If you thought J.D. Martinez was envious of the money the Tigers spent to sign Justin Upton ($132.75 million), you were mistaken.
“No, are you kidding? That’s irrelevant (to his situation),” Martinez said Thursday before embarking on the club’s Winter Caravan. “It’s great for us. I was excited about it. I was like, ‘This is awesome; another bat in our lineup.’ It just makes our team better.”
Martinez is going through Major League Baseball’s arbitration system for the first time. Both he and the Tigers have submitted a salary request for 2016. The Tigers want to pay $6 million, Martinez wants to earn $8 million.
Unless the two sides can agree on a contract extension, Martinez will go before an arbitration panel early in February. Martinez confirmed what general manager Al Avila had said Wednesday: Negotiations on an extension are continuing.
“It’s definitely something we’re talking about, and it’s something both sides are interested in,” Martinez said. “We haven’t come to something we both feel comfortable with yet. But there’s no animosity, no feeling like that. This is just part of it.”
Martinez made it clear what his preference was.
“I love this team and I want to be a part of this team,” he said. “I want to be a Tiger for life. …This team gave me my opportunity, so I would love to stay here as long as I can and finish my career next to Miggy (Cabrera) and Victor (Martinez). That would be awesome.”
Martinez, 28, made his first All-Star team and won a Silver Slugger award last season. In his two years with the Tigers, he has produced 61 home runs and 178 RBIs, hitting .296 with a .543 slugging percentage and a .893 OPS.
He’s posted a WAR (wins above replacement) of 8.8 with the Tigers and last season was third in the American League with 15 outfield assists.
“Well, I can’t comment on the negotiations,” Avila said. “I hope for the best. We love J.D. As you know, I have a good history with him and his family. I think he is an important part of the team.
“We have him for this year and next year — he’s still in his arbitration years. But I hope we can make a deal.”
Playing into the equation, at least indirectly at this point, is the opt-out clause that Upton negotiated into his six-year deal with the Tigers. He can opt out after two years. That would be Martinez’s first free-agent year. If a decision had to be made after the 2017 season, Upton’s opt-out clause would give them some flexibility.
“This is my first go-around with this, so I don’t really know,” Martinez said. “I am just taking it day to day. My job is to worry about getting ready for the season. That’s all I am going to do. I will let Al and my agent do all the taking and negotiating.”
Martinez said he was glad that, regardless of whether he gets the extension or plays for the arbitrated salary, the issue should be resolved before spring training.
“I don’t want to worry about it in the season,” he said. “Once the season starts, I feel like, let’s focus on the season and worry about winning a championship here and giving Mr. (Mike) Ilitch what he really wants.”