Contract Crowdsourcing: Victor Martinez

Yesterday, the news came out that Victor Martinez had rejected a two year contract extension that the Red Sox had offered, and is now set to test free agency. In the words of his agent, Alan Nero, he’s looking for a place where he can sign “for the rest of his career.” Clearly, Martinez sees this as his last big contract, and he wants to get a deal for as many years as he can.

It will be interesting to see how the market for Martinez shakes out. He’s still one of the best catchers in baseball, posting a +2.8 WAR so far this year. He has a career average of +3.96 WAR per 600 PA, and outside of a miserable 2008 season, he’s consistently been an offensive force from a position where not many teams get a lot of punch. However, he turns 32 right before Christmas, and catchers don’t generally last beyond their mid-30s, and many break down at the point in their career that Martinez is approaching. He’s never been considered a good defender to begin with, and given his age, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were several teams interested in him as a first baseman, not a catcher.

Of course, at first base, he loses the scarcity part of his value, which makes up for a big chunk of what he brings to the plate. He can still help a team at first base, but the bat isn’t nearly as valuable there. The ideal solution is a compromise, with Martinez splitting time at both positions, reducing the wear and tear on his body while still keeping his bat in the line-up fairly regularly. But, what kind of contract will teams offer a part time catcher, part time first baseman headed into his decline years?

My guess is that he ends up somewhere besides Boston. I doubt they’ll guarantee him the years he appears to be looking for. Will he find them somewhere else?

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Dave is a co-founder of and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

23 Responses to “Contract Crowdsourcing: Victor Martinez”

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  1. Nick says:

    Many dollars for just a short amount of years!

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  2. Locke says:

    Catchers are tough. His value, as you said, could be wildly different depending on where he spends his defensive innings. You’d have to figure he catches full time for at least another 3 years though. Jorge isn’t a perfect comp, but it’s not horrible. He made 4@13 when he was 36 (but he was better and older.) I said 6@11 for VMart.

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    • JH says:

      Nobody who has uncharacteristic longevity at a position with a huge attrition rate while maintaining his peak offensive performance level into his late 30s is a good comp. Ever.

      Jorge Posada is an exception to two different general rules. Using him as a comp for anyone is a fool’s game.

      People may have given Martinez 6 years 3-4 years ago when the market was going nuts. Today there’s no way he gets 6. I’ll bet 3. Maybe 4.

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      • Locke says:

        Hahahhaa. Relax, bud.

        It’s actually not a bad comp, if you consider Jorge 36 ~= VMart 31. In which case you might imagine giving VMart 4@11. My original prediction of 6@11 was imagining a franchise stretching the years to make him happy and feel “comfortable” as his agent stated in his recent press release.

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      • Cheese Whiz says:

        Sorry Locke, but JH is absolutely correct here, there is no way he will fetch a 6 year deal at this point. Martinez has had an impressive career, but I think he will end up disappointed this offseason if he’s serious about a long term deal.

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  3. Peter Gammons says:

    Boston can afford to play hardball, what with Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the fold, a glut of catching talent in the minors, and lots of desirable options on the free agent market.

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  4. Adam says:

    Wow, six years?

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  5. Ixcila says:

    I think he signs with Chicago (A). They don’t have high-level 1B talent in the system to replace Konerko – I see them bringing in a stopgap 1B, and once Flowers is ready they move Martinez there full-time. Kenny Williams has certainly never been shy about going after old guys.

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    • James says:

      I think they would be more likely to go for Dunn than Martinez. They’ve invested in Viciedo who is probably going to be a 1B/DH type guy. I believe Teahen was signed to an extension before the season, and they have Morel as a possibility at 3B, which puts Teahen in the 1B picture if they can’t trade him, and Flowers is in the C/DH picture.

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  6. SteveS says:

    I’m probably guessing badly here, but I just have this instinct that Martinez is going to get a headscratchingly good contract; I have him pegged for 5/12, which seems like the right amount of money but a dangerously long deal for a catcher. He just seems like the kind of guy that teams will overpay a bit for, and I wouldn’t be incredibly surprised if it winds up north of that.

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  7. Ryan says:

    I said three years at $12 million per year. I can’t see a team going beyond that, especially if there’s a good possibility that he’ll have to play first base part-time.

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  8. Seels says:

    I had a similar answer Ryan – I put 4 years at 12 per. I figure it’s going to need to take just a little more to leave Boston, and a team like Chicago or Seattle or Detroit would give the extra year or two.

    As a Sox fan I really don’t want him back. I think his hitting isn’t all that great, certainly not good enough to give ~80 starts between 1B and DH to, and his fielding isn’t good enough to justify letting him catch for more than half the year. I think he’s a good player, but limits teams too much at C / 1B.

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  9. Xeifrank says:

    Is he going to be a Type A free agent? I would like to see that info as part of the intro.

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  10. David says:

    The Mets need to make an offensive splash this off-season, especially if the unfortunate Omar Minaya is still GM. A solid hitting Catcher-1B might prove alluring. Josh Thole and Ike Davis, however promising they may be, are just not producing at a high level. The team’s offense is pathetic. The team’s rotation is pretty good (All hail RA Dickey!) And then there are those memories of Mike Piazza .

    I don’t know if they’ll get him, but I think they’ll bid.

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    • Jonathan says:

      Omar Minaya’s status as a current MLB GM is why I put 4 years @ $15MM a year. If Minaya is not a GM when free agency starts, I will change my answer to 3 years @ $10MM annually.

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    • HeyNow says:

      Thole & Davis are hardly the problem on that team.

      V-Mart should stay in the AL, the DH may be his lifeline in the later years of his contract

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  11. Luke in MN says:

    I seem to be pretty far on the low end here. 2 years, 8 million each. I think type A will hurt him and teams won’t want to go lotsa years on an older borderline catcher. Injury’s a risk and if he’s not at catcher, he’s basically Adam LaRoche. If he’s healthy at catcher over that contract, he’s a steal, but if not, well, you don’t want to get burned money-wise on a guy who’s going to cost the type-A compensation. I’m probably should be a little higher though.

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  12. cs3 says:

    i also went with 3 years, but at 16m per.
    im probaaly overestimating his value.

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  13. Phantom Stranger says:

    By far one of the hardest positions to gauge for market value. The pool of players who can play the position at a high level is so small that Victor is likely to get a bigger contract than his numbers indicate. It really comes down to how a team values the uniqueness of the position and whether a team can tolerate him catching for 100 games or more. If he had a good defensive reputation his dollar value would be much greater. Some teams simply refuse to use bad defensive catchers, which limits the market.

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