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Red Sox prepare for life without Victor Martinez

11.23.10 at 11:02 am ET
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Victor Martinez appears to be ready to sign with the Detroit Tigers. (AP)

As of Monday night, multiple major league sources said, the Red Sox recognized the likelihood that Victor Martinez was slipping away to the Detroit Tigers. It became clear that the catcher was not going to accept the Sox’ last offers of either three years at $36 million or four years and $42 million.

That scenario appears to have unfolded as of Tuesday morning. Ignacio Serrano reported from Venezuela that Martinez and the Tigers were closing in on a four-year, $50 million deal for the switch-hitting catcher. Serrano reported that the Red Sox talked to Martinez’ agent last night, and that the team was not willing to match the Tigers in years. Serrano also reported that the Orioles had a four-year, $48 million offer on the table, while the White Sox had a three-year, $48 million deal available.

Martinez ranked among the most productive catchers in the majors from the time that he joined the Sox at the 2009 trade deadline, following a deal that shipped Justin Masterson and prospects Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price to Cleveland in exchange for the four-time All-Star. Martinez hit .313/.368/.497/.865 in his time with the Red Sox, including a line of .302/.351/.493/.844 with 20 homers and 79 RBI in 2010.

Red Sox GM Theo Epstein said on multiple occasions this offseason that the team’s first choice for addressing its catching situation remained to re-sign Martinez. That said, he also suggested that the team was comfortable turning to 25-year-old Jarrod Saltalamacchia for the job.

For now, it appears the team is planning on trying to develop Saltalamacchia into an everyday player while signing another catcher to complement him. The team has also left open the possibility of re-signing free-agent Jason Varitek to partner with Saltalamacchia.

The Red Sox entered 2010 with some reservations about Martinez’ ability to remain a catcher long-term. (Indeed, at the time that the Indians traded him to Boston, they felt that his days as a catcher were already numbered.) At the start of the season, it seemed difficult to argue with such hesitation given that opposing teams were running wild on the catcher.

But he improved over the course of the season thanks to extensive work with bullpen coach and catching instructor Gary Tuck, and ended up throwing out 21 percent of would-be base stealers. Still, that was below the 26 percent American League average, and the Sox ended up allowing an AL-worst 80 percent success rate on stolen base attempts and an AL-worst 169 steals.

Perhaps as a result of such a performance, the Red Sox offered Martinez a two-year deal during the season. He told WEEI.com that he saw that as being too conservative given his age and performance.

“They came with something, and that might just be where the negotiations start, but I don’t see myself signing a two-year deal. I’m young enough. I work so hard and I give it all. I just want to be treated fair,” Martinez said. “It wasn’t hard because it was something I wasn’t expecting. I wasn’t expecting a two-year deal, anyway. I wasn’t expecting for them to come to me during the season anyways.”

The Sox remained engaged until at least last night in hopes of bringing Martinez back, but ultimately, the Tigers offer apparently proved to be one they did not want to match.

The Red Sox stand to receive a pair of draft picks with Martinez’ departure. Unless the Tigers sign outfielder Jayson Werth, the team would stand to receive Detroit’s first-round pick (No. 19 overall) as well as a sandwich-round draft pick. The Sox have, in the past, been able to leverage such draft pick compensation into important prospects. (More on that here.) Moreover, the No. 19 pick would be the earliest selection by the Sox since they took David Murphy with the No. 17 overall pick in 2003. Given the anticipated outstanding quality of the draft (and the fact that the Sox leveraged compensation picks in the last great draft, 2005, to acquire the likes of Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury and Jed Lowrie), the Sox view the value of the draft picks as significant.

Read More: Detroit Tigers, jarrod saltalamacchia, Jason Varitek, victor martinez Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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