If Cleveland's willing to trade Martinez, Boston's a likely suitor
The Indians recently dispatched a scout to check out Boston's best prospects
Another potential suitor for Martinez could be the Giants
The Pirates-Nats trade involving Morgan and Milledge makes sense for both sides
Indians higher-ups say they aren't likely to trade hitting star Victor Martinez. Not only is Martinez one of the better hitters in baseball, with 14 home runs, 57 RBIs and .313 batting average, but the Indians hold a bargain 2010 club option on Martinez for $7 million.
A trade for Martinez still has to be considered something of a long shot. Yet, within the past day or two the Indians dispatched a scout to check out the progress of Boston's best prospects, according to a league source. The Indians, a realistic early seller, may only be covering their bases. But of course, it could develop into something more, as Boston's interest in Martinez is well known.
Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell's recurrence of hip trouble has at least temporarily opened first base for Boston (since Kevin Youkilis has switched over to third base). The Red Sox have been seeking offensive aid for months with their protracted winter pursuit of Mark Teixeira and a much shorter try for Hanley Ramirez. Boston is also one of a couple teams that could match up nicely with Cleveland in a Martinez trade, what with three very hot young pitchers -- Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson and Michael Bowden -- who just happen to be exactly the sort Cleveland craves.
But while Indians people are realistic about their plight this year -- when just about everything that could go wrong already has -- they also say there is no reason to hinder their chances next year. Loosely translated, that means it would take quite a haul to pry either Martinez or star left-handed pitcher Cliff Lee away from Cleveland. (Lee's 2010 option for $9 million is an oft-cited reason to keep him.)
Beyond the Indians' well-known love of Martinez, a clubhouse leader, the Red Sox are said to be very reticent about trading their fine young pitchers, who are serving as insurance this year while also forming the foundation of a promising future. One competing executive said the Red Sox might favor taking on a big-salaried hitter rather than surrendering any of their impressive youth for a bargain star. Boston is a rare team with money to burn.
But if Martinez goes anywhere, Boston still looks like the most logical landing spot, two AL executives said. The Red Sox have renewed concerns about Lowell, who recently had to go on the disabled list with hip pain following his winter surgery. With Youkilis' versatility, Boston could look at either third base or first if Lowell doesn't return. Nick Johnson, a high on-base player Boston probably likes, would be an easier get (though so far Red Sox people don't like the asking price).
In the meantime, there is time to consider a Martinez blockbuster.
While Indians GM Mark Shapiro is said to love Martinez (CC Sabathia, last summer's big trade acquisition, said he doubts Shapiro would deal him), the Indians are fairly strong in the catching department, with solid Kelly Shoppach in the fold, and one of baseball's best all-around prospects, Carlos Santana -- though Santana's ETA is still realistically believed to be 2011, not 2010. If Shapiro is open to deal Martinez, Boston's probably the place. Besides all its fine young pitchers, Boston has a first base replacement ready in top power prospect Lars Anderson.
Not too many other teams could satisfy the Indians' request for Martinez, but another team with a bevy of top young pitching prospects and a need for immediate offense is the Giants. Giants scout Paul Turco was recently seen at an Indians game, fueling speculation they could become another potential suitor for Martinez.
Boston's the best fit, though -- if it's willing to give up a top pitching prospect or two. All the elements are there for a potential trade.
Well, perhaps everything but the Indians' heart.
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