LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- For most Indians fans, Michael Martinez is known as the hitter who chopped a pitch for the final out of the 2016 World Series against the Cubs. Cleveland views him as a great teammate, a good veteran voice for younger players and a versatile defender for
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- For most Indians fans, Michael Martinez is known as the hitter who chopped a pitch for the final out of the 2016 World Series against the Cubs. Cleveland views him as a great teammate, a good veteran voice for younger players and a versatile defender for the organizational depth chart.
Those are the reasons why Martinez will be back in a Tribe uniform this spring.
On Monday, the Indians announced that they have signed Martinez to a Minor League contract with a non-roster invitation to attend Spring Training with the big league club. This marks the fourth consecutive year that the switch-hitting utility man has been given a spring invite by the Tribe.
Indians manager Terry Francona has consistently been a big fan of the 35-year-old Martinez, who can play second base, shortstop, third base and all three outfield positions. In the past, Francona has praised Martinez's ability to enter a game on defense at any spot at the drop of a hat, while offering a reliable glove no matter the position. In that way, Francona would utilize Martinez as a late-inning defender to assist with other in-game moves.
"If you're not in the game," Francona said last spring, "or maybe if you're a dead sabermetrician, he appears not as useful. But if you ask any Major League manager, having a guy like Michael, he makes all the other moves [easier]. You can do a lot of stuff, and if you get stuck at the end, he'll save you.
"If you tell him in the middle of an inning, 'Michael. Shortstop,' he's 100-percent ready to play. And there's a lot to be said for that. And he's worked hard that he can be ready to go play center field, shortstop, third base, and play it well. That is really something that is valuable."
Martinez made the Indians' Opening Day roster a year ago, but he was designated for assignment in May, when Erik Gonzalez -- one of Cleveland's younger players -- moved into the super utility role. The Tribe traded Martinez to the Rays on May 18 in exchange for cash considerations, but then reacquired him via a Minor League contract on June 25 after Tampa Bay dropped the utility man from its 40-man roster.
In stints with five big league teams in parts of the past seven years, Martinez has hit .194 with a .504 OPS. His 37 OPS+ is tied with Kevin Cash for the fourth-lowest mark since at least 1913 for a non-pitcher with at least 600 career plate appearances. Last year, Martinez hit .162 (.451 OPS) between stops with the Indians and Rays, and even logged one shutout inning on the mound for Cleveland in an April 13 loss to the White Sox.
As things stand, Martinez does not project to be a part of the Indians' Opening Day plans. Cleveland has utility options in both Gonzalez and Giovanny Urshela, who are both on the 40-man roster and out of Minor League options. Gonzalez will head into Spring Training as the favorite to fill that type of versatile bench role for the Tribe.
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.