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With Mauer signed, Victor Martinez is next

Now that Joe Mauer has inked his contract extension, the Red Sox can begin serious talks with Victor Martinez on an extension of his own.

Martinez’s agent will undoubtedly argue that his contract should compare favorably to Mauer’s based on the fact that he may be the next-best catcher in the game. Boston, however, will counter with the fact that Martinez is already 31 and that it’s all downhill from here.

It's unreasonable to think that V-Mart’s contract will compare to Mauer’s in either length or dollar amount, but here are two reasons why he could soon become the game’s second-highest paid catcher.

1. His Power Numbers
Martinez actually has more consistent power numbers than Mauer. Since Mauer became an everyday catcher in 2005, Martinez has more extra-base hits (247 to 230) and more homers (86 to 66).

Martinez also has three 20 HR/100 RBI seasons under his belt, while Mauer has yet to reach the 100-RBI mark even once, peaking at 96 last season. Only five catchers in MLB history have more 20/100 seasons than Martinez, including four Hall of Famers (Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Gary Carter, Bill Dickey) and Mike Piazza.

2. His Clutch Performances
This is perhaps the most important aspect of Martinez’s game, and an area where he holds a clear edge over Mauer. Since 2005, despite primarily playing on worse teams, Martinez has driven in 49 game-winning RBI compared to Mauer’s 40.

Highest OPS in Close-and-Late Situations
Catchers Since '74

In close-and-late situations (defined as: 7th inning or later when leading by one run, tied, or with the tying run on base, at bat or on deck) Martinez has a career OPS of .922 – easily the all-time best among catchers dating back to 1974 (as far back as the stat is available). Mauer ranks fourth on the list, but trails Martinez by over 70 points.

Only time will tell if the Red Sox view Martinez as Mauer's equal - or even close - but its safe to assume that Martinez will use Mauer's deal as a starting point for determining his worth in the free agent market.