Tuesday, November 23, 2010
VMart Signs with Tigers
ESPN Boston just reported that Victor Martinez has come to terms with the Detroit Tigers on a 4 year $50M contract. I can't say I'm surprised he's leaving Boston. The Red Sox didn't exactly strain themselves to re-sign him. Late in the 2010 season, the Red Sox reportedly offered Martinez a 2 year deal worth $21M. Basically to save face, the Red Sox front office made an offer they knew he would turn down. During the offseason, they reportedly offered him a choice of a 3 year $36M or 4 year $42M contract. Knowing he could probably do better on the open market, Martinez declined.
I don't blame the Red Sox for being apprehensive. As I've mentioned before, 31 year old catchers with questionable defensive and game calling skills, aren't exactly the type of player that a forward thinking front office (like the Red Sox) are eager to sign or re-sign. Don't get me wrong. Martinez carries a significant amount of value as an above average offensive catcher. While he projects to carry his above average bat for another 2-3 seasons, many baseball experts expect him to have to move to either first base or designated hitter within the next season or two. As good as VMart has been offensively, his bat isn't strong enough to play at either first or DH. As it stands, much of his value is tied up in his ability to play catcher. In the end, this contract will most likely end up being a loser for the Tigers, especially if he falls prey to the typical aging curve that plagues most career catchers.
Where do the Red Sox go from here? With Martinez and John Buck taken, the position is pretty shallow. Option 1 is to go the free agent route. If they go that route, they'll have to hold their noses as they sign one of the remaining available catchers. AJ Pierzynski is the best available of the remaining catchers.
Option 2 is make a trade. The Angels and Rockies have shown that they have little interest in offensively oriented catchers Mike Napoli and Chris Iannetta. (Iannetta many be difficult to pry away now that Oliva has been traded to the Blue Jays--and subsequently released.) While both catchers have clear strengths, they provide similar weaknesses that outgoing Victor Martinez possessed. The Pirates also are potential trade partners as they likely don't have enough at bats for both Chris Snyder and Ryan Doumit. The Pirates are in the middle of their perpetual rebuilding mode, so it's likely they'd be interested in making a deal.
Option 3 is to go into the season with Jared Saltalamacchia as the starting catcher. Salty has a ton of potential, but he's yet to show he can handle everyday catching duties in the major leagues. Going with Salty is a huge risk. Even if they go this route, they'll need to invest in a strong backup catcher that can take over if Salty proves he's not up to the challenge.
Replacing Martinez is going to be a challenge. In the long run, while it's almost certainly the right move, it's not going to be a popular one. Still, the Red Sox have won two championships and made six playoff appearances since 2003 making decisions that weren't always popular. As a Red Sox fan, when it comes to player moves, it's "In Theo We Trust" or bust.