Aug 5, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Detroit Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez (41) before the game against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. (Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)

Cleveland Indians Days of Future Past: Victor Martinez

Like every other team in Major League Baseball, the Cleveland Indians employ numerous players throughout their organization, from the big-league club in Cleveland to their rookie league team in Arizona and beyond. And like every other Major League franchise, the Indians add and subtract from this player pool on a regular basis. This irregular series will serve to post notice when a former Indians player has done something noteworthy with a quick look back at the player’s time in Cleveland.

Player: 1B/DH Victor Martinez

Current Team: Detroit Tigers

Year(s) in Indians Organization: 1996-2009 (made Major League debut with Indians in 2002)

What He Did: Although the Tigers are on a bit of a cold streak at the moment, it’s not the fault of Martinez. So far in 2014, Martinez is hitting an AL-best .337 en route to a cumulative .337/.391/.604 line in 284 plate appearances this season. He’s also added 17 home runs and 45 RBI. Martinez has always been a really good hitter, but it’s impossible to ignore his success so far this season. He’s been a vital part of the Tigers’ attack, and has helped to create protection for Miguel Cabrera in Detroit’s lineup. Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference both peg him at slightly over 2.0 wins above replacement (2.2 fWAR, 2.3 bWAR). No matter how you look at it, Martinez has been nothing short of fantastic for Detroit.

Once an important and loved member of the Indians, Victor Martinez is a free agent this offseason. Could he return to Cleveland? (Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports)

Why He Still Isn’t in Cleveland: After helping lead the Indians to within a single win of the World Series in 2007 (I was only 9 at the time, but I still have sad memories of how that year’s ALCS ended), the Indians stumbled to an 81-81 record in 2008. From there, the Indians began an intense fire sale, dealing away stars like Martinez, CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, and others. These trades haven’t panned out in the way many Indians fans have wanted them to, but each deal has — to varying degrees — brought the Indians a productive member of the team. For instance, the Martinez deal brought the Indians starter Justin Masterson and two relievers (Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price) who are currently in the minors. The Indians didn’t acquire any Hall of Famers in that deal, but Masterson was an All-Star last season and remains a key member of the Tribe’s rotation, even with his struggles so far this season. Besides, not every trade can benefit the Indians like the Bartolo Colon trade did.

Reunion Time?: A free agent after this season, the Tigers will almost certainly do whatever they can to bring Martinez back. But there have been rumors that Martinez wants to return to Cleveland before his career ends, and these rumors actually have legs to them. When asked about the possibility of returning to Cleveland, Martinez replied:

Anything can happen in this game. It would be special. The Indians were so great to me and my family. I’ve got three kids. The first two were born here. It would be special, but we’ll see.

There are certainly reasons why Martinez returning might not happen. The amazing season Martinez has had in 2014 would appear to significantly raise his price tag, and the Tigers will likely make him a qualifying offer this winter anyway. The Indians might not want to sacrifice another draft pick for a 35-year old who’s mostly relegated to serving as the DH at this point in his career. However, it’s encouraging to know that Martinez at least left the door open for the possibility of returning to Cleveland, even if it isn’t this offseason. Most Indians fans probably can’t forget the emotional reaction Martinez had after being traded to the Red Sox in 2009, and it’s clear that he still has fond memories of his time with the Indians. Could he return to the Tribe? It’s certainly possible.

Notice a player you remember being in the Indians organization? We’re ever-vigilant, but sometimes we miss guys, too! Send us an email at [email protected] and let us know which former Indians farmhand or player is making noise elsewhere.

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