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?