Thursday, December 2, 2010

Fare the well, Russell Martin, Dodgers cut ties with catcher

Russell Martin was one of the most promising young catchers in baseball, mentioned in the same breath as Joe Mauer and Brian McCann. Now, he's an afterthought -- and a free agent.

The Dodgers effectively ended their relationship with Russell Martin on Thursday night when the declined to tender him a contract.

They could try to re-sign him, but it's highly unlikely.

Martin will catch on (my apologies) somewhere else. Rumors has it the Red Sox could be interested in his services. They lost Victor Martinez and just re-signed Jason Varitek, who is no longer a starting-caliber catcher in the Major Leagues. Theo Epstein loves guys who can get on base, and Martin still has a good walk rate.

However, his health must be a major concern. With a weak catching market, one would think the Dodgers would have been more inclined to bring Martin back. If his hip isn't kosher, there's no sense in the Dodgers spending as little as $4.04 million or up to $6- or $7 million for a guy who's hurt and would give below-average production.

So what will the Dodgers do? They've been rumored to be interested in Varitek, A.J. Pierzynski and Yorvit Torrealba -- all of whom have signed this off-season. That pretty much leaves Rod Barajas and Miguel Olivo.

A.J. Ellis is a lock to make the roster. He had a solid September/October, so there's hope for him as a backup. A platoon of Ellis and a guy like Barajas/Olivo could work, but only if the Dodgers acquire a big-time bat. With Adam Dunn signing with the White Sox today, their options are dwindling.

Barring a trade to bring in a catcher, the Dodgers are going to be light offensively at the catcher position.

Update (9:17 p.m.): Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times tweeted, saying the Dodgers are close to re-signing Rod Barajas.

Update (9:24 p.m.): From Hernandez, Martin's last proposal to the Dodgers: $5 million plus $1 million in incentives. He also said the Dodgers remain interested in re-signing Martin and if he comes back, it could be as a part-time catcher. Whether that means he'd play 100 games at catcher or get some time at 3B, we don't know.

Update (9:46 p.m.): Hernandez tweets, saying Barajas' deal is for one year.

Martin was on the fast track to stardom before regressing greatly the past two seasons. I've ripped him enough. Despite that, I'm still going to miss him. I've always had a soft spot for catchers, as that was my primary position playing baseball growing up.

I wish Martin luck with whatever team he ends up with. The hip injury won't be easy to bounce back from -- especially for a catcher.

The Dodgers also non-tendered George Sherrill and Trent Oeltjen. Good riddance to Sherrill, unless he wants to come back for $1 million to be the LOOGY (left-handed-one-out-only-guy).

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