3 Total Updates since November 23, 2010
over 2 years ago Update 0 comments
The first major free agent domino of the offseason has fallen, and it's at Boston's expense. All-star catcher Victor Martinez will not be back with the team in 2011, instead taking his talents to Detroit, and leaving a gaping hole behind at catcher.
Right now, the three catchers on the Red Sox' 40-man roster are Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Luis Exposito, and Mark Wagner. Salty was once a highly-lauded prospect, Exposito has been solid making his way up through the system, and even Mark Wagner has shown a little off-and-on promise. But let's be clear: none of them are starters for a team of the Red Sox' caliber.
So who could be? Presumably the Red Sox have some sort of plan. Between the 2-year deal and low offers to Victor, they had to have been ready to lose the catcher. So who could pick up the mantle? There are a few options.
The free agent pickings are limited. John Buck was pretty much the best option there, and not only is he gone, but he wasn't particularly good to begin with, given his inability to break a .314 OBP even in the best of years. All that's left are guys like Miguel Olivo--basically John Buck with less power.
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Perhaps the most intriguing name left is Yorvit Torrealba, who has been decent with the bat the last few years and is an elite defender. But he's got BABIP concerns and, if that number goes back to normal, than he's near enough to a black hole at the plate to make the Red Sox run for their lives.
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Basically, it doesn't look like money alone will get the Sox the player they need.
So that leaves us with trades, and for the Red Sox, a decision on philosophy. Do the Red Sox look to replace Victor's offense (or get as close as possible), or do they take a new direction with a defensive-minded backstop?
If they choose to find another bat, then the presumptive target would be the Angels' Mike Napoli. Seemingly unable to get on Mike Scioscia's good side, Napoli has been relegated primarily to first base. The Sox tried to pick up Napoli last year off of waivers, but couldn't reach a deal with the Halos. Maybe they'll take another shot over the offseason.
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On the other hand, if they decide they were tired of the defensive miscues and stolen bases, the Sox could target Russell Martin instead. While Martin hasn't been the star he used to be as his power has disappeared, he's still a competent player, getting on base at a .350 place, thus dodging the "automatic out" quality that made the Kevin Cash days of 2010 so very dark. There's also the consideration that, were the Sox to use Martin reasonably, as compared to the Dodgers' sticking him behind the plate every single night, that he could rebound.
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The most interesting part of Martin, though, comes from his defense. And I don't mean his ability to throw out runners (decent though it may be) or his ability to block wild pitches, but one of the less understood parts of a catcher's contributions: framing pitches. When Bill Letson came out with his catcher framing metric over at Beyond the Box Score, it placed Russell Martin as one of the best in the business, and suggested that the value of that skill could be surprisingly high. Theo Epstein is known for going after the undervalued talent. Could this be the newest market waiting to be exploited?
Only time will tell what road the Red Sox choose to go down. Maybe they even do end up with some ugly combination of Saltalamacchia and mediocre free agent A, B, or C. It's hard to imagine the Sox fanbase putting up with that, but at the same time, it's also hard to imagine them putting up with the hard-to-see defensive abilities of Russell Martin, or to accept that the $10 million saved by going for Mike Napoli instead of Victor Martinez bought them Scott Downs. In the end, though, it's winning that will determine the success or failure of the offseason, Martinez included, and Theo knows that well enough to make his moves with winning in mind.
over 2 years ago Update 13 comments
[Previously, we had a joke here about Detroit (used to show the Red Sox' inability to sign free agents). It obviously did not sit well with everyone and for that, we apologize. As Boston fans, we certainly the know what it's like to be on the receiving end of repetitive and/or tiresome schtick just for the sake of a joke, and it's no fun. Hopefully now we can all get back to the sports.]
Either Theo and friends fell asleep on this one or they didn't consider Victor Martinez to be worth the commitment. Unfortunately, he is - er, was.
After pitching coach John Farrell left, Martinez was the guy (alongside Jason Varitek, of course) who knew the pitching staff best. He could hit from either side of the plate and had a knack for producing in key situations, even if he couldn't throw a runner out trying to steal second, third and home all at the same time.
Fortunately, the Red Sox have plenty (!) of options at catcher now. They include, in no particular order:Stick Stickley,Jack Bauer (oh, wait, nevermind), Rick Sanchez, The Kool-Aid Guy, John Cena (what do you mean, he's not "really" fired?), and of course ... Jarred Saltalamacchia (or, as he's known in Texas, noodle-arm).
