Victor Martinez's Best Interest Is at First Base

Dan DiBaccoCorrespondent IDecember 2, 2008

Victor Martinez is a two-time all star, undoubtedly one of the leaders in the Tribes' clubhouse, and a key piece to the Indians' puzzle. And all of this has been established while he's been the catcher for the Tribe.

But a 2008 opening day injury to the catcher and an inflamed right elbow forced Martinez to only appear in 73 games in '08. Nothing good comes out of an injury to a team's best player/leader, but you can also find out a lot about a team when that happens.

And the Tribe indeed found something out. Kelly Shoppach, their backup catcher, can flat out play.

The team and the fans were aware of who Kelly Shoppach was due to him being Paul Byrd's personal catcher. So every five days, the Tribe would place Shoppach behind the plate, and Martinez being too valuable to keep out of the lineup, would move 90 feet to first base.

But with Martinez going out for an extended period of time in '08, the fans and the Indians had to get used to the idea of Shoppach being the guy behind the plate. To say that he was expected to put up Victor Martinez like numbers would be false. But putting up Victor Martinez like numbers is exactly what he did. In 112 games, he batted .261, with 21 homers and 55 RBI.

But the return of Martinez in September left the Tribe with two very serviceable catchers, both of whom surprised people with their numbers. Martinez surprised the wrong way. He only had 21 RBI, a .279 batting average, and most shocking of all, no home runs through 54 games.

Meanwhile, Shoppach continued to make the best out of his chances, and put up big numbers. Martinez eventually found his swing again in the last month of the season finishing the season with a .278 average, 35 RBI, and two home runs.

This problem (if you want to call too much talent that) will follow the Tribe into Spring Training and can only be resolved by doing what's logical. Move Victor Martinez to first base. It's a much less physically demanding position to play, and it's no coincidence that older players are often playing first base.

This leaves Shoppach, the less injury prone, younger and arguably better defensive catcher with the everyday duties behind the plate. But this scenario will still leave an odd man out. Ryan Garko the everyday first basemen the past two years. But there's also a scenario if this were to happen.

Garko, a good defensive first basemen who also shows streaks of great offense could be a candidate to be traded to the Orioles, who have expressed interest in a first basemen, and have also been listening to offers for their second basemen, Brian Roberts.

Roberts and Garko wouldn't be a straight up trade for each other, the Tribe would most likely have to include either an outfielder (Ben Francisco, David Dellucci, or Franklin Gutierrez) or a pitcher, (Aaron Laffey, Anthony Reyes, or Jeremy Sowers) but Roberts would address a pressing need in the Indians infield.

By signing Roberts, and trading Garko this would allow Martinez to move to first, Roberts to jump into second base, and Asdrubal Cabrera the teams current second basemen, to move to shortstop where he played in the minors, and Jhonny Peralta the teams current shortstop to move to third, where he's better suited, due to his lack of range.

Brian Roberts would also allow for the Tribe to move their Silver Slugger center fielder, Grady Sizemore down the lineup from the lead off spot to the three hole where a player with his power is better suited.