Sunday, December 12, 2010

Where Will Russell Martin Land?

It is still hard to believe that at the tender age of 27, Russell Martin was left for dead by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Sure 2009 and 2010 were let downs for Martin after the splashy way he started his big league career. And sure, a torn ligament in his hip is a serious injury and perhaps not worth a $7 million arbitration risk for the Dodgers in their post divorce reality. But for three years, Martin was one of the best catchers in the game. Now, it seems that he will have to rebuild his career in the American League East.

At last report, three teams were interested in his services. All three are in the AL East and all three are interesting situations for Martin. The Boston Red Sox alternate between stating that Jarrod Saltalamacchia is their starting catcher and the stark reality of how scary that proposition is for them. The Yankees have kicked Jorge Posada to DH and have little faith in Cervelli. But they do have Jesus Montero, a young stud who will hit, but whose defense might make Posada look good. The Blue Jays have their own prospect in J.P. Arencibia but seem hesitant to take the plunge. Jose Molina is their back up. All three teams see to blithely state that they have a plan behind the plate, but Martin would hedge those bets.

But all three teams have to be careful because that status of Martin's health is a risk. According to reports, he is still rehabbing but is doing baseball related activities and that is a good sign. If Martin could be healthy, he is tantalizing. He's never had an OBP less than .347 and that was in 2010 when nothing else went well. He throws out over 30% of base steal attempts, something that none of these three teams can do currently. And, if he can get his health back, he was once a very good hitter and a fire brand type of player.

So that leaves two questions: Who should sign him and where should Martin go? From a personal level, Martin could choose the Yankees. He's spent years in one show business capital and has been linked with people like Alyssa Milano. New York is the other show business capital in the U.S. and that would seem to fit his lifestyle. One can't forget that his mother was in show business. But then again, Martin is from Ontario and playing for the Blue Jays would send him home. The Red Sox don't have either of those advantages, but are currently sporting the niftiest roster on the planet. That could be temptation alone for Martin to want to be a part of that Red Sox bonanza.

As far as who should sign him, the Yankees have the most to gain. Yes, Montero needs to be given a shot somewhere. But with the current splashes the Red Sox have made, an honest-to-goodness potential star in Martin might be too good to pass up. The Blue Jays should sign him because another home grown player would help the Blue Jays sell tickets.

Of course, this could all be weak speculation because at this point, until Martin proves he can be a good player again, he's a heavy risk for any team that signs him. But if you are a Fan of the game, you have to hope that Martin bounces back and goes back to being one of the most exciting catchers in the game.

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