Wednesday November 24, 2010 | 07:17 AM

When the Boston Red Sox really want one of their players back, they usually re-sign him before he becomes a free agent (we're speaking only about players not represented by Scott Boras; they always file for free agency).

After the 2007 World Series, Boston was not gung-ho about re-signing Mike Lowell, and the Red Sox were not the highest bidder for Lowell, but he stayed with the Red Sox.

In the case of Victor Martinez, it has been reported that Boston had offered Martinez a 4-year deal at $40-million, which was trumped by the Detroit Tigers' 4-year, $50-million contract.

But if the Red Sox really wanted him, why did they wait so long with that offer? Martinez said Boston offered him only a two-year deal in negotiations during the season. Maybe he would have gone for the $40-million deal if Boston offered it during the season, when the Red Sox were the sole bidder.

Maybe the Red Sox are sold on Jarrod Saltalamacchia being the No. 1 catcher.

But will Jason Varitek be the back-up/mentor? Varitek was not offered arbitration on Tuesday (nor were Bill Hall and Lowell). The Red Sox did offer arbitration to Martinez, Adrian Beltre and infielder Felipe Lopez.

Neither Beltre or Lopez are expected to accept arbitration, which means Boston will be compensated with draft picks (2 for Beltre, 1 for Lopez) if/when they sign with someone else. The Red Sox will get two picks for losing Martinez (the top pick of the Tigers, plus one in the supplementary round).

By not offering Varitek arbitration, either Boston does not want Varitek, who will be 38 next April, or it wants him at less than the $3-million he made in 2010.

If Varitek does come back, here is another question: Who catches Tim Wakefield?

Varitek has always struggled with Wakefield. I found no history of Saltalamacchia catching a knuckleball (he did not catch Wakefield last year).

If Saltalamacchia is going to be the No. 1 catcher, it seems that he is going to have enough pressure on him without asking him to handle Wakefield.

We could go on about Wakefield's role, which is fodder for another discussion ... but back to catching.

If Saltalamacchia is the No. 1 guy, Boston needs a "bridge" back-up until one of the prospects is ready (Mark Wagner, Luis Exposito, or Ryan Lavarnway).

If not Varitek, who? Not a lot out there, although I bet the budget-battling Tampa Bay Rays would love to unload former Sea Dogs catcher Kelly Shoppach. He is due to make $3-million this year. Last season, he batted .196 (although .261 against left-handers).

About this Blog

Kevin Thomas covers baseball and basketball for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. He wisely moved to Maine in 1994 after working for the St. Petersburg Times. He is married to Nancy and they have nine children.

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