Is Victor Martinez exactly what the Orioles need?
I’ve debated this question recently with several people, including a couple of members of the Orioles organization.
Those who say yes talk about Martinez’s ability to pound left-handed pitching. The switch-hitter batted .400 against southpaws this year with an astonishing 1.173 OPS and is a career .301 hitter against lefties. Hitting lefties has been a huge issue in recent years with the Orioles, and it will continue to be problematic in a division that includes David Price, CC Sabathia and Jon Lester.
They mention his offensive consistency, pointing out that the 31-year-old has hit 20 or more homers in five of the past seven seasons, and batted .300 or better five times during that span. He has also driven in 100 or more runs three times.
And finally, they bring up what a complete pro Martinez is and how much the Orioles’ clubhouse needs an intense, no-nonsense personality, a player who isn’t afraid to get into other players' faces and hold teammates accountable.
Then, there are those who point to his numbers and conclude that they wouldn’t constitute great production coming from a first baseman. Martinez hit .302 for the Boston Red Sox this past season with 20 homers and 79 RBIs. For a catcher, that’s great production. For a first baseman, the position he would play if he were to sign with the Orioles, those numbers wouldn’t look as impressive -- though the Orioles would probably be thrilled with them when you consider what they have been getting from first base in recent years.
Those against signing him maintain that he has never been an everyday first baseman and his defense would be a question mark. They also question the logic of giving a lucrative four- or five-year deal, which the Orioles surely would have to do to bring the coveted free agent to Baltimore, to a close-to-32-year-old with a ton of wear-and-tear on his body from being behind the plate all these years.
I see both sides, though I’ve always liked and respected Martinez and you simply cannot debate that he would be a significant upgrade in the lineup, though not the feared cleanup hitter the Orioles so desperately need.
However, the only opinions that matter come from Peter Angelos, Andy MacPhail, Buck Showalter and the rest of the Orioles' decision-makers. By all accounts, they are very high on Martinez and he is one of their top offseason priorities. They have let his agent know just that.
Still, they remain a sizable underdog to signing him. Martinez reportedly still wants to catch regularly, and he wouldn’t do that in Baltimore with Matt Wieters here. The Red Sox, Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers all want Martinez, and he would probably catch for all three. It stands to reason that the Orioles would have to go above and beyond and blow everybody else's offers out of the water to land Martinez, and their track record doing that is not very good.
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