Red Sox lose Victor Martinez to Tigers

191542.jpg

Red Sox lose Victor Martinez to Tigers

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

Over the course of back-and-forth contract proposals late in the 2010 season, the Red Sox got a sense of just how far apart they were with catcher Victor Martinez.

Martinez, heading for free agency, was looking for a long-term deal, better even than the last one signed by another American League catcher known for his offense: Jorge Posada of the New York Yankees. Posada's last deal with the Yankees, signed after the 2007 season, ran for four years and 52.4 million. Martinez asked for five years and 65 million.

The Red Sox, in stark contrast, opened with a bid of two years, 20 million.

At the time, the gap was so significant, it seemed a virtual certainty to both sides that Martinez would likely take a deal elsewhere.

Tuesday, he did, agreeing to a four-year, 50 million contract from the Detroit Tigers.

Over time, the Sox and Martinez edged closer to one another, with the Red Sox improving their final offer to four years, 42 million Monday, a slight improvement over a four-year, 40 million deal that had been on the table for a while.

But there wasn't enough movement to meet in the middle, or to top the Tigers' bid, who were regarded by many in the game as the favorites to sign Martinez.

According to industry sources, the Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners were also in the bidding.

Martinez, obtained from the Cleveland Indians at the trade deadline in 2009 in exchange for pitcher Justin Masterson, Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price, supplied good production for the Sox over a season and a third.

He knocked in 41 runs over 56 games in the final two months of 2009, and in 2010, despite missing five weeks with a broken thumb, hit 20 homers and knocked in 79 runs while hitting .302.

But his defense was an issue, especially early in the 2010 season when opposing runners ran unchecked on the bases.

The Sox were concerned that, over the course of a longer deal, Martinez's defense would continue to deteriorate to the point where he would have to be transitioned out from behind the plate and converted to a first baseman or DH. Worse, the Red Sox would be paying Martinez All-Star catcher money to someone delivering average production at first base or DH.

Maritnez's departure leaves the Red Sox with one catcher with major-league experience on their 40-man roster: Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Saltalamacchia, obtained in a deal a year to the day after Martinez, appeared in just 10 games with the Sox before undergoing season-ending thumb surgery, will be given the chance to nail down the starting catcher's job in spring training.

Though the Sox didn't get much chance to evaluate Saltalamacchia directly after the deal, they scouted him extensively over the years and were impressed with his play in Pawtucket immediately after the deal.

As recently as last week, general manager Theo Epstein said the Sox would be open to having Saltalamacchia as the No. 1 catcher.

"We're comfortable with Saltalamacchia in a role anywhere from backup to job-share to everyday guy,'' said Epstein, "depending on how the rest of the club shapes up. We like him. Obviously, we liked him from a scouting standpoint and we took the opportunity to buy low after he went through a rough period.

"But he really impressed the staff, who had no vested interest in him. He really opened some eyes from the manager to catching instructor Gary Tuck to the pitching coach with the way he handled pitchers, the way he threw, to the way he conducted himself in the clubhouse. He was impressive to everybody.''

Still, the Sox must find another player to help Saltalamacchia handle the load. On the free-agent market the list includes Miguel Olivo, Rod Barajas, Yorvit Torrealba, and, not incidentally, Jason Varitek.

While Olivo in particular may be a better offensive option than Varitek, the former Red Sox captain pairs nicely with Saltalamacchia in this sense: while the switch-hitting Saltalamacchia hits better from the left side (.765 OPS vs. .562 OPS as a right-handed hitter), Varitek remains more of an offensive threat from the right side.

Additionally, Varitek may be best suited among the group to serve as Saltalamacchia's mentor -- teaching him about opposing hitters' tendencies as well as how to best handle the Red Sox pitching staff.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

According to Fortune, Theo's the greatest . . . in the world, not just baseball

According to Fortune, Theo's the greatest . . . in the world, not just baseball

Apparently, the Red Sox couldn’t hold onto the best leader in the world. And the best leader in the world has no idea how to housebreak his puppy.

Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein was given the top spot on a list of “The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders," published by Fortune on Thursday morning.

The potential for silly takeaways from Epstein’s placement on the list -- and his response to it in a text to ESPN’s Buster Olney -- are amusing, if not astounding.

