In this free agent class, Victor Martinez is the only transformative offensive talent available on a short term contract. It is on the edge of realistic, perhaps borderline fantasy, but Martinez is the only game-changing hitter that the A's could possibly add to this team. For that reason alone, the A's should go after him.
If I was allowed to dip into John Fisher's art collection, I might sell a Picasso and sign Pablo Sandoval, but we all know the A's operate on a budget. That budget is year to year though, and within each year it has been pretty flexible. The A's have increasingly shown a willingness to shell out big for shorter term contracts, such as Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp (twice), Scott Kazmir, and others. Last year Martinez made $13 million, and he's seeking a four-year deal. The A's, with almost no long term contracts on the books could live with a 4 year/$60-$70 million commitment, but the Tigers and many other teams may not be able to go that far.
He wouldn't be an A's free agent target if he didn't have a flaw (you can always choose from old, recovering from a debilitating injury, has not lived up to the hype, cut by his former team, is really terrible at one important part of the game, etc.). Martinez is old, which to me is not that big of a deal. He has power, but he doesn't rely on power to be a valuable hitter. With the way he hits, he can probably put up a league average batting line at age 40.
In addition, signing an old slugger to be your DH is sort of the best thing about the DH position. Watching great hitters get to keep hitting is one reason I love the DH. Martinez showed no signs of age in 2014. He appeared in 151 games (641 plate appearances) and posted an other-worldly .335/.409/.565 line, blasting a career-high 32 home runs along the way. Those numbers look like they came from the steroid era, not this current "nü dead ball" offense-starved era we are currently experiencing.
Also, and perhaps it's three years of heavy platooning that makes this such an attractive quality, but I think it would make Melvin's and everyone else's job easier having a guy that can hit to all fields against all pitchers. Check out his spray charts:
Wow. I'm not sure you can find a more consistently even hitter.
Naturally, I think it's unrealistic to expect toget his 2014, but I don't think the A's will have to pay him like the MVP runner-up due to his age. Even if the A's got his 2013 line for $13-14 million, I don't think anyone would mind (.301/.355/.430/.785). That was when he was recovering from an ACL tear suffered during offseason workouts and probably is somewhere around what his baseline will be over the next four years.
Some folks don't like signing a guy just to DH. However he is a switch hitter and does not need to be platooned, and he hits better than any of our DH options from their better half. He's posted a career OPS of .840 from the left side and .863 from the right. Having him slotted in at DH and at #2 in the lineup every day makes a formidable top of the order, with Coco Crisp, Martinez, Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss. Guys like Jaso, Fuld, Gentry, Vogt and others will have to be moved around without the luxury of the DH spot, but I prefer that. If Moss is the every day left fielder, Vogt and Jaso can battle it out for first base and catcher. The team ends up improving at every affected position and adding stability in the lineup. The A's also add some depth in the process and don't end up having to do things like DH Alberto Callaspo (shudder).
As noted above, his only major injury was the ACL tear, suffered in the offseason. He's been a remarkably healthy player throughout his career, having some minor injuries but coming back strong. As a DH he will avoid most injury risks. If he stays healthy, he can help extend this team's competitive window beyond 2015 into 2016-17 (when the A's will still have Moss, Donaldson, Gray, and Norris under contract).
He's old, he's a DH, but he can hit. Because he's old and a DH the A's might be able to afford him. Go get him, Beane.