Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Why Baltimore is Better Off Without V-Mart

Reportedly, Victor Martinez will leave the Red Sox and sign with the Tigers for 4 years and $50 million. Since the news broke, Twitter has been all, uh, atwitter with Orioles fans lamenting the club for not being more aggressive in going after V-Mart. A sampling:

"Tigers have reportedly outbid the Red Sox, White Sox and Orioles for Victor Martinez....Not good news for BAL."

"the orioles got outbid for a good player?? No wayyyy"

"Vintage Orioles. Offer just enough to make sure they get turned down so they can say the tried."

"Dammit, Orioles. When you bid 48, then the Tigers offer 50. YOU OFFER 52!"

I was a bit surprised by all this but realized that the fans were reacting to Martinez's perceived value and not his actual value. Part of this is based on past performance, part is based on his perception in the media.

To highlight, Martinez's value, a look at the top offensive catchers, in terms of OPS, over the past 5 seasons:

2006-2010              OPS        G        
1. Joe Mauer             .906       670
2. Jorge Posada          .879       569
3. Brian McCann          .856       695
4. Victor Martinez       .844       665
5. Mike Napoli           .831       506

There's a but of a dropoff after V-Mart and even bigger dropoffs after Napoli. Martinez has clearly been one of the best offensive catchers of recent years and is certainly worthy of the accolades and reputation he has.

However, the Orioles already have a catcher. Matt Wieters is still a promising young bat and is one of the better defensive catchers in the game today. Martinez was going to be primarily a first baseman for the Orioles (and probably a DH for the Tigers). And as a first baseman, his bat is not all that special.

Top offensive first baseman, in terms of OPS, over the past 5 seasons:

2006-2010              OPS        G        
1. Albert Pujols        1.064       670
2. Joey Votto            .958       456
3. Ryan Howard           .947       768
4. Lance Berkman         .930       722
5. Prince Fielder        .922       797
13. Todd Helton       .858       651
14. Victor Martinez   .844       665
15. Adam Laroche      .836       738

So the Tigers just gave $12.25 mil per season to a guy whose bat has been just slightly better than Adam LaRoche over the past 4 seasons. The Orioles could sign LaRoche for a third of that money, on a short deal and get similar value.

The Tigers just gave a 4-year deal to a very ordinary bat who will be 35 when they stop paying him. I suppose that's fine for them but the Orioles can't afford such an extravagance or risk. The team will be better without him.

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