Monday, 10 November 2014

Victor Martinez: Four More Years?

It seems the market for Victor Martinez' next contract has been set at four years. If I were GM of the Tigers, would I go after him? He is possibly my favourite Tiger hitter, so my initial reaction would be to get in the bidding, post-haste.

Once again, I turn to the Brock2 spreadsheet to consider this. Let's look at his Fangraphs' WAR and RC for his four seasons with the Tigers:

Season      WAR    RC
2011        2.5    97
2012         0      0
2013        0.9    93
2014        4.4   122
Right away, there is a problem. V-Mart was injured in 2012, which makes projections a little bit difficult. Then, we see that being a DH means one has to be an exceptional hitter to show any real WAR impact. (DHs don't field, which hurts them, in the WARverse.) Basically, a .301 average garnered few WAR. A DH needs to hit somewhere between .320 and .330 to start to be worth the kind of salaries a full-time DH can command. Let's also note that V-Mart's 32 home runs in 2014 is a career high. That's not likely to happen again. Here's his projections in those categories for the next four years, plus what Brock2 thinks his Runs Created will be:
Season     BA     HR    RC
2015      .297    14    67
2016      .289    19    78
2017      .314    16    82
2018      .277    14    67
That 2015 RC value is, I think, too low on account of his missing 2012. I would expect a figure more like 2017's 82 is probable. However, all those numbers are below his previous four-year established performance. That is a very large red flag.

Turning to the Beyond the Box Score free agency calculator, and adding a generous estimate of 1.7 WAR for his injured 2012 season, I get an average annual value for a 36-year-old DH of 14.9 million. But I don't think I want to use that value, because of the career-high home-run total for 2014. ZiPS, Dan Szymborski's projection system, forecast only twelve home runs for 2014, while Steamer had him with fourteen. These projections worked out to a 0.9 WAR (ZiPS) and a 1.3 WAR (Steamer). I would prefer to use a WAR number closer to these than to his actual 4.4 WAR in projecting how much I want to pay Victor Martinez.

Adding them together gives a 2.2 WAR, which leads to a far more realistic annual average value for a 36-year-old DH coming off a career year of $9.7 million. That works out to a 4/$38.8 contract, and that would be my ceiling. But we can't do that, because that is a pay cut relative to his 2014 salary of $12 million. So despite his MVP-worthy heroics for 2014, I would say goodbye to Victor Martinez, and many thanks for a great effort.

The problem for the Tigers is the uncertainty over the expensive contracts for Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera, both of whom had seasons below expectations in 2014. The last thing the Tigers need is to tie up $20.8 million in excess realistic-market-value for an aging designated hitter. I tend to think the new-fangled sabermetricians are laughably cheap in paying for quality players, but in this case I think they are probably right.

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