Everyone’s favorite Cleveland Indian has returned to the organization once again.
The Indians and free agent utility man Michael Martinez have agreed to a minor league contract, first reported on Saturday and confirmed by the team on Monday. The deal is said to include a non-roster invitation to spring training in February.
The 35-year-old Martinez has spent parts of the last three seasons in an Indians uniform.
Appearing to be inseparable, Cleveland and the veteran utility man join forces for the fourth consecutive offseason. The seven-year big leaguer’s name is added to a crowded middle infielder/utility man depth chart in the Indians organization. The team already has Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, and Jason Kipnis as experienced candidates up the middle and several others (Erik Gonzalez, Giovanny Urshela) already in tow from last season. The Tribe also added Eric Stamets and Yu-Cheng Chang to the 40-man roster in November, claimed Rob Refsnyder off of waivers from Toronto, and signed Drew Maggi (formerly of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization) to a minor league deal with a non-roster spring camp invite.
The move did not come with much fanfare, as Martinez may be best remembered for grounding out to end the final game of the 2016 World Series. He has also failed to provide much positive on the field for the club while appearing to take up 25-man roster spots from other viable, younger prospects deserving of a look. Still, depth is something that no team can have too much of, and the Martinez move is an extremely low risk acquisition.
Martinez opened the 2017 season on the Indians’ 25-man roster, with Gonzalez and Urshela both optioned to Triple-A to get regular at bats. He appeared in 14 games for Cleveland, hitting .364 in limited playing time while serving primarily as a late inning defensive replacement at third base, second base, shortstop, and center field. In the middle of May, he was designated for assignment and he was dealt to the Tampa Bay Rays for cash considerations.
He saw the field 13 times for the Rays, going 2-for-26 (.077) while serving as a second baseman, third baseman, and left fielder. He was cut loose by the Rays in mid-June when the club acquired Trevor Plouffe from Oakland and he quietly rejoined the Indians organization and headed to Columbus, spending the rest of the season with the Triple-A Clippers.
In 63 games of International League action, Martinez hit .277 with 16 doubles, two triples, and 20 RBI while logging innings at six different positions.
The switch-hitting utility man spent a part of his offseason participating in the Dominican Winter League for Estrellas de Oriente. He appeared in 13 games (with his last appearance coming on November 11), hitting .317 with a .356 on-base percentage.
Martinez spent time in the Majors with the Indians in both 2015 and 2016. Like last season, Martinez was dealt midseason by the Tribe in 2016 (to Boston), only to be reacquired a month later. He previously spent time in the Washington, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh organizations before first signing with Cleveland in February of 2015.
At best, Martinez would be considered a depth piece on a crowded roster that includes several players lacking minor league options, including both Gonzalez and Urshela. If a situation arises in which Martinez finds himself expected to contribute to the Cleveland roster in 2018, something has gone horribly wrong in spring training for the Indians ball club.
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