Victor Martinez Gets His Chance to Play on Big Stage


Aug 1, 2009

 He's no Roy Halladay. He's no Adrian Gonzalez. But in his own way, he's one of the biggest impact players to change hands this season, and he'll surely be a huge boon to the Red Sox the rest of the way.

That would be Victor Martinez. As the fire sale in Cleveland goes on, the Red Sox became major beneficiaries on Friday afternoon, reeling in a 30-year-old three-time All-Star with a career OPS of .832 while playing at a premium defensive position. Martinez would be an asset on any team — but especially in Boston, where he brings a switch-hitting bat and the ability to take some mileage off of the aging Jason Varitek, he will be a perfect fit.

Before being traded, Martinez was in the midst of one of his best seasons. He was flirting with the .400 mark as late as the end of May, and while no one realistically thought he had a shot at baseball immortality, it was still a clear sign that the Indians' backstop was prone to flashes of brilliance at the plate.

And that was for a last-place team.

Now we get to see how Martinez will perform when it really counts. At 30, Martinez is in the eighth season of his career, and in the first seven, he made the playoffs just once. He's long been one of the most productive hitters in baseball at the catcher position, a big boost to any team in playoff contention, but he's rarely gotten the chance to be an impact guy in a pennant race. Now he gets that chance.

For the Red Sox, this couldn't have come at a better time. Even for the deepest, most talented teams in the game, slumps will still happen, and for the Red Sox, their season's worst slump came immediately after the All-Star break. In their 14 post-break games in July, they scored just 61 runs. They hit rock bottom last week, when the Rangers swept the Sox and their anemic bats out of Arlington.

The whole team is slumping in unison. Varitek, who turned 37 this season, is certainly part of the problem. The Sox' catcher had 13 home runs going into the All-Star break; he still has 13. Tek's last homer was on July 11 against the Royals.

The Sox spent the month looking for a big bat, and they knew they'd need one to stay afloat in the AL East. The Yankees are hitting the cover off the ball from one through nine, and it's not easy to keep up.

By shoring up their catching situation, the Sox have upgraded their offense tremendously.

Martinez brings 103 career home runs and 191 doubles to the Red Sox. He routinely slugs in the upper 400s every year, leveling out at .464 this season. He's a huge asset to the Red Sox as a catcher, since even in the American League, big-time offense from a backstop is hard to come by. But Martinez is more than just a catcher — he's an experienced first baseman as well. If Kevin Youkilis were ever to get hurt, Martinez could slide right in. If Mike Lowell injures himself, Youk moves to third and Martinez takes first. Everyone's covered for.

To make a run at a pennant in the American League, you need sluggers up and down the order. That's just the way it is. The Red Sox have always been able to keep up in that department, but it gets harder with time. The Sox' nucleus isn't getting any younger, and Varitek is unfortunately the poster boy for the aging Red Sox.

No one's saying Varitek will be squeezed out completely. He's still very much a part of the Red Sox' plans for the rest of this season. But adding a second catcher adds depth, versatility and quite a bit of pop to the Sox' lineup.

He's not Roy Halladay, but he's a huge pickup for a team that was really starting to need one. Victor Martinez will do well here.

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