Boston Red Sox – Victor Martinez Trade

INDIANS DEAL VICTOR MARTINEZ TO RED SOX

Cleveland Indians trade Victor Martinez, infuriating fans

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Victor Martinez

Victor Martinez

Well, based on their spitting comments on sports radio, in chat rooms and on blogs, in reaction to stories almost as quickly as news is posted, their patience is just about threadbare.

“I’m done. . . . I’m through. . . . No more. . . . Won’t spend another dime. . . . Tired of second-rate, cheap owners.”

Fans old enough to remember Cleveland baseball from the ’60s through the ’80s shudder at the thought of a rollback.

“I really wish for the days when we were hot prospects and tickets were hard to find and the Jake was the place to be,” one fan wailed online. “Now we’re left with bobbleheads and racing condiments.”

“I am seriously debating,” wrote another, “whether I should teach my newborn son to be an Indians fan or whether I should pick another team for him.”

First, Cy Young winner Cliff Lee and now Victor. By now, you would think Cleveland sports fans would know the drill.

Last season, right around this time, Cy Young winner CC Sabathia was going, going, gone.

And before him, so many names of Cleveland sports heroes packed up and moved on, sometimes by choice, sometimes not: Bartolo Colon, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Rocky Colavito, Ron Harper, Paul Warfield, Bernie Kosar, the whole football team.

Heck, LeBron James is still here, and the Cleveland Fan is already an insomniac over that one.

How fleeting.

Wasn’t it just two years ago that Cleveland was juggling three winners, rolling from one season to the next in unprecedented glee? LeBron and the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. The Browns, a wind-blown loss from the playoffs in Cincinnati. The Indians, two games up with two aces in the hole and one win from the World Series.

All were just new chapters in the dog-eared book of Cleveland sports woe – so much of it self-inflicted.

This latest whack was no surprise, but white flags don’t fly well here.

Martinez sat in front of his locker, fighting back tears, hugging his son, Victor Jr. Earlier, the boy had asked his dad, “Are we still an Indian?”

Well, Cleveland. Are we?

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:

blubinger@plaind.com, 216-999-5531

©2009 Plain Dealer © 2009 cleveland.com All Rights Reserved.

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Victor Martinez Trade Smart For Both Teams

After dealing Cliff Lee, it was clear that the Cleveland Indians were going to shop Victor Martinez. The Indians heard offers from many teams but ultimately found their buyer in the Boston Red Sox, acquiring reliever Justin Masterson and pitching prospects Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price in exchange for the switch-hitting slugger.

I felt that the Indians should have gotten a bit more for Lee, given his team-friendly option for 2010; the Philadelphia Phillies did not have to part ways with one of their top three prospects, Dominic Brown, Kyle Drabek or Michael Taylor. After essentially waving the white towel for ’10 by dealing the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner, though, they pretty much had to cash in Martinez for prospects as well. All considered, I like the return here for him, and, while it may take a while to bear fruit, the efforts of the front office should set the franchise up for success in the next decade. Indeed, the team has turned Rafael Betancourt, Mark DeRosa, Ben Francisco, Ryan Garko, Lee and Martinez into 11 cheap, young players, some of whom have the potential to be outstanding major leaguers. When looking at through this lens, I do not mind the return for Lee as much, either, as they still received a solid package of four prospects and added depth. All 11 players will not work out, of course. It is a pure numbers game, though, and many of them will, so the approach is commendable.

Mark Shapiro and his staff were seeking pitchers (indeed, only two of the 11 pieces are position players) who have upside. Shapiro was simply not interested in limited ceiling, major-league ready talent–the old Dave Littlefield approach–and the franchise should be better off for it.

In this particular instance, Cleveland added one major league ready arm and two quality prospects.

Hagadone, a 23-year-old lefty, underwent Tommy John surgery in June of 2008 and is slowly working his arm back into shape. Before sustaining the injury, though, he had perhaps the most electric stuff in the Boston farm system.

Here is a brief blurb from his scouting report on SoxProspects.com:

Big lefty whose fastball sits around 92-94 mph and tops out at 98 mph with very good life. Aggressive, throws strikes and gets ahead in the count. Also mixes in a biting 82-83 mph plus slider, and an improving 80-81 mph changeup.

After being held back in extended spring training, Hagadone was assigned to Greenville in the South Atlantic Leauge in June. While he was pitching against younger competition and the sample size is small, he flashed glimpses of his once-explosive stuff there. In 25.2 innings for the Drive, he posted a 2.52 ERA, 2.80 Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) and rates of 11.52 K/9 and 5.04 BB/9. He has had some early command issues, but that really is not surprising at all since he is still only a little over a year removed from surgery.

Although Hagadone was a closer in college, he will be given every opportunity to remain a starter. If that does not work out, though, he could end as an high-impact relief ace long term, as his upper-90s velocity would play up in that role. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound southpaw comes with risk because of the injury, of course, but he has tremendous upside. Indeed, had he not gotten hurt and instead put together a strong ’08 campaign, he might have been untouchable. The injury certainly changes a lot, but his kind of velocity cannot be taught; my cousin, his former teammate on the Drive, raved about his stuff. Regardless of whether or not he ends up as a reliever or starter long term, he could play an instrumental role in the Indians’ future success.

