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The Dodgers Most Difficult Question

The Dodgers Most Difficult Question

The biggest question mark this offseason is not the McCourt divorce fiasco, the Dodgers new manager, which free agents they sign or what trades

Dodger Captain or Captain Hook?

they make.  The biggest and most difficult question facing the Dodgers is:

“What do we do with Russell Martin?”

It’s a simple question, but the answers are complex.  At first blush, it’s easy to say “Look, he’s gotten worse over the past three years and now he’s coming off a serious injury which could eventually require surgery or maybe he won’t ever be able to catch again.” Those are valid points, but it’s still not that simple.

When Russ Martin burst onto the scene in 2006, he looked like a very solid hitter and in 2007 (his first full season) he put up very credible offensive numbers.  While not the second-coming of Johnny Bench, he looked like a player who would be the cornerstone of the Dodgers for years.  However his batting averages have dropped every year since his breakout season in 2007.    He has dropped from .292 to ,280 to .250 to .248 in his injury-shortened 2010 season.    Some people say that he is trying to pull everything, but his hitting charts do not bear that out.  It’s not that simple. They are trying to give a simplistic answer to a complex question.

Russ Martin could easily be the Dodgers’ captain, or an ex-Dodger.  Russell’s work ethic is legendary and he is beloved by his teammates.  He is a solid, if not spectacular, defensive catcher.  He has a good on-base percentage, but has been in a downward hitting spiral for three years.  Can he turn it around, or is he a lost cause?   Russell has very good speed for a catcher, can steal a base and has never been hurt until last year.  He bring intangibles to the position, but that said, Russ needs to be what he should be and that is a #2 hitter.  He should be able to hit .285 with a .380 OB% while doing all the things a solid number two hitter can do.

Here’s the complicating factor:  Russ Martin could get $5 to $6 mil a year in arbitration.  Is he worth that?

Can he be that take-charge Captain guy who leads by example?  Or does he get the Hook?  What’s your take?

Yorvit Torrealba is available, Bengie Molina is available, AJ Ellis looks serviceable and Rod Barajas would like to stay a Dodger.

About Mark Timmons

When you see the invisible, you can do the impossible!

20 Responses to “The Dodgers Most Difficult Question”

  1. coloblue says:

    No Martin is not worth $5M-6M..
    He has declined last 3 yrs..I would offer him a $4M + $1m incentives contract for 2011 (So he can make the same as last yr..)and try to avoid arb..
    If he accepts I would bat him 8th where he bats .361!!! and OPB of .450+ vs #1 or #2 where he stinks..
    or
    1yr at $4M +1M plus another yr team option for $7M ($6M+$1M) with payout of $1M.

  2. coloblue says:

    No Martin is not worth $5M-6M..
    He has declined last 3 yrs..I would offer him a $4M + $1m incentives contract for 2011 (So he can make the same as last yr..)and try to avoid arb..
    If he accepts I would bat him 8th where he bats .361!!! and OPB of .450+ vs #1 or #2 where he stinks..
    or
    1yr at $4M +1M plus another yr team option for $7M ($6M+$1M) with buyout of $1M.

  3. Bobby says:

    i agree with the first post, but not the second

    :)

  4. Badger says:

    My take? If he is to get $6 million in arbitration, then the Dodgers will not take the risk. They can get a seviceable catcher that can do what he did for a third of that figure.

    I like him. I wish we could afford to hold on to him until he figures hiself out, which I believe he will. We are not the Yankees or the Red Sox, or even the S.F. gints for that matter, so every dollar must be counted for.

    $6 million could get us two, maybe three good players. Example: the gints paid about $6.7 mil for Uribe, Huff and Torres. They paid only a little over $2M for Jonathan Sanchez.

    Colletti is being challenged in ways he hasn’t been challenged since his days working for Sabean. Time to roll up the sleeves and sharpen your #2 there Jed.

  5. chucky says:

    No Arb for Martin (that is a given). He either accepts a $3.0 deal with incentatives or we go with Barajas (who would cost us about $1.5) and have ellis as backup (at $400k). Either way get Barajas as backup/starter and see who wins in Spring (with Ellis waiting in the minors). The splits on his average by location in the order really shows that his problem may be his head (another head case to go with Kemp). Funny how this team had so many head cases, I wonder if it had to deal with the team manager???

