DETROIT — Victor Martinez has agreed to a $68 million, four-year contract to stay with the Detroit Tigers, according to a person with knowledge of the deal.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press on Thursday because the agreement has not been announced.
The 35-year-old Martinez had perhaps his best season in 2014, hitting .335 with 32 home runs and 103 RBI and helping Detroit to its fourth straight AL Central title — a streak that began after the Tigers signed him as a free agent before the 2011 season. That four-year deal was worth $50 million, and Detroit got plenty of value out of Martinez even though he missed the whole 2012 season with a knee injury.
The switch-hitting designated hitter has batted over .300 in eight of his last nine seasons, not counting the year he missed. His bat carried the Tigers at times in 2014, when Miguel Cabrera slipped slightly from his MVP form.
Martinez has been a consistent force throughout his career, but he’d never hit more than 25 home runs until last season. His average also was a career high, surpassing the .330 mark he posted in 2011.
The Tigers have spent lavishly in recent years in an effort to win their first World Series since 1984. They’ve come close, but now their hold on their division may be loosening. Detroit edged Kansas City by one game this year, then watched as the Royals took the American League pennant. Cleveland finished only a game behind the Tigers in 2013, and the Indians figure to be a threat next year as well.
So the Tigers spent big money to keep Martinez, just as they did with Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera. The deals might become burdensome when these players reach their late 30s, but for now, Detroit’s core remains largely intact. The big question is whether the Tigers will be able to keep star right-hander Max Scherzer, who like Martinez became a free agent.
After reaching the AL Championship Series three straight seasons, Detroit was swept this year by Baltimore in the Division Series. The Tigers entered the offseason hoping to upgrade center field and their bullpen. On Wednesday night, they acquired center fielder Anthony Gose from the Toronto Blue Jays for infield prospect Devon Travis.
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