Indians and Martin Avoid Arbitration, Agree to One-Year Deal
Bob Toth | On 01, Nov 2018
The outfield is undoubtedly one of the largest areas of concern for the Cleveland Indians this offseason, and they have one less question mark to address as the club agreed to a one-year, $3 million agreement with Leonys Martin on Wednesday to avoid arbitration.
Martin was the Tribe’s big deadline acquisition in 2018, but he made it into just six games before enduring a bout with a bacterial infection that ended his season and could have ended his life.
The contract agreement clears one potential arbitration case off of the books for the Indians, who will bring back the 30-year-old left-handed hitting outfielder for another year. The remaining year of arbitration eligibility for Martin was believed to be one of the motivators for the Indians to acquire the outfielder from the Detroit Tigers in July, knowing that the team was set to lose Michael Brantley, Melky Cabrera, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Rajai Davis to free agency after the season.
Last season, Martin made $1.75 million with the Tigers and Indians.
Martin figures to be a key piece of the new outfield structure for 2019. The team returns only two regular players to the position for the start of next year in Greg Allen and Tyler Naquin, with Bradley Zimmer expected to join the mix at some point over the campaign after he completes his recovery and rehab from the surgical repair of the labrum in his right shoulder in July that is estimated to cost him eight to 12 months of time before he is able to resume full baseball activities. Jason Kipnis, who ended his season out in center field after spending much of the season and his career at second base, could also factor in the grass once again, if he remains with the club.
The Indians added Martin ahead of the non-waivers trade deadline on July 31 in a quiet move that brought him and right-hander Kyle Dowdy to the Cleveland organization for middle infield prospect and 40-man roster member Willi Castro.
Martin’s six games with the Indians looked promising before succumbing to what manager Terry Francona initially described as “intestinal turmoil” on August 8. The condition proved to be no joking matter in the long run, however, as Martin quickly found himself at the Cleveland Clinic while dealing with what was later discovered to be a bacterial infection that had entered his bloodstream and had begun to attack and cause widespread damage to multiple organs.
In his six games with the Tribe, Martin hit .333 with two homers and four RBI. Previously, he was hitting .251 for the Tigers through the first 78 games of the season with 15 doubles, three triples, nine homers, and 29 RBI in his first season in Michigan.
Martin spent his first five big league campaigns in Texas, serving as a versatile, light-hitting, but speedy outfielder after coming over from Cuba. Stolen bases were then a big part of his game, as he picked off as many as 36 in 2013. He moved onto Seattle in 2016 and had a well-balanced season offensively, hitting 17 doubles and a career-high 15 homers while driving in 47 and swiping 24 bags.
He split 2017 with the Mariners and Chicago Cubs, appearing in only 49 games at the Major League level while hitting just .172. He stole 25 bases in 88 games for the Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate in Tacoma that season.
Prior to his season-ending illness, Martin was on pace to exceed career production in a range of offensive stats, including doubles, homers, extra base hits, and RBI. He missed two separate chunks of action while with the Tigers, missing nearly a month combined on the disabled list in May and July with a left hamstring strain.
With one answer acquired already for the offseason, the Indians will turn their focus towards continued discussions with other arbitration eligible players as well as this week’s deadline for extending qualifying offers (set for Friday). Free agency kicks off Saturday, when Cleveland can mull over the thin list of outfield candidates worth offering a contract to.
Photo: AP Photo/Tony Dejak