mike Piazza.

The point of this is that the Tigers are paying $12.5M per year for what is likely 2 years of above-average production and 2 years of average-to-well-below-average production. That would likely be 15% of the Rockies' payroll going to a player likely on the downslope of his career.

As a Devil's Advocate point, I should note that Martinez would be a good candidate to buck this trend. Martinez has only posted 3 seasons in his career with less than a 120 wRC+: 2 of them were his first two years in MLB when he was still cutting his teeth on MLB pitching, and then 2008 when he got all hurt and stuff. None of his recent successful seasons have been overly fluky, his BABIP has been right in line with his career BABIP. As seems to be the case, you pay the premium for the productive years and just suck it up in the latter years of these contracts.

Either way, this leaves Colorado with a diminishing number of options, some of which may not even be real. There's still the Mike Napoli option, which we don't know if it's actually a possibility or not; there's Yorvit Torrealba (or other FA catcher), which would almost necessitate acquiring another 1B, unless the organization really trusts Iannetta to do what they'd have wanted Mike Napoli or Victor Martinez to do. Finally, there's kind of the combo option, which means getting a FA catcher and ALSO acquiring a Yonder Alonso type and attempt to plug the 1B hole long-term.

Either way, despite it only being November, it feels like the doors are starting to close a bit, at least on exciting transactions.