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Making The Case For Russell Martin As The Red Sox' Starting Catcher

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With the news coming out this week that Victor Martinez won't be back with the Red Sox in 2011 after signing a 4-year $50 million dollar contract with the Detroit Tigers, the Red Sox are in need of a catcher for next season.

They already have Jarrod Saltalamacchia on in the roster after he was acquired from the Texas Rangers just prior to the trade deadline. Saltalamacchia earlier this week said he is ready to take on the challenge as the Red Sox starting catcher in 2011. However, I don't believe that Theo Epstein or any average Red Sox fan like you and me believe that.

Theo and company are rumored to be looking at free agent possibilities, including Miguel Olivo, Rod Barajas, and Yorvit Torrealba. The Red Sox have known interest in Barajas. They also could have interest in trading for a catcher, such as Mike Napoli of the Anaheim Angels.

However one option that would be the best move for the Sox and one that could simply fall into their lap, is Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Russell Martin.

Martin, only 27 has had an up-and-down Major League career. Martin has been elected to 2 All-Star games for the National League, and has earned two gold gloves as a catcher, however his last two seasons have been quite forgettable.

Since 2008, Martin has failed to hit over .250 and his power numbers have slipped, as he has only hit 12 homers combined, which is seven less than his career high of 19 in 2007. To be fair, Martin has battled several different injuries including a serious hip injury which only allowed him to play 97 games with the Dodgers last season.

Martin earned $5 million in 2010, and could make even more money this year following arbitration. With this in mind, Dodgers GM Ned Colletti has contemplated non-tendering Martin, leaving him free to look for cheaper options. The team also has catcher A.J. Ellis, who split time with Rod Barajas behind the plate while Martin was injured. With Ellis on the roster, this could make it easier for the Dodgers to part with Martin.

If Martin is non-tendered, he would become by far the most valuable catcher on the free agent market, a clear upgrade age-wise from the likes of the soon-to-be 33-year-olds Olivo and Torrealba, and the 35-year-old Barajas.

Martin would also be preferable to Mike Napoli, as Martin is an all around better hitter than Napoli and is a better defensive catcher, as Napoli has only a career high 27% caught stealing percentage compared to Martin's 39% last season. Besides that, the Red Sox would have to give up value to receive Napoli as he can only come by trade.

Martin has also had far more success in his short 4-year MLB career versus Olivo, Barajas, and Torrealba; who have all been in the league more than nine seasons.

The Red Sox could certainly get Martin cheap because most teams are drawn away from his production over the last few seasons, and his health risks. But when healthy, Martin could become a steal on the Red Sox part if they were to sign him, as he has proven he can hit as high as .293/.374/.469 over the course of a full season, and is capable of producing between 10-20 home runs and driving in between 70-90 RBIs a season.

Martin is expected to make a full recovery from his hip injury by Spring Training, which could allow him to get back to his old production for the Red Sox while healthy. Martin would certainly start for the Red Sox, and would receive the bulk of the playing time, which could allow Saltalamacchia to receive experience as a backup.

The Red Sox have been known to take chances on productive guys coming off injuries their previous seasons, such as when they signed Adrian Beltre last season (look how that paid off). The Red Sox would certainly be interested and Russell Martin would certainly like to be on a good team and start next season.

With not too many teams looking to take a chance on players who were injured last season, seems like Russell Martin and the Red Sox would be a good match.