The 2014 season has only just begun, but it is never too early to start thinking about offseason plans. The Detroit Tigers are certainly one of the teams that will have plenty of decisions to make this winter.
Everyone will undoubtedly be focused on whether or not the Tigers make another serious run at re-signing Max Scherzer, but the Tigers will also have two more very important decisions to make regarding the futures of Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez.
The Tigers might have the pieces to be able to overcome the losses of Scherzer and Hunter, but they would have a very difficult time replacing the professional switch-hitting bat of Martinez, and finding another player who is capable of protecting Miguel Cabrera the way he does.
The Tigers are also very light on left-handed hitting, which is another reason why they need to keep Martinez around. There were quite a few whispers this past winter about the 28-year-old Jordan Lennerton possibly being able to provide the Tigers with a sturdy left-handed power bat in the future, but he entered play on Sunday batting just .141 with only one home run in Triple-A. He has also struck out 22 times in his first 71 at-bats.
Granted, Martinez is getting up there in age, as he will turn 36 years old this December, but he appears to be cut from the same cloth as players such as Paul Molitor and Edgar Martinez, who were able to effectively DH into their late 30s and early 40s.
Martinez has a lifetime .303 batting average, and he has never batted below .283 in a season in which he has played at least 140 games. He is currently batting .286 and leads the Tigers with four home runs. The guy is a hitting machine, and he is certainly not showing any signs of slowing down.
Although there have been injury concerns with Martinez, including one that caused him to miss the entire 2012 campaign, re-signing him for a few more years this offseason would still be a wiser and safer move than inking a 30-year-old power pitcher in Scherzer to a mega-deal, especially when one considers the fact that the Tigers already have Justin Verlander‘s contract on the books. Then, there is also Cabrera’s new contract to speak of.
Therefore, the Tigers should make re-signing Martinez priority No. 1 this offseason. If they choose to let him walk, it could certainly prove to be a great mistake. Obviously, it would make a lot of fans happy if the Tigers are magically able to retain Scherzer, Hunter and Martinez, and only time will tell if that is possible, but they should focus on Martinez first and foremost.