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Daily Dodger in review: Russell Martin's fractured season and uncertain future

November 10, 2010 |  5:07 pm

RUSSELL MARTIN, 27, catcher

Final 2010 stats: .248 batting average, five home runs, 26 RBI, 45 runs, six stolen bases, .348 on-base percentage in 331 at-bats.

Contract status: Arbitration eligible.

The good: Had a team-high 15-game hitting streak (May 5-21). After appearing in only five spring training games before straining a groin, battled back to make opening-day starting lineup. A workhorse, he was third in the major leagues for games and innings for a catcher before suffering season-ending hip injury.

The bad: Was unable to bounce back from poor 2009. I’d say he continued to slide, but in reality most of his numbers were nearly identical to the previous season.

Struggled behind the plate. That power he hoped to rediscover by gaining weight in the offseason, never happened. Had one home run in his last 215 at-bats. Suffered a labral tear in his right hip that also fractured the hip socket.

What’s next: Martin will be the Dodgers’ most challenging offseason decision. He was already in decline both at the plate and behind it before he suffered his freak, season-ending injury.

He earned $5.05 million last season and would probably earn around $6 million in arbitration this time. That’s a decent amount of money for a now light-hitting catcher who no one is certain will be able to effectively get behind the plate again.

The Dodgers can offer him a contract, arbitration, or say thanks for the memories and wave goodbye. A gamble is involved no matter what they decide.

The take: With his hip injury, there is no way they can realistically count on him being their everyday catcher. And $6 million is a tad pricey for a part-time catcher. Still, somebody has to catch. And even if his numbers are significantly off the last two seasons, that still leaves him mediocre for a catcher. It’s a ridiculously weak-hitting position.

His agent told The Times’ Dylan Hernandez he’ll be ready for spring training and wants to remain with the Dodgers. The Dodgers should be sending out feelers for John Buck and even Miguel Olivo, but for now might offer Martin a contract at the maximum 20% cut (about $4 million).

They have to figure out where they want to draw the line. Arbitration may push them over the line. If they non-tender him and are unable to lure in a semi-attractive free agent, the fallback plan is presumably to bring back the Rod Barajas/A.J. Ellis tandem.

And the way the Dodgers -- and Martin -- have been going, if they don’t get it worked out by the deadline to offer him arbitration Dec. 2, expect everyone to move on.

-- Steve Dilbeck

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