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Letting Victor Martinez go made no sense

11.24.10 at 12:46 pm ET
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Lou Merloni feels that it made no sense for the Red Sox to let Victor Martinez leave in free agency. (AP)

Since the season ended, I’ve said over and over again that I believed that Victor Martinez should be the Red Sox No. 1 priority.

Offensively, he’s about as consistent as it comes. If you take out 2008, in which Vic’s season was cut short due to an injury, you could pretty much pencil in a .300 average, 20+ homers and around 100 RBIs every year. That’s the type of consistency that you invest in long term.

He’s a switch hitter who can hit in the middle of your order. Those numbers are even more impressive when you can get that kind of production from your catcher. Look around the game, how many catchers can you say that about? Of the 30 teams in the league, I can count only three others who would excite me: Joe Mauer, Buster Posey and Brian McCann. Other than that, there may be a few others who you could live with.

But when you have one of the four best hitting catchers in the game, the last thing you want to do is lose that guy for $8 million dollars over the course of four years. I’m sorry, it just doesn’t make much sense to me.

Defensively, is he a great catcher? No, but who is? I’ve talked an awful lot about how splitting time behind the plate in 2009 set Vic back defensively early on this year. He got in bad habits and it took some time to get back to where he felt comfortable throwing the baseball again. If you continued to watch Vic as the year went on, you saw him do just that. He was no longer a liability throwing runners out. As a matter of fact, he was pretty good at it.

It’s obvious that the Sox did not view Victor as someone who would remain a catcher throughout the term of the contract. Maybe they are right. But can’t you at least admit that he would be an above average hitter in this league for the next four years no matter what position he plays? Maybe Vic could catch for the next two years and then move either to first base or DH. That could happen. He could also catch for the next three of four years. How do we know? The bottom line is that even if he does move to first or DH the last two years of his deal, he’s still going to hit. He always has and he always will.

As much as I wanted the Sox to sign Vic this offseason, I would have understood if they had not done so if some team came and completely blew him away with a deal. I was afraid that a team would come in and offer Vic a five-year deal for about $60 million with maybe even an option year. That might scare me away.

But when the Sox come out and say that they were willing to go the four years that Vic signed for, just not for as much money as the Tigers gave him (and other teams were willing to give him), I have problems with that. In years past, I’ve agreed with not going the extra year on guys they’ve let go. It didn’t make sense. But this wasn’t the case.

Now, they may soften the blow and trade for, or sign, a big time left-fielder, but to me, I’ll take the catcher. It’s a specialty position. You can’t take a first baseman or third baseman and put him behind the plate. You can take a right fielder or a center fielder and put him in left. In other words, there are only 30 catchers in this league; there are 90 outfielders you could plug in left field.

I’ve got the emotional side of this move out of me now, so let’s see if I can find a silver lining. Are the Sox trying to accumulate draft picks because there is a major trade in the future and they are trying to replenish their farm system because they know they are going to lose a few of their prospects? Could be.

But that would mean that they would have to actually make a trade. File that one under “we’ll have to wait and see.” The other rational side in all of this is that, if you ask me, I don’t think that scoring runs will be the downfall for the 2011 Boston Red Sox. It still comes down to pitching. Take a look at the World Series champion San Francisco Giants. Their lineup did not scare you at all, but their pitching staff did. That’s how they won the World Series.

You may say that if the Giants were in the AL East they may not have even made the playoffs. I don’t agree. Take a look at who won the AL East this year. The Tampa Bay Rays. Did their lineup scare you? No, they won because of their pitching.

There is a long way to go this offseason. The Sox will eventually put a team out there that they believe can win. That team may not excite Red Sox Nation but it’s not the team’s job to do so. Yeah, their ratings are down, but the only way to get ratings up is to win. That’s it.

The glory days are over. The Sox will never again own the months of April, May or June as long as the Celtics and Bruins continue to make runs deep in the playoffs. What they need to do is own the month of October, and the only way you do that is to play for a championship.

If you ask me, that plan took a hit yesterday when they let one of the best hitting catchers in the game go.

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