Offseason editions of “Dead Red” will be infrequent, but usually come out when big news in Red Sox Nation occurs. Today is one of those days.
Last offseason, the Red Sox front office lost Jason Bay to free agency largely due to phantom health concerns. This year’s free agency period is still young but today, according to a few media outlets, they lost free agent Victor Martinez to the Detroit Tigers. Needless to say, this is a major loss for Boston.
I was hoping this was not going to happen but saw it coming a long time ago, which is why I felt the Sox needed to get a longterm deal done with him prior to the start of last season. Still, I didn’t expect the team with the second-highest payroll in baseball ($170 million payroll in 2010) to get outbid by any team (not named the New York Yankees) for V-Mart, let alone an average club like the Tigers.
This is a Red Sox team that is, after all, overpaying Daisuke Matsuzaka as well as the best DH in the game, David Ortiz, the latter by about $6 million. If you have to overpay for V-Mart, so what? Dice-K and Ortiz likely won’t be around a few years into a new V-Mart contract anyway. And, owner John W. Henry just bought an international soccer team (Liverpool F.C.).
Therefore, money should not be the issue here, but that and apparently longevity was, since Detroit reportedly offered V-Mart $50 million over four years, while the Red Sox gave him a choice of $36 million over three years, or $42 million over four years. If these figures are true, Epstein has some explaining to do, as this makes the Sox organization look cheap.
He was willing to overrate J.D. (“DL”) Drew and give him $70 million over five years ($15 million per year) at the age of 31. Yet V-Mart, at this same age and with much more durability (despite his thumb injury in 2010 that kept him out of 22 games), flexibility on the field and leadership skills, gets no more than three or four years? This doesn’t make any sense.
V-Mart, besides being one of the few premier offensive-hitting catchers in the game who can also handle pitching staffs well, was the only catcher to bat .300 while hitting 20 homers in the majors in 2010. He is a lifetime .300 hitter as well as a heart of the lineup hitter who can play first base and be a leader in the clubhouse. His only liability is in throwing out runners.
Epstein should have offered him at least $13 million over four years at a minimum (totaling $52 million), or that amount and length plus a fifth-year team or player option for around $8-$10 million (as he hits his mid-30s). Either way, there is no excuse for getting outbid for Martinez and losing him to anyone, including the bleeping Tigers!
V-Mart has caught and called games for multiple Cy Young Award winners and contenders ranging from Cliff Lee and C.C. Sabathia with Cleveland to Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz with the Red Sox. Would it have broken the Sox’s bank to offer one of the best catchers in MLB about $60 million over five years, given its previous mammoth deals offered to relatively lesser important longterm signess John Lackey ($85 million over five years) and Drew? Heck no.
The only realistic options for daily catching duties now are Jarrod Saltalamacchia and 38-year-old free agent Jason Varitek, who, like other unsigned free agents, needs to be offered salary arbitration by midnight tonight.
Even if the Sox end up with Salta and V-Tek next year, that’s not the one-two punch that will guide the Sox pitching staff to another World Series, since the former is still unproven at this level, and the latter has proven that though he is still the captain of the club that he can no longer last a full season and catch everyday.
Epstein and the Sox get two 2011 first round picks from V-Mart because he is a Type-A free agent (unless the Tigers attain a higher-rated Type-A player than him, which would knock the first of those selections down to a second rounder). But rebuilding at the catcher spot can not be in the plans. Epstein has to have some type of solid backup plan. He has to do better than this.
Photo credit: survivinggrady.com