Red Sox lose Victor Martinez to Tigers

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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

Report: Third base among 'major upgrades' Red Sox seek by trade deadline

Report: Third base among 'major upgrades' Red Sox seek by trade deadline

Despite still being owed more than $42 million after this year, Pablo Sandoval's days with the Red Sox appear numbered. So, it's no surprise that landing a third baseman at the trade deadline is a priority.

That's among the "major upgrades" the Sox are seeking by the July 31 deadline, MLB.com columnist Mark Feinsand reports.

With Sandoval now on his second disabled list stint of the season - this time with an ear infection - after turning into what Feinsand calls "a horror tale for the Red Sox," and with fill-ins Josh Rutledge and Deven Marrero holding down third, it's apparent that the position is a glaring need.

"Sandoval is basically a non-entity at this point," a source told Feinsand. "They need to make a move there."

Feinsand mentions the usual suspects - Mike Moustakas of the Royals and Todd Frazier of the White Sox - as possibilities. Also, he wonders if former MVP Josh Donaldson could be pried away from the Blue Jays (if "Dave Dombrowski knocks their socks off") with an offer and if Toronto is still sputtering at the deadline?

Those other upgrades? "Boston is also looking for pitching, both in the rotation and bullpen," Feinsand writes. Again, no surprise there.

Drellich: Red Sox' talent drowning out lack of identity

Drellich: Red Sox' talent drowning out lack of identity

A look under the hood is not encouraging. A look at the performance is.

The sideshows for the Red Sox have been numerous. What the team’s success to this point has reinforced is how much talent and performance can outweigh everything else. Hitting and pitching can drown out a word that rhymes with pitching — as long as the wins keep coming.

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At 40-32, the Sox have the seventh-best win percentage (.556) in the majors. What they lack, by their own admission, is an intangible. Manager John Farrell told reporters Wednesday in Kansas City his club was still searching for its identity.

“A team needs to forge their own identity every year,” Farrell said. “That’s going to be dependent upon the changes on your roster, the personalities that exist, and certainly the style of game that you play. So, with [David Ortiz’s] departure, his retirement, yeah, that was going to happen naturally with him not being here. And I think, honestly, we’re still kind of forming it.”

To this observer, the vibe in the Red Sox clubhouse is not the merriest. 

Perhaps, in the mess hall, the players are a unified group of 25 (or so), living for one another with every pitch. What the media sees is only a small slice of the day. 

But it does not feel like Farrell has bred an easygoing, cohesive environment.

Farrell and big boss Dave Dombrowski appeared unaligned in their view of Pablo Sandoval’s place on the roster, at least until Sandoval landed on the disabled list. 

Hanley Ramirez and first base may go together like Craig Kimbrel and the eighth inning. Which is to say, selfless enthusiasm for the ultimate goal of winning does not appear constant with either.

Dustin Pedroia looked like the spokesperson of a fractured group when he told Manny Machado, in front of all the cameras, “It’s not me, it’s them,” as the Orioles and Red Sox carried forth a prolonged drama of drillings. 

Yet, when you note the Sox are just a half-game behind the Yankees for the American League East lead; when you consider the Sox have won 19 of their past 30 games, you need to make sure everything is kept in proportion.

How much are the Sox really hurt by a lack of identity? By any other issue off the field?

Undoubtedly, the Sox would be better positioned if there were no sideshows. But it’s hard to say they’d have ‘X’ more wins.

The Sox would have had a better chance of winning Wednesday’s game if Kimbrel pitched at any point in the eighth inning, that’s for sure. 

Kimbrel is available for one inning at this point, the ninth, Farrell has said.

A determination to keep Kimbrel out of the eighth because that’s not what a closer traditionally does seems like a stance bent on keeping Kimbrel happy rather than doing what is best for the team. The achievement of a save has been prioritized over the achievement of a team win, a state of affairs that exists elsewhere, but is nonetheless far from ideal — a state of affairs that does not reflect an identity of all for one and one for all.

Maybe the Sox will find that identity uniformly. Maybe they’re so good, they can win the division without it.