Dodgers face deadline decision on Martin

Dodgers face deadline decision on Martin

LOS ANGELES -- Russell Martin, who squats for a living, is coming off a broken hip, another down season offensively and figures to earn $6 million through the arbitration process if he is tendered a contract, which is why the Dodgers probably won't tender him a contract by Thursday's deadline.

On the other hand, they've spoken with agent Matt Colleran even though Martin hasn't started running or squatting. The club presumably is willing to take the risk of signing Martin before the deadline if there's a discount, even though talks also have been held with free-agent catchers Miguel Olivo, A.J. Pierzynski, Jason Varitek and Bengie Molina in search of a veteran to pair with A.J. Ellis.

Maybe it's the ghost of Jayson Werth -- non-tendered by the Dodgers after missing the 2006 season with a wrist injury and now an All-Star -- but the club appears reluctant to cut the cord with Martin, despite his regression from back-to-back All-Star appearances in 2007-08. Werth was 27 when cut loose. Martin is 27. He earned $5.05 million last season.

A decision on Martin might go down to the 9 p.m. PT deadline.

The case of left-handed reliever George Sherrill is quite different. He is such an automatic non-tender after a rocky 2010 that he predicted the club's decision back in September.

"I'm pretty sure I won't be here next year," said the 33-year-old Sherrill, who would be guaranteed a salary of at least $3.6 million through arbitration if tendered despite struggling to a 6.69 ERA. "Just because of how this year has gone. If I had had a good year, I think we'd have had a better year."

Sherrill, however, remained effective against left-handed hitters (.192 average), which is why he still figures to be pitching in the Major Leagues next year, maybe even for the Dodgers again, only at a pay cut larger than the 20 percent allowed through the arbitration process. He earned $4.5 million last season.

Martin's injury makes his situation dicey for both sides. He was injured Aug. 3 when he took an awkward step past home plate while attempting to score. He suffered a rare fracture of the right hip when his leg was jammed into the joint. His agent said the recovery has gone without setback, but Martin won't be allowed to run until later this month or resume baseball activities until mid-January.

While the squatting would seem to be the biggest obstacle for a catcher with a broken hip, the Dodgers are at least equally concerned with Martin's ability to move laterally, as the hip is crucial in the pivoting needed for running the bases and even side-to-side movement behind the plate.

In addition to the injury, Martin's performance when healthy has been a mystery. His average, home runs and RBIs have decreased each of the last three years. Until the hip injury, he had been one of the most durable catchers in the game.

The Dodgers are expected to tender contracts to their other arbitration-eligible players -- Chad Billingsley, Hong-Chih Kuo and James Loney.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.