Wait, Epstein doesn’t think baseball is the most important thing in the world?

"Um, I can't even get my dog to stop peeing in the house," Epstein told Olney. "That is ridiculous. The whole thing is patently ridiculous. It's baseball -- a pastime involving a lot of chance. If [Ben] Zobrist’s ball is three inches farther off the line, I'm on the hot seat for a failed five-year plan. And I'm not even the best leader in our organization; our players are."

Zobrist, of course, had the go-ahead hit in the 10th inning of Game 7 of the World Series against the Indians.

As Fortune described it, the list of leaders is meant to include those “transforming the world and inspiring others to do the same” across business, government, philanthropy and the arts.

Epstein certainly did help transform the baseball world.

“In the fall of 2016, as partisan distrust and division reached abysmal depths, fascination with the Chicago Cubs became that all-too-rare phenomenon that united America,” his blurb on the list begins.

That’s fair. But, if you scroll down the list: Pope Francis is No. 3. Angela Merkel is No. 10 and LeBron James is No. 11.

Drellich: Don't let Sam Travis' lack of batting gloves fool you

Drellich: Don't let Sam Travis' lack of batting gloves fool you

Three players are tied for the Red Sox' lead in home runs in Florida. Only two of them will be with the team come Opening Day.

The other may be the starting first baseman a year from now.

Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval and Sam Travis have all gone deep three times this Grapefruit League season.

Coming back from surgery on his left ACL, Travis has yet to play in the majors. But he easily could later this year.

In a perfect world, though, the 23-year-old spends 2017 at Triple-A Pawtucket. He needs to prove he can consistently hit off-speed pitches.

A right-handed hitting first baseman who played college ball with Kyle Schwarber of the Cubs, Travis already crushes fastballs.

He carries himself like a stereotypical masher, too.

Travis rocks an unbuttoned jersey with no undershirt. No batting gloves. A grip-it-and-rip-it approach and Mike Napoli vibe.

But, don't get too caught up in the image.

"I mean, are you essentially asking like, do I still like have a plan?" Travis said when approached about his reputation.

No, because everyone has a plan. It's a question of how his is formulated, what matters to him. Because it can't always be as simple as see ball, hit ball. And it isn't.

"I definitely watch video. Everyone watches video," Travis said. "You kind of need to watch video when you get to this stage . . . You're in the box, you don't really want to think at all. That's what practice is for. But yeah, I'm definitely working on stuff.

"Just because I don't wear batting gloves doesn't mean I'm just going out there -- I definitely still got an idea what I'm trying to do."

Travis said he tried batting gloves once in high school and they just didn't feel right. So he takes hacks with a 34-inch bat with no frills..

But even when hitters say they don't think at the plate, they do.

If you're up 2-and-0, the thought has to cross your mind: fastball?

"I mean, yeah, you definitely are talking to yourself," Travis said. "But you don't want to get too far into your own thoughts because then that's when you get in trouble."

Slugging involves calculating.

Travis will look at scouting reports, but they're not his end-all be-all. The written ones, anyway. He keeps others in his head.

"I like to know what pitches [an opponent] has, which way pitches are going to move," Travis said. "But you know, you find that out from other players, and of course scouting reports and video. But the best experience is when you're actually in there, when you actually see it first hand.

"I remember everybody."

Video can be used to break down one's own swing, too. But that's not Travis. Tinkering's not his bag.

In part, that's because he's always had a simple approach mechanically.

"I don't really take much of a stride or anything. I kind of just pick it up and put it down," Travis said. "I've always been the guy that can make an adjustment pitch to pitch and at-bat to at-bat depending on what the pitcher is, it just goes with like timing and stuff."

Usually, somewhere along the way -- in the professional or amateur chain -- a coach will try to change a player's swing. Travis said that wasn't the case for him, though.

"No. Not really," Travis said. "Everyone's still gonna have minor adjustments, it's just how the game works. You know, you're going to put a bad swing on the ball. But as long as you recognize it and get right back to where you are . . .

"I've always been a guy who believes less movement, the better it is. That's my own personal opinion. Whatever works for people, that's what they're going to do."

Sometimes, that means loosening a few buttons and just letting it rip.

After watching a little video before the game.