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Monday, February 15, 2010
Victor Martinez hopes for extension

By Gordon Edes
ESPNBoston.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Even as Victor Martinez publicly declared his desire to remain with the Boston Red Sox, his agent said Monday that the club has not yet opened negotiations on a contract extension for the 31-year-old catcher.

Martinez I don't really want to be a free agent. If they give me a chance to be a free agent, I don't know what's going to happen.

-- Red Sox catcher Victor Martinez, who is entering the final year of his contract

"It's nice that Victor says he wants to stay with the Red Sox,'' agent Alan Nero said, "but in reality it doesn't really change anything. The reality is that the Red Sox are going to have to want him. They're going to have to be willing to pay for value to get value.''

Nero, who heads the Octagon agency, said that no talks have been held to date and to his knowledge, no talks have yet been scheduled with the Red Sox. The point man on the Martinez negotiations, he said, will be Scott Pucino, head of the agency's Venezuelan team that also includes Will Polidor and Jose Mijares. That is the same team that recently negotiated Felix Hernandez's five-year, $78 million deal with the Seattle Mariners and the four-year, $20.5 million deal signed by Mariners outfielder Franklin Gutierrez.

Martinez, who is eligible for free agency after the season, is scheduled to be paid $7.7 million in 2010, the last year of the five-year, $15.5 million extension he signed with the Indians in 2005. That contract originally stipulated a $7 million option for 2010, but included was a clause for an additional $500,000 if he was traded, and he earned an additional $200,000 bump for being named an All-Star twice during the contract.

If American League MVP Joe Mauer re-signs, as expected, with the Minnesota Twins, Martinez would instantly become the most attractive free agent at his position this winter. But in an interview with the Boston Herald published Monday, Martinez expressed a preference to stay in Boston.

"I don't want to be jumping around, I don't want to go somewhere else," Martinez told the Herald, who interviewed him at his home in Orlando. "First, I didn't want to go out of the Indians organization. Then I'm out, and now I'm here. I came to the place where a lot of players dream to come and a lot of players wish to play here in Boston. So I'm here. I do really want to stay here and hopefully end my career in Boston." Martinez is beginning his first full season as the Red Sox's No. 1 catcher, supplanting Jason Varitek, though by the end of last season he was getting most of his playing time behind the plate.

"Maybe [the Red Sox] want to see me play a full year as catcher, but remember: My whole career is as a catcher,'' Martinez said in the interview. "Everything I've done is as a catcher. If they want to see it, they're going to see it. I've got nothing against that.

"But I don't know what's going to happen. Like I said, I don't really want to be a free agent. If they give me a chance to be a free agent, I don't know what's going to happen."

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said Monday that he will not publicly discuss extensions for either Martinez or pitcher Josh Beckett, another prospective free agent.

"With both him and Josh, the two guys we've been asked about, we're going to stick to our policy of not talking about it,'' Epstein said. "The more clubs talk about free agents-to-be, the less likely they are to get [a deal] done.

"It's always nice when players want to be here. We've got talented guys on this club we'd like to keep around. We'll see what happens.''

While Martinez would seem to be a great candidate to be retained as a permanent successor to Varitek, bear in mind that Boston last year appeared committed to keeping Jason Bay as Manny Ramirez's replacement in left field, but in the end did not strike an agreement and was ultimately outbid by the New York Mets.

Bay joined a long list of Red Sox stars who have been allowed to leave as free agents -- a list that includes Johnny Damon, Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe, Roger Clemens, Mo Vaughn and Wade Boggs, among others.

Epstein was asked if the Red Sox were reserving judgment until they see Martinez catch a full season. "We're trying to win,'' he said. "That's what the season's about. Having him catch and catch a lot puts us in a good position to win. Obviously, we'll monitor things, see how it goes, but we asked him to prepare to catch a lot.

"I don't want to put a number on it.. I don't think that's fair. We want him to catch as much as he can while being healthy and effective offensively.''

Martinez told the Herald he would not talk about an extension beyond spring training. "As soon as the season starts, I don't want to be talking about numbers or be talking about something that can distract me from the game and distract my teammates," Martinez said. "That's the last thing I want with this great team they've put together. Maybe, who knows, they come to me in spring training with something. "Honestly, I'm all open now until the season starts. As soon as the season starts, I barely talk to my mom."

Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.