Out of sight, out of mind as the idiom goes. In baseball, a player’s season can be ended in February or March leaving a 12-month gap between when you last considered him as a fantasy asset. Now most guys aren’t completely forgotten, but even high profile players will have to climb their way back into the consciousness a bit, at least to get back on the level they were at prior to their injury. One such player for 2013 is Detroit’s Victor Martinez. The sweet-swinging catcher/first base/designated hitter ripped his left knee up last March and didn’t see the field at all.
His 2013 return has brought about some controversy. He was last a full-time catcher back in 2010 with the Boston Red Sox when he put the gear on 110 times in his 127 games played. Before that, he hadn’t been a full-time backstop since 2007. Back in 2011 when he last played, he was Detroit’s full-time DH with 112 appearances there. He had 26 games behind the dish and another six appearances at first base. Most fantasy leagues require a 20-game minimum the year before to maintain eligibility at a position. With 26 in his last year of play, Martinez is a 2013 catcher.
Not so fast.
CBS Sports, easily one of the most popular fantasy hosting sites, has made their ruling on the case and they have stripped Martinez of catcher eligibility making him a DH-only qualifier in their systems. Now custom league commissioners can fix it to however they see fit (I personally will making him a catcher in my AL-only league per our rules), but it looks like any standard league format at CBS will have to abide by the ruling. I found the decision curious myself noting (to myself) that Kendrys Morales had kept his first base eligibility upon his return last year after missing all of 2011. So I took to Twitter and asked CBS fantasy expert Nando DiFino what was up with this decision.
@nandocbs Why did V-Mart lose C-elig. in CBS lgs? He played 26 gms there in '11. Should unquestionably be a C.—
Paul Sporer (@sporer) January 28, 2013
DiFino responded, “Reverts to most appearances the previous year overwhelmingly DH in 2011: 112 at DH vs 26 at C, six at 1B. He hasn’t played primarily C since 2010, it’s disingenuous”.
He continued, “…came down to original tout rules, fairness, lots of things. But having VMart at top 5 in a position he didn’t primarily play since 2010 seemed like it wasn’t in the spirit of the game. One [guy] in the league would benefit from that.” (the entire exchange can be found here)
And in case you didn’t click the link earlier, here is an answer from the CBS FAQ
You can make a case that this also should’ve applied to Morales then since Albert Pujols was brought in to play first base, but it wasn’t hard to envision Morales getting time there even if just as a backup or to give Pujols some half-days off where they switch and Pujols DH’s while Morales mans first.
In the case of Martinez, he is not going to catch this year. That has been the word from the front office all off season and it was confirmed again recently by general manager Dave Dombrowski. They Alex Avila entrenched as the workhorse starter and while they didn’t re-sign Gerald Laird, they were ready to go with Bryan Holaday as the backup before getting Brayan Pena via free agency and trading for Ramon Cabrera who was a deep org prospect for the Pittsburgh Pirates (ranked 22nd by Baseball America in 2012).
So if you plan on countering this decision by CBS by drafting Martinez anyway and waiting for him earn eligibility via interleague or by spelling Avila, you are wasting your time. Obviously we can never say never and maybe V-Mart gets a few innings fulfilling some leagues who have a 1-game requirement, but you’re betting on a super longshot at that point and that’s a surefire way to ruin your chances at winning your league.
The closed loophole cuts a leg out of catching depth, but the position is working from a surplus and even without Martinez, it is a plentiful position. In my estimation, there are eight star-level (for fantasy purposes) players leading the charge with another eight or so high quality options not to mention a handful of wildcards who could pan out nicely including a pair of suspended catchers: Carlos Ruiz (25 games) and Yasmani Grandal (50 games).
Martinez joins only David Ortiz as the only two high-quality DH-only assets this year. Billy Butler regained 1B eligibility playing exactly 20 games there and Adam Dunn has managed to the classification since joining the AL despite it unquestionably being his best “position”.
Update your lists accordingly.