21 March 2010
Joe Mauer and the Minnesota Twins finally agreed to a conract extension yesterday. The deal is for 8 years and $184 million, averaging out to $23M per season through 2018.
Obviously, this means Mauer will not be coming to Boston, but this deal will affect the Red Sox in the near future... here's how:
With Mauer off the market, Victor Martinez just became the best free agent catcher available. Knowing that Mauer would likey choose to stay in Minnesota, Theo Epstein grabbed the upper hand last season by trading for Martinez at the break. V-Mart was openly upset about leaving the only organization he's ever known, but adapted well to Boston and has already stated that he would prefer to stay here rather than be moved again.
That's good news for the Red Sox, but what will it cost to keep V-Mart in Boston? He's making $7.7 million this season, but Mauer's $184 million deal sets the bar pretty high. My guess is Victor will want at least $10M per year, but he could ask from as much as $15M, knowing that he's the best catcher on the market right now.
Will the Sox be willing to offer Victor $50 million over 5 years? Would they go as high as $75M over five years? Martinez will turn 32 this December and was already spending half the season at first base to stay fresh... his versatility is a bonus, but his health is still a concern. It will be interesting to see what the Sox do here...
Knowing that Martinez can play first or DH gives Epstein a few options, but it also makes the future hard to predict. Kevin Youkilis is here through 2013 and is a gold glove firstbaseman. But if Martinez stays in Boston, he will eventually need to split time at first base and catcher if he wants to stay fresh. The Sox could simply move Youk to 3B when Martinez plays 1B, but that would force the Sox to find a player willing to share time at thirdbase. Adrian Beltre appears to be here on a rental contract, but if he plays well, the Sox might consider keeping him in Boston for a few more years, but it's doubful he'll accepct a part time role.
The Red Sox will also be looking to bring 1B Adrian Gonzalez to Boston... possibly as soon as this July.If they trade fr A-Gon, they'll have to determine if he will be the 1B of the future or the DH of the future. In my opinion, it makes sense to convert him to a DH, but without a longterm plan in place at thirdbase, the Sox might opt to bump Youk to thrid and search for a DH in the offseason. If David Ortiz bounces back, they could always pickup his option, but he'd have to be VERY impressive in 2010 to be worth another $12.5M in 2011...Which leads us to the other angle... the money angle. The Sox could free up over $24 million if Ortiz and Lowell walk after the 2010 season. That goves them some wiggle room for new deals, can they afford to re-sign both Martinez and Josh Beckett? Beckett will be looking for a deal similar to the $82 million deal the Sox gave Lackey this winter, but if Josh pitches like he did in 2007, he could test the free agent market in search of a $100M deal.
Rumors say Beckett and the Sox are closing in on a contract extension and that Becket would prefer to stay in Boston thanks to the strong rotation around him. But Beckett has also stated that he won't talk money during the season, so the Red Sox have less than two weeks to lock him down before Opening Day. If they can keep Beckett in Boston for under $90M (5 X $18M), the Sox would have a very strong rotation for years to come, but that will make it tough to re-sign Martinez at $10-$15 million...
Bottom Line: Theo has done a good job in planning for the future at catcher. He'll have the best chance of signing Martinez, but if that doesn't pan out, he's also stacked the farm system with talented guys like Mark Wagner and Luis Exposito. Losing out on Mauer is a bummer, but there's a silver lining to this cloud...
The Yankees lost out too.
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