Sans first-round pick, Tigers have no regrets
Detroit happy with acquisition of V-Mart despite losing selection
DETROIT -- Six months have passed since the Tigers outbid teams to sign Victor Martinez. On Monday night, as scouting director Scott Pleis, vice president David Chadd and others crossed names off their Draft board, the Tigers paid the second part of the deal.
They knew when they went after Martinez that they would be giving up their first-round pick in one of the more talented First-Year Player Drafts in years. Six months later, they have no regrets.
If watching one top name after another fall off the board Monday night while the Tigers wait for their second-round pick, the 76th overall, to come up Tuesday afternoon grows boring for them, they can look up Martinez's .300 average and 29 RBIs and wonder what their offense would be like without it.
"V-Mart is an All-Star," Chadd wrote in a text message Monday afternoon, as he and other top Tigers officials prepared for their waiting game. "We're looking at prospects at 76. It doesn't bother me one bit not having the pick."
Chadd rose to his position through his Draft success. Detroit's drafts have produced 22 players in the Major Leagues since he joined the organization in 2005. The Tigers, for all their aggressiveness on the trade and free-agent markets, have built part of their core through the Draft, including former top picks Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello as part of a gifted young rotation.
They've been aggressive in taking the best player available regardless of what it takes to sign him, because team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski and others believe it's the one way to add players where they can compete on equal footing with the Yankees, Red Sox and other big-market teams.
But as everyone in the organization knows, the bottom line is that the Tigers win, whether it's with players they draft or players they acquire.
When the Tigers gave up former first-round picks Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin, both top 100 prospects at the time, in the Miguel Cabrera trade four years ago, Chadd was among the happiest guys in the Tigers' hotel suite. He was glad they could produce enough prospects, six players in all, to snag one of the game's great hitters.
When the Tigers lost their first-round pick last year upon signing Jose Valverde, Chadd was happy they added one of the game's established closers. His outlook on Martinez was the same, and it hasn't wavered.
The draft-pick losses are part of Major League rules to compensate teams that lose free agents. At season's end, the Elias Sports Bureau ranks every Major League player at each position based on stats they've posted over the past two years. After separating the players by positions -- first basemen with outfielders and designated hitters, middle infielders with third basemen, and catchers separately -- the top 20 percent earn Type A status, the next 20 percent Type B.
Teams have the chance to offer their own free agents arbitration, which gives the player the option of sticking with their old team and having an arbitrator determine their salary on a one-year contract if the two sides can't settle. It's a riskier move for teams now, since a free agent can accept the offer and sometimes get a more favorable salary for a year before hitting the market the next winter.
In Martinez's case, it was a no-brainer for the Red Sox, who wanted him back. Besides, they knew he would get a better deal on the market than he'd ever get in arbitration. When the Tigers beat out Boston with a better four-year contract offer, Martinez made far more.
By offering Martinez arbitration and losing him, the Red Sox earned a Draft pick at the back end of the first round. But thanks to another part of that rule, and an ill-fated tiebreaker for the Tigers, Boston also ended up with the Tigers' first-round selection.
If a team finishes among the bottom half of Major League clubs, thus earning a pick in the top half of the first round, that pick is protected. The Tigers, by beating the Orioles on the last day of the season, finished on that borderline with an 81-81 record, the same as the A's.
Because the A's finished with a worse record than the Tigers the previous season, they won the tiebreaker and earned the better pick. The Tigers' pick then fell on the wrong side of the cutoff. Otherwise, they would've lost their second-round pick for signing Martinez.
The Tigers knew going into the offseason that Martinez was a guy they'd love to sign. The draft status didn't change that. They wouldn't necessarily give it up for just any free agent, but the right free agent.
"I would never want to give up a No. 1 draft pick, but I think you sit back and you analyze," Dombrowski said when they announced the signing. "In Victor's case, we feel he's worth it."
When the Tigers lost their first-round pick last year for signing Valverde, they could count on compensation picks to help lessen the blow. They had offered arbitration to Type B free agents Brandon Lyon and Fernando Rodney before they signed elsewhere, so they still had two top-50 picks.
Last offseason, they didn't offer arbitration to any free agents, though Magglio Ordonez was a Type A free agent and Johnny Damon was Type B. They were still interested in bringing back Ordonez, but not at the salary he'd earn in arbitration.
Thus, they'll play the waiting game until their second-round pick comes up Tuesday, and hope a first-round talent falls.
"We will all be here," Chadd said.