Red Sox, Victor Martinez Must Solidify Their Future Together

Red Sox, Victor Martinez Must Solidify Their Future Together News flash: Victor Martinez, and not Jason Varitek, is the catcher of the future for the Boston Red Sox.

OK, that much is old news. General manager Theo Epstein spoke to the press last week and made an official statement to that effect, in case there was any doubt in the first place. Martinez, with his 23 home runs and 108 RBIs, has job security here in Boston. Big surprise.

The real question, though, is how long that job security will last.

When the Red Sox traded for Martinez at the trading deadline in July, they picked up a five-year, $15.5 million contract that expired this year with a one-year club option for 2010. It was a short window of time to make the most of Martinez, one of the best offensive catchers in baseball. To make the acquisition worth Boston's three-player package of Justin Masterson, Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price, they had to do one of two things: lock Martinez up long-term, making him the Sox' catcher and No. 3 hitter for years to come, or win a championship with him right away.

The latter option didn't work out. But there's still hope that the Sox can think long-term with Martinez.

A week ago, the Sox made it official that they were picking up Martinez's $7.1 million club option. For the next year, he will be the Red Sox' regular catcher.

"We're going to really look for Victor to be an everyday catcher for us next year," Epstein told last Monday. "We feel like that puts us in the best position to win, with Victor catching as much as he can."

That will still be true after the end of next season. It'll be true in 2011 and in 2012 and beyond. The Sox should find time to sit down with Martinez and let him know.

Martinez is still only 30. If the Red Sox can work out an extension to keep him in town for three or four more years after 2010, it would be a shrewd business move. But the front office doesn't appear to be jumping at the opportunity.

Epstein told the Boston Herald last week that the Red Sox "haven’t started that process with anybody," adding that "if we do, it’s probably something that happens after the sprint of the trade and free-agent season, and that’s in six weeks or so."

But what's the wait?

What's going to change over the course of the next six weeks that will alter Victor Martinez's future in Boston? What free-agent signing or what trade between now and New Year's 2010 could convince the Red Sox that Victor isn't their guy for the future?

What other plans could the Red Sox have in mind for a future backstop? Is this an indication that Joe Mauer, who becomes a free agent next winter, is a prime candidate to be behind home plate at Fenway Park? Does it mean they're waiting for a younger catcher — think Russell Martin, Brian McCann or Mike Napoli?

These questions are probably on Epstein's mind — but he'd never say so publicly, for risk of alienating the Red Sox' current catcher.

Epstein is borrowing a page from Bill Belichick's playbook. (OK, maybe not the best analogy today.) Rather than let his intentions be known publicly, he's playing it close to the vest.

The Red Sox would be a better team for years to come with Victor Martinez in the heart of their order. How much longer can it take for Theo Epstein to figure that out?

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