Red Sox pull off deal for Tribe's Martinez
Along with Kotchman, slugging catcher adds infield depth
BALTIMORE -- Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein kept alive his tradition of making a significant move in the final hours before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, this time striking a deal for the impactful switch-hitting bat of Victor Martinez.
In a trade for the All-Star catcher, the Red Sox sent three young pitchers -- Justin Masterson, Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price -- to the Indians on Friday.
Though Martinez is just one player, he instantly helps the Red Sox in a number of areas. The first is run production.
As far as an added side benefit, Martinez's presence will allow veteran catcher and captain Jason Varitek, who is 37, to stay fresh down the stretch. Martinez will also be used at first base, enabling Kevin Youkilis to move across the diamond to third on days Mike Lowell needs to rest his surgically repaired right hip. In addition, Martinez can spell David Ortiz at designated hitter.
"We think Victor Martinez is a great fit for our club and provides a significant offensive boost, and he does it with some versatility that complements our roster really well," said Epstein. "He can catch and give 'Tek a little bit of a rest behind the plate, and he can play first base and get some at-bats there. He can DH a little bit, so we thought it was a good fit for our roster, and he provides some offensive support and some depth at the same time."
Martinez will join the club for Saturday's game in Baltimore. Red Sox manager Terry Francona will reveal more about Martinez's role once he has a chance to speak with him.
"In getting Victor, we are getting a middle-of-the-order, switch-hitting bat that can catch, play first and DH," said Francona. "It's a very valuable piece. There's a lot of things to like about Victor. He can help take a load off of 'Tek. We can do a lot of different things to hopefully be able to attack some of the best pitching in the league. I think that's the idea there."
Though sad to leave the only organization he's ever played for, Martinez, in a session with reporters in Cleveland, expressed excitement about coming to Boston.
"I think everybody knows ... I play to win," Martinez said. "I love this game, and I just play to win. I would love to go out there and do the same thing. I want to get a World Series ring. As soon as I cross those lines, I'm all about winning."
The same can be said for Varitek, who supported the addition of Martinez.
|"In getting Victor, we are getting a middle-of-the-order, switch-hitting bat that can catch, play first and DH. It's a very valuable piece. There's a lot of things to like about Victor. He can help take a load off of 'Tek. We can do a lot of different things to hopefully be able to attack some of the best pitching in the league. I think that's the idea there."|
|-- Terry Francona|
"It'll be a good thing for the team. He should be able to help us in a lot of facets," Varitek said. "Victor's a tough out -- from both sides of the plate. Obviously, we've had some troubles at different times scoring runs."
Martinez, 30, entered Friday hitting .284 with 15 homers and 67 RBIs. He has a club option of $7.7 million for next season.
It is the second major trade this week by the Indians, who also traded reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee to the Phillies. The Indians have obviously decided to restock for a future run of contention.
Once Lee was dealt, it seemed only a matter of time until Martinez would be moved.
"It's always tough when you look around and see all your teammates that you grew up with and got to the big leagues together [with]," Martinez said. "I'm leaving my house. This was my house."
The Red Sox also swapped first basemen with the Braves, sending Adam LaRoche to Atlanta for Casey Kotchman. LaRoche had been acquired by the Red Sox from the Pirates on July 22, but his role would have been diminished with the addition of Martinez.
Kotchman will also report Saturday. To fill the vacant roster spots for Friday night's game, the Red Sox purchased the contracts of right-hander Marcus McBeth from Triple-A Pawtucket and outfielder Josh Reddick from Double-A Portland.
In Masterson, the Indians get a versatile pitcher who can start or pitch out of the bullpen. Twenty-five of Masterson's 31 appearances this season have come in relief. He is 3-3 with a 4.50 ERA.
In the second half of 2008, Masterson became a major force for Boston out of the bullpen and was used as the primary setup man during the postseason. Masterson, 24, was selected by the Red Sox in the second round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft.
In a relatively short amount of time, the Red Sox became quite fond of Masterson, not just as a pitcher, but as a person. Francona called Indians general manager Mark Shapiro and assistant general manager Chris Antonetti to let them know just that.
"Not only the caliber of pitcher he is and can be, but you don't find [a] better [person]," Francona said. "With [Masterson] sitting here, I called Mark and Chris in Cleveland and said, 'You know what you're getting as a player, that's why you traded for him.' But I said, 'Wait until you see this guy as a person. You've got an All-Star person.' Good for them."
It was a bittersweet day for Masterson.
"Being traded for a great guy in Victor Martinez and a great player, that's the business side of the game," said Masterson. "It has to happen. It's a bit of a surprise, but a few tears were shed as you get to know a lot of the guys in the clubhouse, and it's just an opportunity where we're going to have to build new relationships. It still remains that it's a chance to impact lives in a positive way, whether on the field or off the field. It will just be a new venue in Cleveland, Ohio."
Hagadone was a teammate of Giants star Tim Lincecum at the University of Washington. The Red Sox selected Hagadone with the 55th overall pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.
The lefty missed most of the 2008 season after undergoing Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery. Hagadone returned to the mound in June and went 0-2 with a 2.52 ERA for Class A Greenville.
"Nick Hagadone is a great kid," said Epstein. "He recovered from Tommy John surgery and worked really hard to get back on the field in record time. He's got a big future ahead of him."
Price was not as well known as Masterson or even Hagadone, but the Red Sox thought highly of his arm. Splitting his season between Class A venues Greenville and Salem, the right-hander was 4-8 with a 4.67 ERA in 19 starts.
"We do have a lot of depth, especially with our pitchers," said Epstein.
Aside from making the deal for Martinez, Boston had targeted an elite starter such as Roy Halladay to put with Josh Beckett and Jon Lester at the top of the rotation, but Epstein couldn't find the right fit. The Red Sox can still make moves between now and Aug. 31, but any players they acquire would have to clear waivers first.
"We were involved in some talks that could have led to some pretty good starting pitchers becoming available, but it didn't turn out that way, and I don't think we're going to see much impactful starting pitching move in August," Epstein said. "We like our pitching staff, and our run prevention's been pretty good. You're always looking for an impact starting pitcher if you can find one, especially this time of year, but it didn't come to pass. We have a lot of pitching, and I like our run prevention generally."
With Martinez on board, perhaps the Red Sox will have more margin for error when it comes to pitching.
"He's just a good player," said Ortiz. "I think it's nice to have him around. He's a good kid. We're happy to have him."
With Martinez jumping on board, the Red Sox will try to narrow the gap with the first-place Yankees, which stood at 2 1/2 games entering Friday.
"I think Victor Martinez is a professional hitter, a great switch-hitter that can really do three things for them -- he can catch, he can play first or he can DH, depending on what they want," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. "I think they got better."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.