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Martinez leaving Red Sox for Tigers

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  November 23, 2010 10:20 AM

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Victor Martinez is leaving the Red Sox for the Detroit Tigers, having accepted a four-year deal worth $50 million.

The story was broken out of Venezuela this morning by Ignacio Serrano of El Nacional.

Serrano reported that Martinez was offered four years and $48 million from the Orioles and three years and $48 million from the White Sox. Why he would take $12.5 million a year from Detroit and pass up $16 million a year from Chicago isn't clear.

The Red Sox also made a bid. As of last week, general manager Theo Epstein said the team had made it clear to Martinez how much he meant to them.

If the deal goes through and assuming the Red Sox offer Martinez arbitration later today, the Red Sox would receive two draft picks as compensation for Martinez.

Martinez, who turns 32 next month, is coming off a season that saw him hit .302/.351/.493 for the Red Sox.

UPDATE, 10:25 a.m.: Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports is now confirming the report out of Venezuela.

UPDATE, 10:35 a.m.: A Major League source tell the Globe that Martinez has agreed to the deal with the Tigers.

Detroit has acted quickly this winter, landing Joaquin Benoit and now Martinez. They also retained two of their free agents, Jhonny Peralta and Brandon Inge

UPDATE, 10:46 a.m.: This is a blow to the Red Sox, especially considering that Martinez said after the final game of last season that he wanted to stay in Boston.

"Its no question, eyes closed, come back to here. This is a place that I really want to be," he said.

But Martinez, over the course of the season, was upset that the Red Sox did not sign him to an extension as they did Josh Beckett. The Red Sox offered a two-year package during the summer that was swiftly rejected.

Four years and $50 million does not seem like an outlandish deal for Martinez given his ability to play first base and DH. He made $7 million last season. But the Tigers are taking a gamble that he can be primarily a catcher for the length of the deal.

As a catcher, Martinez is an outstanding hitter. But as a first baseman or DH, he is far closer to the league average and would be overpaid at $12.5 million a year.

UPDATE, 11:00 a.m.: The Red Sox have three catchers on their 40-man roster: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Luis Exposito and Mark Wagner.

Saltalamacchia is a career .248 hitter who played in 12 games last season. He spent the majority of the season in the minors for Texas before being traded to the Red Sox on July 31. He appeared in just 10 games for the Sox because of a thumb injury that has since been surgically repaired.

Exposito caught at Class AA Portland last season. Wagner played in only 36 games for Class AAA Pawtucket because of injuries.

Epstein said last week that while he hoped to keep Martinez, Saltalamacchia was an option.

I think were comfortable with him in a role anywhere from backup to job share to everyday guy depending on how the rest of the club shakes out, Epstein said. We like him. We took the opportunity to buy low after he had been through a rough period and he really impressed the staff, who had no vested interest in him.

He really opened some eyes from the manager to [catching instructor] Gary Tuck, to the pitching coach with the way he handled pitchers, the way he threw, the way he conducted himself in the clubhouse. He was impressive to everybody.

Today's development could lead to the Red Sox bringing back Jason Varitek as Saltalamacchia's backup. While both switch hit, Saltalamacchia is better against righthanders and Varitek far better against lefthanders.

In the paper of Oct. 4, Nick Cafardo reported this scenario was likely and now it seems to be coming true.

UPDATE, 11:13 a.m.: From what we can gather, Martinez wanted four years and the Red Sox would not reach that level. Martinez will be 35 for his final year of his deal with the Tigers.

UPDATE, 11:21 a.m.: The Red Sox will receive the No, 19 pick in the 2011 draft as compensation for Martinez unless the Tigers sign a higher-ranked free agent. In that case, the Sox would get Detroit's second-round pick.

Regardless, the Sox will get a pick in the supplemental first round.

UPDATE, 11:31 a.m.: Nick Cafardo reports that that the Red Sox offered Martinez either three years and $36 million or four years and $42 million. Obviously the long-term security is what mattered most to him.

UPDATE, 11:45 a.m.: The free agent market is not exactly rich with catchers. The Red Sox could have an interest in Miguel Olivo, a righthanded hitter who hit .269/.315/.449 for the Rockies last season.

Other free agents include Rod Barajas, Gerald Laird, Bengie Molina (who may retire) and A.J. Pierzynski.

Epstein indicated last week that if Martinez left, he would pair Saltalamacchia with a veteran. At the moment, that looks to be either Varitek or Olivo.

UPDATE, 11:53 a.m.: The good news? The Sox still have roughly $40 million to spend if they are to reach their payroll of last season. You to think that one way or another, they will use that money and improve the roster,

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