  6. Brooklyn Dodger says:

    The reason the Dodgers have so many head cases is because people are too quick to label other people as head cases.

    I haven’t looked at any hitting charts, but I do know what I’ve seen. A player who too often (not every at bat) overswings looking to drive the ball out of the park. And most often those overswings are an attempt to pull the ball. However, I’ve also seen Martin hit the ball up the middle and take the ball to right field. Problem is, he doesn’t do it consistently.

    And perhaps the reason Martin hits better in the 8th slot is because he probably becomes less power conscious hitting in front of the pitcher, and concentrates more with getting on base.

    I think whether or not Martin should be tendered or not depends upon a number of factors. None of us really knows how he’s progressed physically, but the Dodgers probably do. I think the decision lies in how much of an impact they think he can make next year, and whether or not the money could be best deployed elsewhere. If they feel comfortable with Ellis and Barajas (assuming he signs with the Dodgers), and that the money could be used to add a pitcher, a 3B, or whatever, then they will probably not offer Martin a contract. Right now, if I was to make a bet, it would be that Martin is not offered a contract, unless he’s willing to compromise big time on a new contract.

    And as I would bet that he will be non-tendered, that’s probably the what I would do. Too bad we don’t have Santana anymore to step in.

  7. Badger says:

    I like the presentation in your argument Brooklyn.

    But, I still say, if Martin costs $6 million, he is gone from this organization. If he will accept a low bid, he could stay. But I have to ask – what does he want? Does anyone know whether he wants to remain a part of this mess or not? It could very well be he asks for his walking papers with intent to shop his services elsewhere.

    • Ken says:

      If Lopes is the 3rd base coach next year Kemp will stil have a chip on his shoulder and will not look at him either when he should be getting a sign or being told where to go. Screw you old hasbeen will be his thoughts. He does not look to any coach or player behind the plate when he is running the bases.

  8. Bobby says:

    i agree brookly, very well laid out>

    i think the main key is, as you said, how is his health?!!

    have his docs told him that he’s 90%? that he’s 40% and wont be ready until june? that he should seriously consider becoming an accountant cuz his hip is done?

  9. Ken says:

    The deadline to decide is probably mid November, when Martin gets his checkup. Barajas will not wait forever. Offer Martin $1 mil plus incentives and stick him on the 60-Day DL until June and then bring him up as a backup catcher and 3B.

  10. Roger Dodger says:

    I agree with Brooklyn and some of the other thoughts above on Martin.

    If the Dodgers do not take and hold him, and go for the cheap duo — then remember my theory — cannot have three weak bats in the lineup. Right now i see 2b, 3b, Lf, and C as weak spots. Two of those need to be changed to great average and or power bats.

    So, if C is a duo weak spot and a rookie is tried at 2B, then there needs to be a new 3B and left fielder (or center and move Kemp over).

    I think Martin is important to the team. If the Dodgers work a deal to keep him, maybe being in the league for a good time now, an injury will all help him to adjust his approach to the plate.

  11. Mark Timmons says:

    Here’s the rub:

    While Martin might get $6 or $7 mil in Arbitration, I doubt that he will come close to that on the open market, so it might be in his best interests to accept a deal with the Dodgers. How about a 2 year deal for $5 mil salary plus incentives?

  12. lawdog says:

    I think you’re wrong about Kemp Ken. It’s just a gut feeling, but I’ll bet Bowa was riding his butt unmercifully. That’s the old school approach and Bowa is the poster child for the “old school”. I think Lopes would trat him with respect and make suggestions, and only resort to the old school approach if he continued to blow the coaches off.

    Now Kemp has lot’s of wide open spaces between his ears, but he’s got to be smart enough to know he has to put up better numbers than he did last year to break the bank when he’s a free agent. I think he’ll make an effort to respect somebody besides Bowa, who’s always been a 24 karat asshole when it comes to his relationship with the players and he just might hit .320 with 45 home runs and 130 rbis next season.

    Maybe I’m wrong on this, but todays players have to be handled differently than they were in Bowa’s salad days if you want them to prosper..

  13. lawdog says:

    Martin should be given his unconditional release and we need to move on.

