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Hot Stove League profile: Victor Martinez

Posted on: November 17, 2010 5:39 pm
Edited on: November 17, 2010 6:59 pm
 
Through Nov. 26, CBS Sports' MLB Facts and Rumors will be profiling both free agents and trade candidates who will help stoke the fires of the Hot Stove League. Today: catcher Victor Martinez.

Switch-hitting 31-year-old catcher, a four-time All-Star with a .300 career average, lined up for long-term deal. You know what you call that? A blank check.

Victor Martinez is a baseball rarity, and he's got a big payday coming from somebody this winter. The big downside to the big Venezuelan is his defense behind the plate. He's a mediocre receiver whose defense scouts say is on the decline, and he has trouble holding runners. It's a virtual guarantee that he won't be behind the plate for the entirety of this contract -- he'll transition to first base or designated hitter at some point.

But what matters is that his bat is in the lineup. He's not only good, he's remarkably consistent -- with the exception of an injury-plagued 2008, his OPS+ has been between 122 and 133 every full year of his career.

Victor Martinez STATS

2010: .302/.351/.493 with 20 home runs, 32 doubles and 79 RBI

Career: .300/.369/.469 with 131 home runs and 638 RBI in 1004 games

WHAT IT WILL TAKE

Martinez spurned what was described as a lowball two-year extension offer from the Red Sox during the season, and now will probably command at least four years. We haven't seen hard numbers on the dollar amounts that have been talked about, but he's going to get upward of $10 million per year -- maybe a lot more. When John Buck (one good year, against nine much better years from Martinez) is worth three years and $18 million in a thin market for catchers, the market could get ridiculous.

Also worth keeping in mind is that Martinez is a Type A free agent, which means in addition to money, a signing team other than the Red Sox would surrender a high draft pick.

WHERE HE COULD GO

The Red Sox have made it clear they'd like to keep Martinez, and should be considered the frontrunner until someone else throws out an offer so ridiculous Boston has to drop out. Buck was reportedly their backup plan, so with him gone that might put more pressure on the Red Sox.

Victor Martinez The Tigers are the other team that has been said to prioritize him, and they have a lot of money coming off the books, so they can handle a big contract. Lately, however, it's looking like Detroit could land Adam Dunn, which could limit the need and dollars for Martinez.

The Orioles have reportedly been a surprisingly aggressive suitor, though they would seem like a tough sell to Martinez. The Rangers have him on their wish list, and could throw the money they have earmarked for Cliff Lee at him if Lee goes elsewhere. The Rockies, Blue Jays and Mariners also have been mentioned but seem like less likely destinations.

PREDICTION

The Tigers seem to be outfitted with a lot of interest and the most available money, so unless they blow all their mad money on Dunn, that would be a good fit.

-- David Andriesen

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