Price saw his draft status rise following a breakout junior season at Rice University. After making only 16 appearances out of the Owls’ bullpen combined as a freshman and sophomore, he struck out 54 against 27 walks in his final 48.1 collegiate innings. The Red Sox then selected him with their second pick in the first round (behind Casey Kelly, the two-way star from Sarasota High School), rewarding him with an $849,000 signing bonus. After agreeing to terms, he was assigned to the New York Penn League and logged 40.0 innings at Lowell. He was impressive in his pro debut, producing rates of 9.68 K/9, 2.25 BB/9 and 0.45 HR/9 and a 3.83 ERA and 2.80 FIP.

Boston sent him to Greenville out of the gate this spring but he was not there for long. He posted a 2.45 ERA, 2.86 FIP and rates of 8.18 K/9 and 2.45 BB/9 in 44.0 innings pitched with the Drive, forcing the organization to promote him.

On the surface, it would seem that the jump to the Florida State League has been a rude awakening for Price. He is, after all, only 1-6 with a 6.54 ERA in 52.1 innings pitched over 11 starts. He has pitched much better than those numbers suggest, though, maintaining excellent rates of 9.80 K/9, 3.27 BB/9 and 0.69 HR/9. While the walks are a bit high and he is facing more advanced hitters, though, he has been extremely unlucky on balls hit into play. Indeed, his .390 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) will certainly come way down.

Here is a scouting report on Price courtesy of SoxProspects.com:

Smooth 3/4 delivery, but a lot of seemingly unnecessary movement and long arm action. Not a lot of deception. His fastball sits between 92-95 mph with a nice tail running in on righties. If used in relief, Price’s fastball can reach the high 90s for an inning burst. Two-seamer sits around 89-92 mph, also has nice inward movement against right handed batters. Also mixes in a plus 83-87 mph slider, which he relies on as his out pitch. Changeup has fluctuated from 79 to 85 mph, as it’s still a work in progress – he shows it a bit too much. However, it does have nice separation from his fastball. His command can be erratic at times when he gets rattled, but for the most part Price has great command and control.

Like Hagadone, there is no telling whether Price can remain a starter long term. He is pretty far away from the majors as well. Cleveland gets a pretty good prospect, though, and he will contribute someday at the highest level, either as a back-end starter or bullpen piece.

Most casual baseball fans are familiar with Masteron, who was a key member of the Red Sox’ bullpen down the stretch in ’08. He was indeed impressive as a rookie, posting a 3.16 ERA in 88.1 innings pitched. While he benefited from an unsustainable .214 BABIP and 83.3 strand rate while actually pitching to the tune of a 4.69 FIP, he made quite an impression in the postseason.

Masterson no longer has the sexy ERA now that the BABIP and strand rate have regressed. He has actually made improvements and has been more effective in 2009, though. His strikeout rate has jumped from 6.93 to 8.52, his walk rate has fallen from 4.08 to 3.12 and his 3.66 FIP is much better than his 4.32 ERA. As well, he has amassed 1.4 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) already, which is impressive for a reliever.

Stuff wise, Masteron has continued to primarily rely on his low-90s, worm-burning sinker, producing a 52.2% ground ball rate. He also mixes in a low-80s slider (he has gone to the pitch 25.6 percent of time) and occasionally a change-up. He has the stamina to make a spot start here or there, but his stuff plays better in a relief role. While relievers have limited value, he is a good one who is still cheap and young. For what it is worth, he is also one of the nicest kids around and a great teammate who is willing to help his club out in any way.

It was without question a nice haul for the Indians, who had no reason to keep Martinez after parting ways with Lee. The Red Sox still have tremendous depth, however, and the price was worth it for the slugging catcher/first baseman who gives them tremendous versatility.

I wrote about Martinez’s fast start earlier this spring:

Martinez, 30, is currently hitting .385/.458/.631 with a 179 OPS+. He also already surpassed his ’08 home run total, bashing six bombs in his first 122 plate appearances. Headed into Sunday, he ranks third in the junior circuit in batting average and on-base percentage, fourth in OPS (1.089), sixth in slugging percentage and ninth in walks (18). He is tied for sixth in the majors in wOBA (.464) as well.

Since then, Martinez has come back down considerably. Indeed, his OPS has fallen in every month:

April: 1.082 OPS

May: 881 OPS

June: 802 OPS

July: 530 OPS

August: 400 OPS

Overall, Martinez is hitting .284/.368/.464 with 15 home runs, 67 RBIs and a 115 OPS+. Clearly, his early success is keeping that line afloat, but he is still an elite offensive performer, especially for a catcher, and should pick it up from here on out.

Martinez can catch, though his defense there is below average, and play first base, giving Terry Francona flexibility for his C/1B/3B/DH mix and providing depth to the Red Sox overall. Should Mike Lowell go down again, Francona can shift Kevin Youkilis to third base and insert the new acquisition in at first base. His bat needs to be in the lineup–he is a considerable offensive upgrade over Jason Varitek, who is the better defender–at all times, and, while that may be a challenge, he equips his manager with a bunch of options and another valuable offensive weapon.

The Boston roster really does not have a lot of holes, nor did it before the trade even though the offense has scuffled in July. Martinez, a consistent 4.0-WAR player this decade, makes it even better. Plus, he brings with him a team-friendly $8.5-M option for ’10, which he will easily be worth and then some. Thus, he is not a rental and has tremendous value next year, when the status of aging sluggers Lowell and David Ortiz is uncertain.

The price was steep, but you have to give value to get value. Plus, Boston has built a player development machine over the years, affording them the organizational depth to pull the trigger. Factoring in the extra season of Martinez, it was logical for them to make the move. The Indians also receive great value, and Shapiro deserves a lot of credit for turning his movable pieces into 11 young players.

The thought processes were sound on both sides.

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