Victor Martinez: ‘Happy to finish my career here in Detroit’
DETROIT — In Victor Martinez’s mind, the Detroit Tigers were his only option.
Of course, there were plenty of teams interested in the AL MVP runner-up, but Martinez kept his focus on his team.
"This is where I am right now," Martinez said at a news conference Friday. "I think that shows everybody how much I love this city, how much I love the fans. My only focus was to try to get something done and come back for the next few years here to Detroit."
Martinez and his family flew in from Venezuela so he could take his physical and sign a four-year contract with the Tigers.
According to Ken Davidoff of the New York Post, Martinez will receive $14 million in 2015, and $18 million from 2016-18. There will be a 10-team no-trade clause the first year and then Martinez’s 10-and-5 rights take effect.
When the Tigers were eliminated by the Baltimore Orioles in the ALDS, Martinez was asked whether he wanted to return to the Tigers.
"They know," Martinez said then.
The Tigers knew because he told them, according to team president and general manager Dave Dombrowski.
Dombrowski told a story about how Martinez pulled him aside in the clubhouse later in the summer.
"He said, ‘I’ve never done anything like this before — and maybe I’m not supposed to do this because my agents may not like this — but I want you to know how much I want to be a Detroit Tiger. I don’t want to go anywhere after this contract. This is like my home. It’s like my family and my family feels the same way and I want to be a Detroit Tiger,’" Dombrowski recalled. "I said, ‘Victor, I really appreciate that. We think the same way about you.’
"It wasn’t the right time to negotiate a contract at that time for us, which I explained to him, because we had other free agents and we really wanted to be focused on what took place on the field. But he came to me and had that conversation on his own, which tells you how much he wanted to be here."
Martinez turns 36 on Dec. 23, but Dombrowski said that doesn’t concern him.
"When you look at the Red Sox, who do you fear more than anyone in that lineup right now? David Ortiz, and he’s 39 years old," Dombrowski said. "So we think Victor will continue to hit.
"He works hard. He’s going to do everything he possibly can to get every ounce of his ability.
It’s a pretty strong indication of how much the Tigers valued Martinez that they said re-signing him was the priority over fellow free agent Max Scherzer.
Another indication was the presence of owner Mike Ilitch at the news conference.
Although Ilitch requires a walker and a little assistance these days, his mind is as sharp as ever.
When asked whether this deal might put the brakes on further spending, Ilitch reached in his pocket and joked, "I’m OK, I got some 20s in here."
But Ilitch was completely serious about re-signing Martinez. He said after the Tigers won the division, he talked to Martinez in manager Brad Ausmus’ office.
"I put my arm around him," Ilitch said. "I said, ‘You had a fantastic year. You played great. You had good sportsmanship, never seemed to lose your cool, and I’m going to take care of you next year.’"
Even though the Tigers haven’t won the World Series since Martinez joined the team in 2011, he still believes they have a chance.
"We’re so honored to have a guy like Mr. I who wants to win so bad as we want to win," Martinez said. "I’m just really excited for this great opportunity to get my dream complete, which is winning World Series.
"I’ve never been on a team like this. That shows everybody how much I want to win. We have a lot of work to do starting next spring. I’m real excited about it.
"I’m just happy to finish my career here in Detroit."
Watch a replay of the entire press conference announcing Martinez’s new deal below: