The hottest name on the trade market right now is Cleveland’s Mark DeRosa, a talented hitter capable of playing almost any position, which makes him an ideal fit for most any team. Contenders (i.e. Cubs, Mets etc.) and non-contenders (i.e. Athletics) alike are falling all over themselves to try and pry DeRosa loose from the Indians who are on the brink of pressing the eject button and going into a full blown rebuilding effort. While DeRosa would certainly be a nice addition to the Angels, Tony Reagins would be better served to move on another Cleveland player while the rest of the league focuses on the DeRosa. The player in question is none other than catcher/first baseman Victor Martinez.
Despite the Halos recent offensive outburst, everyone knows that scoring runs will continue to be a problem for this club. Bobby Abreu still hasn’t displayed much power, Torii Hunter insists on doing face plants into the wall every three weeks and Vladimir Guerrero may or may not be a mummy, so adding some pop to the middle of the order should remain a high priority. The ever present issue for the Angels is that no position on the field is a glaring weakness with the exception of second base where they seem content to find a solution from within. This is why a guy like Brandon Wood has yet to be given a legitimate shot at cracking the roster.
Finding a position for Victor Martinez wouldn’t be a problem though. Martinez primarily plays catcher (though not particularly well) and could definitely split time behind the dish with Mike Napoli. Already Napoli gets at least two games off each week and is often prone to extended slumps, so a timeshare arrangement with Martinez would hardly eat into Napoli’s playing time or production. Of course, the Angels aren’t going to pay the hefty price to bring Martinez in only to have him be a part-time player. Fortunately for the Halos, Martinez also plays first base and has actually been splitting time evenly between first and catcher this season and could easily continue to do so in Anaheim anytime Sosh wants Napoli to do the catching.
Having Martinez at first base not only solves a potential playing time problem, but it also addresses the issue of Kendry Morales being as useless as a eunuch in a brothel when it comes to facing left-handed pitching. V-Mart is a switch-hitter like Morales, but unlike Kendry, he is equally as productive no matter what side of the plate takes his hacks from. It’s a win-win situation for the Angels. Morales can sit against lefties and the Halos can keep a potent bat in the line-up.
And believe me when I say that Martinez has a potent bat. He may not have the eye-popping numbers of someone like Mark Teixeira, but Martinez is one of the better producers in the game. He’s a career .302 hitter (which is almost impossible for a catcher to do) with 20-25 home run power. Plus, he’s got a good eye and seldom strikes out. So far this year he is batting .340 with a .419 OBP and .545 SLG. If he could just run a little bit he would be the prototypical Scioscia-style ballplayer.
Finding a way to use a talent like Martinez is the easy part, acquiring him may not be so simple. The Indians have shown no real sense of urgency to cut a deal. To go back to Mark DeRosa, the guy has been a hot commodity for several weeks now but Cleveland has yet to pull the trigger, in part because while they are last in the AL Central, they are only 6.5 games out, which is not an insurmountable margin. Nor has the team ever been fast about making major decisions. In fact, the Cleveland front office makes the Angel management look like wheelers and dealers in comparison. They still haven’t fired manager Eric Wedge who has led a seemingly talented roster to absolutely zero success the last few years even though any other franchise would have cut the cord over a year ago. So convincing them to give up one of their franchise centerpieces will take some real smooth talking and that is going to mean giving up some big prospects.
Because finding a quality catcher is such a hard thing to do, any package the Angels create for Cleveland is going to have to include another catcher. Ideally, this would be Jeff Mathis, assuming the Indians are looking for defense, but more likely it would be Mike Napoli since Cleveland’s other catcher is Kelly Shoppach who is currently hitting .207, which is almost exactly where Mathis is at too. That’s not exactly a skill set teams strive to duplicate. Beyond that the Tribe is likely going to want some major league-ready talent to come their way since they seem to be trying to rebuild on the fly rather than blow it all up and hold a fire sale. They’ll probably want Joe Saunders but the Angels would be foolish to give him up if they hope to contend, and would instead counter with Jordan Walden. If they do go with Walden, they’ll certainly have to toss a third name in their as well and I wouldn’t be shocked if Howie Kendrick’s name gets kicked around since the Indians have been trying to find a stable solution to their infield issues for years now. It is a hefty price to pay, but with the relative youth of their starting staff and depth of middle infield prospects, the Angels can absorb the losses.
After the Mark Teixeira experiment ended so bitterly for Arte Moreno, convincing him to approve a big deal like this won’t be easy. However, Martinez is in a very different situation from Tex. For starters, V-Mart earns only a fraction of what Teixeira did as Victor makes just $5.7 million for 2009. More importantly, he isn’t an impending free agent but rather has an incredibly reasonable team option for $7 million next year. Not having to break the bank for a guy who is just going to walk away in a few months will be music to Uncle Arte’s ears. It also gives the ballclub a nice insurance policy for their own big-name free agents, Bobby Abreu and Vladimir Guerrero, should one or both of them leave (or get pushed out) for greener pastures this winter. And should Martinez get too pricey or too old to catch after 2010, that is right around the time Hammering Hank Conger should be ready to break into the bigs. The more I think about it, this move makes almost too much sense.