The problem for Boston, however, is no longer finding a catcher. It's deciding if this is going to be the real bridge year. Because if it is, they'd do well to let Adrian Beltre walk, push Salty and Luis Exposito (with Varitek along to coach them), call up Anthony Rizzo and pass on Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford so that they can stockpile funds for the Adrian Gonzalez sweepstakes in 2011.
Without Beltre and/or Crawford/Werth, the Red Sox opening day lineup looks like this:
Could they win with that in what's looking like a weakened AL East (see: no Tampa)? Potentially. But Toronto and Baltimore are poised for improved years and the Yankees will always be the Yankees.
Will that lineup change on days when Varitek (now a virtual lock to be re-signed) plays? And would it change drastically with Crawford and Beltre plugged in? Sure. And who wouldn't like this a little more:
But as the Martinez saga has proven, nobody's a sure thing at this point. What is becoming more and more certain is the uncertainty of Marco Scutaro's future in a Sox uni, especially if Boston can deal him for bullpen help, which they need more than anything else.
Speaking of pitching, isn't that Cliff Lee guy available? What once were whispers about the possibility of Lee in the Fens next summer are now growing, in part because the Sox have more money to spend and in part because they need to make a big move to appease the fan base at this point - and Crawford, Werth or Beltre won't be considered that big move.
Personally, I wish Victor the best in Detroit. It's a good franchise with a strong fan base, despite the economic decline the city has seen. He's a great clubhouse guy, an excellent leader and a wonderful ambassador for the game, especially with his strong Latin roots. Of all the guys I didn't want to see the Sox let go, he was the highest on the list.
But now he's gone. And - only for now, Sox fans should hope - the bridge to nowhere delves onward.
over 2 years ago Update 0 comments
On Tuesday, multiple sources reported that free agent Victor Martinez is set to sign with the Detroit Tigers, agreeing to a four-year, $50 million deal. This comes after the Red Sox reportedly were only willing to go so far as either a three-year $36 million deal or a four-year, $42 million contract.
The deal on the table with Detroit will make Martinez the fourth highest-paid catcher of all time, with yearly average of $12.5 million, just behind Jorge Posada's $13.1 million annual pay.
Martinez, 32, is a switch-hitting catcher that can also play first base and serve as designated hitter, but the Red Sox seemingly were just not willing to give someone of his age extra years.
On the surface that appears to be an odd stance. Martinez is exactly the kind of player that would seem to command a fourth or even fifth year at a favorable price, despite his age. His versatility would allow him to fill multiple roles in those final years. He can play first base. He can serve as your designated hitter. He can catch a game here and there. And his bat, which shows absolutely no wear and tear (he had a .313/.368/.497/.865 line in 183 games with the Red Sox) might be better off with fewer games behind the plate.
But perhaps even more than that, it was the Red Sox' original two-year offer that soured Martinez from returning to Boston.
over 2 years ago Update 0 comments
It was originally reported by Venezuelan reporter Ignacio Serrano of El Nacional and was quickly confirmed by FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal. CSNNE.com's Sean McAdam joined the confirmation party, tweeting that the two sides have a "four-year, $50 million agreement in place."
The Tigers bested the Red Sox, White and Orioles, said Serrano, who is reporting that Baltimore offered four years and $48 million, while Chicago was ready to give three years and $48 million. According to Rosenthal, "a final decision is expected Friday or Saturday." It's expected that Detroit will use Martinez as their primary catcher," but he'll probably see his innings behind the plate decrease thanks to the Tigers' Alex Avila.
While the Red Sox were hoping to re-sign the catcher, not all is lost: as MLB Trade Rumors points out, Boston will receive Detroit's No. 19 draft pick next year as compensation for the Type A free agent (unless Detroit also signs Jayson Werth later). Either way, the Red Sox will also receive a supplemental draft pick.
Martinez spent the past year and a half with the Red Sox after Boston traded for him in 2009. In his one full season with the Sox, Martinez was limited to just 127 games, missing some time with a broken thumb. He managed to hit .302 while slugging .493 with 20 home runs, 32 doubles and a 122 OPS+. Overall, he hit .313/.368/.497/.865 during his time in Boston.