Red Sox can't re-sign Martinez just yet

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The Red Sox may well want Victor Martinez as their catcher beyond 2010. He’s not much defensively and he never will be, but he doesn’t embarrass himself and it could be a long time before a real upgrade is available. Still, despite Martinez’s obvious eagerness to get a deal done now, nothing figures to happen for two very big reasons.
1. Joe Mauer still hasn’t reupped with the Twins.
Mauer would likely spur the biggest bidding war yet between the Yankees and Red Sox if the Twins fail to sign him to an extension past 2010. As is, Mauer and Martinez are far and away the top catchers set to be available next winter. A.J. Pierzynski, Gerald Laird and Bengie Molina are the best of the rest. Things don’t look any better two years down the line. Yadier Molina has a 2012 option that’s sure to be picked up. Jorge Posada will be a free agent, but it’s doubtful that he’ll be a catcher in 2012. Brian McCann and Russell Martin are still three years away from free agency (four for McCann if his option is picked up).
Odds are that a Mauer deal will get done, and that could spur the Red Sox into action with Martinez. However, there’s another factor that weighs heavily that will be overlooked by some:
2. Martinez’s current contract is extremely friendly for luxury-tax purposes.
I touched on this subject back in December.
With all of their recent moves, the Red Sox are in danger of having to pay the luxury tax for the first time since 2004. An extension for Martinez wouldn’t necessarily add anything to the team’s 2010 payroll, but it would immediately raise Martinez’s luxury tax figure from $7.68 million and replace it with his new average annual salary (with the 2010 salary still factoring into the mix). Since it would likely take at least $12 million per year to sign Martinez, the jump could push the Red Sox over the top.
So, even if it costs a few extra million dollars then, the Red Sox would likely be better off waiting until next winter to re-sign Martinez.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.