Red Sox exercise Victor Martinez's option, cut Alex Gonzalez loose

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In a pair of no-brainer decisions for 2010, the Red Sox have exercised their $7.1 million option on Victor Martinez and declined their $6 million option on Alex Gonzalez.
Acquired from the Indians at the trading deadline, Martinez hit .336/.405/.507 with 41 RBIs in 56 games for the Red Sox while splitting time between catcher and first base. He’ll be Boston’s starting catcher in 2010, but also figures to see action at first base and designated hitter thanks to Jason Varitek likely returning via a $3 million player option.
Martinez isn’t much of a defender behind the plate, throwing out just 14 percent of steal attempts this year and 24 percent for his career, but as a 30-year-old switch-hitter with a .299/.372/.465 career line he’s among the best-hitting catchers in baseball history. Looking at all catchers through the age of 30 he ranks 14th in RBIs, 17th in Runs Created, 19th in adjusted OPS+, and 20th in extra-base hits. He hits like a first baseman and plays a passable catcher, which makes Martinez hugely valuable.
As for Gonzalez, the vast majority of his value comes from a good glove. He was with the Marlins for eight seasons before a one-year stint with the Red Sox and then signed a three-year, $14 million contract with the Reds. He had a career-year in 2007, batting .272/.325/.468 with 16 homers, but missed all of 2008 with a fractured knee and struggled mightily after returning this year. He hit just .210/.258/.296 before the Reds traded him to the Red Sox, but then hit .284/.316/.453 as Boston’s starting shortstop.
Gonzalez has been wildly inconsistent but mostly terrible offensively throughout his career, hitting .247/.294/.395 in 11 seasons, but makes up for it with consistently excellent defense that even graded out well after the injury. He’s obviously no great shakes, but this offseason’s crop of free-agent shortstops is incredibly underwhelming and he’d be a reasonable short-term option for teams not interested in overpaying for someone like Miguel Tejada or Marco Scutaro.

Orioles sign Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar
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The Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.

Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.

Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.