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Victor happy for Mauer, wants to stay put

Victor happy for Mauer, wants to stay put

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Victor Martinez walked to his locker Monday morning, and a trail of reporters followed. Other players -- including Marco Scutaro and Mike Lowell -- smiled because they knew exactly what the line of questioning was going to be about.

Joe Mauer, the perennial All-Star catcher and hitting machine, just signed an eight-year, $184 million to stay with the Twins. Martinez is also a catcher, but doesn't have that type of security. At this point, anyway, Martinez will be eligible for free agency after the 2010 season.

No matter what ends up happening with his situation, Martinez is thrilled for Mauer, who turns 27 in April.

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"Man, that's great -- he deserves every penny he got," said Martinez, who will turn 32 in December. "He's going to be fine for the next eight years. He really deserves every penny. He's obviously a great guy and a great player, and I'm really happy for him."

As far as Martinez is concerned, it doesn't change much for him. He would still like to stay in Boston beyond this season, but said that the club has yet to discuss a new contract this spring.

"No -- nothing [up] to now," Martinez said. "Man, you know what, I already told them through my agent that I was going to be more than happy to do it before the season. We'll see what happens."

Does the 31-year-old Martinez think his price will go up because of Mauer's contract?

"I don't know," Martinez said. "I can't answer that question. I just worry about myself and just worry about being healthy and let things happen."

While Mauer has always been a catcher, the Indians started transitioning Martinez to first base during the end of his stay there. The Red Sox rotated him between the two positions after his acquisition last July, but are committed to Martinez as their full-time catcher this season.

This season could provide Martinez an opportunity to prove he can still handle the rigors of the demanding position on a near everyday basis. Because there are so few catchers who can hit like Martinez, his value is obviously greater at that position than as a first baseman/designated hitter.

Then again, would Martinez produce more offense if he moves away from the position at some point?

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These are the types of questions that make his situation an interesting one to evaluate.

What the Red Sox know for now is that Martinez, their No. 3 hitter, will be a centerpiece to their lineup, someone they hope to get roughly 25 homers and 100 RBIs from this season.

In 877 Major League games, Martinez is a .299 hitter with 111 homers, 559 RBIs and an .837 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage). Mauer has played 699 games, hitting .327 with 72 homers, 397 RBIs and an .892 OPS. They are both three-time All-Stars.

But Mauer is also a difference maker on defense, where he has won two Gold Gloves.

The type of deal Mauer landed not only speaks of the player he is, but also the premium that is put on an elite catcher.

"When you talk about catchers, Joe Mauer is obviously a great player," said Martinez.

While small- and middle-market teams have often lost star players to big-market teams, the Twins keeping Mauer is a feel good story of sorts.

"They showed they want to compete and keep one of the main guys in their organization for a long time," Martinez said. "That shows you they just want to go out there and compete."

"It is good for the game," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "Minnesota has their new stadium now. It looks like they're going to get after it a little bit. I think that's good. He's one of the best hitters. I don't know how to put it into numbers, like, what catching does to you [offensively]. He just stands up there and it doesn't matter if [the pitcher is] left or right-handed. He's one of the best players in the game, and he just got rewarded for it."

Martinez will get his reward at some point within the next year, but it remains to be seen if it will be from the Red Sox.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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