The Detroit Tigers on Monday made a relatively under-the-radar move that could pay dividends, creating a defensive coordinator position and hiring Matt Martin to fill it.
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who has been on the job for about two weeks, appears to be addressing one of the team's biggest weaknesses from 2013 by bringing Martin aboard. Though they finished the regular season seventh in MLB in fielding percentage, the Tigers ranked No. 20 in team UZR, No. 27 in defensive efficiency and No. 28 in Total Zone Runs Saved.
Martin might be the guy to put Detroit on the right track. Former big leaguer Gabe Kapler, who played in the Tigers organization while Martin served as a minor league coach in the late-1990s, spoke glowingly of the 44-year-old Texan in a Baseball Prospectus story in August:
"Every infielder I poll tells me the same thing: Matt's knowledge and understanding of infield mechanics is second to none."
Martin's also drawn the praise of several people who currently hold big-league jobs of some capacity, including Dodgers manager Don Mattingly and Royals infielder Jamey Carroll, who referred to Martin as "the real deal" in a conversation with Kapler. He is, by Kapler's account, an unconventional guy, which may prove to be a breath of fresh air to a team that stalled out under former manager Jim Leyland and his old-school coaching staff.
The Tigers' gig is Martin's first at the highest level. He served as a minor league coach for 18 years, including six in Detroit's organization. He'll be tasked with controlling defensive positioning and gathering advanced scouting information.
Detroit also added former major league shortstop Omar Vizquel to its coaching ranks on Monday, per MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez, a day after reportedly hiring Wally Joyner to serve as the new hitting coach.