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Red Sox not so quick to lock up V-Mart

Fire Brand of the American League's Troy Patterson on what the Red Sox should do with Victor Martinez, whose current deal expires after this season:

    His defense is not as bad as many think, but he still has a poor arm for catching runners. It’s really hard to value the skills defensively as a catcher, but eventually it’s known Martinez will have to move to either first base or DH. With Kevin Youkilis signed through 2012 and an option for 2013 first base isn’t an option unless Youk moves back to third. Making that move will be tougher to do each year he is getting older.

    That leaves DH for Martinez, but how likely is it that Martinez would be set as a full time DH? Possible, but once David Ortiz finishes his time in Boston it’s likely the Sox go with a rotation at DH as many other teams are employing the past few years.

    This means the Red Sox have to trust that Martinez will be able to play a large amount of his games at catcher for the length of the deal.

    --snip--

    My opinion is his defense is acceptable to proceed with Martinez behind the plate for the next 4 years. You could up his 2010 value and give him a fresh deal for 4/$60 or look to give him 3/$42 that starts after the 2010 season. Either way those deals are fair market for where the current deals are going.

    If Martinez thinks the market is going to be back after 2010 he could think he is due the $4.5 per win above average. That makes him worth $90 million for the next five years. I can’t see the Red Sox going to that amount with a player under team control. They are known for being willing to go to free agency and even let players walk.

Considering how long the Red Sox stuck with Jason Varitek -- and management's comments over the years about Varitek's impact on their pitching staff -- I'm a little skeptical about the club's willingness to project Martinez as their No. 1 catcher in 2013 or beyond. It's easy (and probably correct) to say that Martinez is better than we think now, but three or four years from now? He won't be the catcher he is today, nor will he be the hitter.

The Red Sox wanted Martinez last season because he could catch and he could hit, and they wanted him this season because he can still do both things and he's still cheap: $7 million. But as thin as the crop of free-agent catchers will be next next winter, I still don't see them doubling Martinez's salary for the privilege of watching him enter his mid-30s decline.