When it was reported “in passing” a week ago, I thought it was a mistake. Two years? That can’t be right. That’s not even a credible jumping off point. But lo and behold, two is the magic number when it comes to the Boston’s opening offer to extend Victor Martinez.
The details of Boston’s offer to Victor Martinez are not completely known but what we do know, courtesy of Victor, is that Boston didn’t exactly blow the player away with its opening salvo. “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.”
What we now know about Martinez is he is awfully cordial as most players of his stature would have been offended by the Sox offer. And rather than offer a tactful plea for fairness, many would have gone ballistic and played the disrespect card.
We also know, or at least have a pretty good idea, of how the Sox now view Martinez. And quite frankly, it doesn’t seem like they hold him in very high regard. Instead, it appears that they see him more as a stop gap than a long-term fixture. Yes, he would be a great guy to have around in 2011 and even 2012. But come 2013, in his age 34 season, Theo & Co. don’t seem hot to the idea of Victor clogging things up for guys like Anthony Rizzo, Luis Exposito and Ryan Lavarnway. And given the fact that Martinez will be 32 next April, it doesn’t seem like the Sox want to be holding the bag if Victor’s decline starts to kick in sooner rather than later.
Given the paucity of major league catching, and particularly catching that can hit, it might be a gamble to let Martinez walk. After all, he is still basically an 800+ OPS guy and he kills left-handed pitching, something that the Sox, as currently constituted, have in short supply. But the market for Martinez probably figures to be 3/36 at a minimum and that might be a tough pill for Boston to swallow. I think the Sox knew as much in late July and that is why they swiped Salty when they had a chance. Worst case, Salty could split catching duties with Tek. Better case, the Sox could move on a guy like Mike Napoli who I think would kill it at Fenway. And such an option – pairing Salty with Napoli – would free up some resources to either resign Beltre or bring in a RH bat like Jayson Werth.
Net net, I don’t think Boston’s first overture is a great sign for those who want to see Martinez return. Yes, Boston could always come back and sweeten but if they are at two years right now, there is no way they go four and that might be what it takes to grab Martinez. Now if it looks like Beltre is leaving, perhaps the Sox will get more aggressive with Martinez, with an eye towards sliding Youkilis over to third and playing Victor at both 1B and catcher. But at this point, I think the fair read is Boston will not extend itself for Victor. Instead, they will offer arbitration, he will turn them down, and Boston will collect a couple of draft picks.