J.D. Martinez: I would love to be a Tiger for life
Justin Upton’s signing provided another example why it’s difficult to rule out the Tigers from big moves in a given offseason. Maybe, just maybe, this offseason could still include a contract extension for J.D. Martinez.
Not long ago, Martinez appeared to be in line for the biggest contract for a Tigers outfielder this winter. The question now is whether Upton’s six-year, $132.75 million contract rules out a long-term deal for Martinez.
“It’s definitely something we’re still talking about,” Martinez said Thursday as the Tigers began their winter caravan. “It’s something I think both sides are still interested in. We haven’t come to something where we both feel comfortable yet.
“I love this team. I want to be part of this team. I would love to be a Tiger for life. We’ve just got to see how it goes.”
Currently, Martinez is in line for free agency in two years, in the same offseason Upton could exercise his opt-out and hit the open market again. Ian Kinsler and Anibal Sanchez have club options at the same time. Mike Pelfrey and Mark Lowe will be up for free agency.
More immediate, Martinez and the Tigers are in line to go to arbitration, $2 million apart in their salary proposals submitted last week. The Tigers haven’t gone to an arbitration hearing since Randy Smith was the general manager in 2001.
Even if the Tigers won an arbitration hearing, their $6 million salary offer would be in luxury tax territory, something Tigers owner Mike Ilitch accepted when he authorized a deal for Upton. Detroit already has more than $165 million in contracts guaranteed for 2017; the current collective bargaining agreement puts the luxury tax threshold at $189 million, including player benefits estimated anywhere from $12-15 million, but a new CBA will be part of next offseason.
Martinez said he’s confident they can avoid a hearing next month, but the ultimate goal remains a contract well beyond 2016.
“Oh yeah, absolutely,” he said. “This team gave me an opportunity. I would love to stay here as long as I can and hopefully my career next to Miggy, next to Victor and stuff like that. That would be awesome. That would be something I would love.”
General manager Al Avila declined comment on negotiations when asked Wednesday, but still expressed optimism.
“I hope for the best, because we love J.D. Martinez,” Avila said. “As you know, I have a good history with him, and I think he’s a very important part of this team. Obviously we have him for this year and next year through arbitration, but we’re hoping we can make a deal with J.D., and we’re hoping for the best.”