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Yankees Potential 2015 Free Agent Target: Victor Martinez

Should the Yankees make a run at the best offensive player available this winter?

Leon Halip

2014 Statistics: .335/.409/.565, 32 HR, 103 RBIs, .411 wOBA, 166 wRC+

2015 Age: 36

Position: DH/1B/C

Victor Martinez enters the free agent market as a switch hitter in his late 30's with a bit of an injury history whose resurgence with the bat has returned him to All-Star form. At this stage in his career he's become a liability in the field and on the base paths so whichever team lands him this off-season will be investing solely in his ability to continue hitting. If this sounds familiar to Yankee fans it's because Carlos Beltran could have been described exactly this way last winter. The Yankees decided to make that investment but have gotten no return on it so far. However, that doesn't mean that Martinez will suffer the same fate or that the Yankees should necessarily avoid signing him this year for that reason.

After a torn ACL caused Martinez to sit out the entire 2012 season he returned to play a full slate of games, mostly at designated hitter, for the Tigers in 2013. His performance was solid, if not up to his career standard, that year but he turned things around in a big way during his 2014 campaign. Again serving mostly as a designated hitter he was dominant from both sides of the plate, putting up career highs in all three slash stats while ranking second in the majors in each of them as well. What's more impressive, he set a career high in home runs but only struck out in a minuscule 6.6% of his plate appearances. Even after adjusting for the fact that he plays in the hitter-friendly Comerica Park, there's no doubt that he was among the best offensive weapons in baseball last year. His peripheral numbers also suggest that he could remain an elite hitter for at least the short-term future. So how would he fit in with the Yankees?

For the second straight season last year the Yankees were well below average at the plate despite a concerted and costly effort to improve through free agency. Purely from a baseball standpoint, the Yankees will need to upgrade the offense again this year and Martinez is probably the best hitter available in the free agent pool. The problem is, the positions he can play don't coincide with vacancies in the team's roster. At catcher and first base, the Yankees currently employ the defensively superior Brian McCann and Mark Teixeira who have multiple years remaining on their contracts. That leaves designated hitter as the only other option and while it's the ideal place for Martinez, it will likely be occupied by a combination of the aforementioned Beltran and the newly reinstated Alex Rodriguez. Martinez will want to optimize his playing time and that's just not going to happen in New York.

From a financial standpoint, signing Martinez makes even less sense for the Yankees. His monster year means that he'll be seeking a contract above and beyond what the comparable but still less productive Beltran received last year. Using that three-year, $45 million deal as a baseline, Martinez will probably command a four-year deal worth somewhere between $17 and $20 million annually. The team has more urgent needs at shortstop, third base and the starting rotation so if he comes to the Bronx it will significantly cut into the money that would be better utilized filling those holes. Considering Martinez's age and injury history there's also a fair amount of risk that comes along with signing him and the last thing the Yankees need is another superstar collecting his paycheck from the disabled list. Kicking the tires at the very least on a guy as talented as him is never a bad idea but they're probably better off just walking away from this one.