  14. Brooklyn Dodger says:

    December 2nd is the last day teams have to tender contracts. I suspect the Dodgers will probably hold off on a decision as long as possible. There may be some free agent signings in November, but most of the action is likely to occur in December and January. Remember, Winter Meetings will be held December 6-9.

    From what I’ve read, if Lopes does end up with the Dodgers, he will be coaching at first, with Wallach at third. Given Lopes’ stolen base history, he’s the natural choice for first base.

    I agree with Mark that Martin is likely to find it difficult getting what he would like in the open market. Probably if he gets to the open market it’s because the Dodgers have doubts. If that’s the case, other teams are likely to have the same doubts. And if the Dodgers have doubts about Martin’s health, I’m not sure they would want to pay him $5 million for one year, let alone two. If they’re pretty certain that he will make a full recovery, then two years at $5 million per year is probably something they would do. Good chance that any deal with Martin would include performance incentives.

    I don’t think that Barajas/Ellis is an all-star duo, but I do believe that they could provide more production than some might suspect. I don’t think Ellis’ strong finish was a fluke. He seems to be the type of player that takes time to adjust to a new level, but does well once he does. And he’s always shown a penchant for getting on base. Barajas, while not much more than a .220 – .240 hitter, does provide some power.

    Regarding Kemp, from everything I’ve read, it seems as if he has a good relationship with Mattingly, which apparently wasn’t the case with Torre. I suspect there is a sharp contrast between Mattingly/Torre and Wallach/Bowa. Throw in Lopes to replace Duncan, and I’m guessing that Kemp will be able to find a comfort zone. I also think that Kemp is less than satisfied with his play last year, and is probably very quietly determined to reverse his fortunes. And it’s not unlikely that we will see a new level of maturity. But we can say nice things, bad things, and lots of stuff in-between. In the end, it’s Matt Kemp himself who will shape what he’s going to be. I have hopes, but without any real insight into his inner soul, I find it impossible to predict what he’ll do. He just might hit .320, 45 HR, 130 RBI. Or it might be a lot less. The ability is there for everyone to see, but what’s inside remains hidden, at least for now.

  15. Badger says:

    I too suspect Bowa was riding Kemp’s ass all year. I don’t blame him. Kemp played with his head up his ass. I think a change in the staff can help Kemp, but he needs to help himself. And that means get a clue on the strike zone. If he doesn’t, pitchers will do what the book says to do – low and away breaking balls.

    If Martin is given a clean bill of health he could get a multiple year contract out there. He is only 27, just entering his prime, has a career .357 OBP and a Gold Glove to his name. I wouldn’t blame him if he moved on. Everything moving forward depends on his recovery. I don’t trust the Dodger medical staff, never have, so if they say he is ok I won’t trust it. Too many mistakes made there. But other team’s doctors will look him over closely.

    Podsednik? Will he move on too? My guess is he will.

    We need Kemp, Loney, Furcal, and Ethier to all approach next year as professionals and play as if it is a contract year for all of them. They do, we have a shot. If they all continue to fall, the Dodgers will be done quickly. As for LF, 2b and C? who knows. We are stuck with Blake, so, pencil in his .260 and hope the rest of the guys light it up.

  16. Brooklyn Dodger says:

    Badger,

    Do you think Blake can be penciled in for .260, or is .248 or less the new norm for him?

    I suspect he could do a nice job playing irregularly off the bench. Playing everyday might be a bit of a strain on his 83 year old bones.

  17. Badger says:

    I was being generous because I know every time I criticize “The Foundation” I get the negative nellie crap from guys like Bill.

    Frankly, I would be surprised if Blake stays on the field for more than a hundred games and hits .260. The Dodgers are looking for a replacement, but, we have no prospects at that position (he gone) and cannot really afford one.

    Who knows, maybe there is a Uribe type guy floating around out there that could come in and push the ego driven youngsters we have. I don’t know if you know much about Uribe, but he is a no nonsense tough guy who Krukow once said “could clear out a parking lot”. We need tough guys on this team. We got soft this year.

  18. Bill says:

    Regarding third base, Eric Chavez is now available. He’s been very good over the years but extraordinarily injury prone the past three. Perhaps a heavily laden incentive contract (based upon games played) would interest him.

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