The Q&A on Russell Martin and the Dodgers
So what now for Russell Martin? For that matter, what now for the Dodgers?
It seemed a frantic and curious final moments heading up to the arbitration deadline for the Dodgers, one that provided nearly as many questions as answers.
So we take a stab …
Question: Does Martin really believe he can do better than the guaranteed $4.2 million the Dodgers last offered?
Answer: He either believes it or is at least willing to give it a go.
There can’t be too many teams out there willing to gamble $5 million-plus on a catcher coming off a serious hip injury. One who has yet to start running or drop into a crouch.
Aside, from maybe the … New York Yankees?
The Yankees were apparently trying to swing a deal for Martin prior to the deadline. Martin’s agent said six teams had contacted him after Martin became a free agent.
The Yankees have an aging Jorge Posada, whom they want to make a designated hitter, and the young, light-hitting Francisco Cervelli. What’s another $5 million to the Yankees?
Q: Are the Dodgers really prepared to start the season with Rod Barajas and A.J. Ellis as their catchers?
A: Yep. At least, as they say, at this moment.
Martin could re-sign with the Dodgers, and both parties are interested. No doubt General Manager Ned Colletti would still prefer to upgrade the Barajas-Ellis tandem, but it’s not like they’re miserable with it.
Colletti must have liked Barajas more than a little to pay him a fairly stunning $3.25 million. Barajas was paid $900,000 by the New York Mets, who waived him in August.
Q: Could Martin really return as a utility player?
A: Will answer as soon as I stop laughing. This makes little sense for the Dodgers, and almost none for Martin.
Martin has a much greater value as a catcher than as a utility player. He’s only 27, and if he wants a well-paid future, he needs to stick to catching -- assuming he can. Once you go the utility route, it’s hard to come back. And utility players don’t get paid like starting catchers.
Most utility players are either particularly adept with the bat or the glove. Martin’s offensive production has been in a downward spiral for two consecutive seasons, so it’s not like he is a great bat to bring off the bench. And he has played 12 games at third base, none at second base and none in the outfield.
Q: Where’s the best place for Martin to prove he’s still capable of being an everyday catcher?
A: The Dodgers.
That’s right, right back home. The Dodgers know him and have invested time and money in him. They are less likely to give up on him the first time he slumps.
And if he proves he can catch regularly, he’s likely to beat out Barajas. If not, let the best player play.
Q: Was a relatively minor $800,000 really a deal breaker?
A: Strange, but true.
It’s the most mysterious aspect to the Martin situation. The Dodgers ultimately offered a guaranteed $4.2 million, plus some odd incentives based on games played. I’m not sure why they went that high, but they did. Martin’s last offer was for $5 million, plus incentives.
In a world of $100-million payrolls, $800,000 doesn’t seem like it would force the Dodgers to fold and take the chance of losing him to free agency, and getting nothing in return.
But they did. For whatever reason, it was the line Colletti had drawn. Offer $4.2 million to Martin, and it looks as if you believe he can come back and be a serious contributor. It looks as if you’d go another $800,000.
-- Steve Dilbeck