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Assessing the Likelihood of a Victor Martinez Extension

12.07.09 at 12:04 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS ‘€“ It didn’€™t take long for Victor Martinez to warm to the Red Sox. Yet the fact that he did find Boston so welcoming suggests that, when his contract expires after the 2010 season, he might not be as reluctant as once was the case to test the free-agent waters.

That is not to say that Martinez wouldn’€™t like to extend his tenure in Boston. He said less than a month into his Red Sox career that he hoped to negotiate an extension with the Sox. But Alan Nero, whose Octagon agency represents Martinez, suggests that the catcher is prepared to explore the market if he cannot reach an agreement to return to Boston, in part because of what he went through this summer.

‘€œAs much as he would love to remain with the Red Sox, the concept of having to go through this again is now more palatable. We’€™ll have to see,’€ said Nero. ‘€œIt’€™s going to be entirely on the Red Sox.

‘€œIf he needs to, he’€™ll be a free agent. The trauma of leaving the Cleveland organization, which, for him, he loves his teammates and grew up in that organization, was catastrophic. For him to understand and immediately buy into the Red Sox culture, that’€™s a transition that he never dreamed of having to make. Now, the potential of him having to become a free agent at the end of the year is not scary.’€

The question of an extension for Martinez is not a front-burner one for the Sox at the Winter Meetings. The team is still working to fill out its roster. Once that happens, the team will likely touch base with Martinez later in the offseason to see whether the framework for an extension exists.

If Martinez does reach free agency, of course, he would stand to be in line for a top contract among catchers. While he would fall short of Joe Mauer’s class-unto-himself, he could easily cite deals such as the four-year, $52.4 million deal that Jorge Posada signed as a 36-year-old as a baseline for any negotiations.

Martinez hit .303 with a .381 OBP, .861 OPS, 23 homers and 108 RBIs in 2009. Though he split his time between catching (85 games), first base (70) while setting a career high with 155 games played this year, he averaged 132 games behind the plate with the Indians from 2004-07.

For that reason, and because of a maniacal commitment to fitness, Nero believes that Martinez should not suffer in the face of more playing time behind the plate. The Sox have already announced that Martinez will be the primary starting catcher next year, with Jason Varitek ‘€“ with whom Martinez enjoyed a tremendous working relationship last season ‘€“ relegated to a more limited backup role.

‘€œMy opinion is that Victor, basically all he cares about is contributing. If the manager tells him to go out and shag balls, he’€™s going to do it,’€ said Nero. ‘€œIf he was told they wanted him to play the outfield, the next day we’€™d get a call saying he needed a glove.

‘€œThe bottom line is, he wants to contribute. Whatever they want him to do, he’€™s going to do. He’€™s an amazing, amazing player that’€™s a team guy. He understands it. He gets it.’€

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