Though the Chicago Cubs failed to sign free-agent catcher Russell Martin last week, it doesn’t mean the team won’t have other intriguing options moving forward.

With plenty of money to spend on the open market this offseason and an opportunity to upgrade behind the plate, Cubs’ president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer made it clear in early November that the team would pursue Martin.

As expected, the Cubs made a serious attempt at signing him, offering the 31-year-old a deal in the ballpark of four years and $64 million. Meanwhile, news of the reported offer prompted Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports to name the Cubs as the front-runners to land Martin.

Martin and the Cubs seemed meant to be, but the Toronto Blue Jays wouldn’t let that happen, as they ultimately lured Martin north of the border with a five-year, $82 million pact.

However, Martin’s agent, Matt Colleran, told ESPNChicago’s Jesse Rogers that the Cubs were in the mix until the very end:

There were times throughout the process where it was Toronto and the Cubs, 1 and 2. They probably flipped spots in that process. One day the Cubs [were] going a little ahead, and the next Toronto was ahead. When we got into the [last] weekend the dollars started to come into play, and Toronto was just super aggressive with their approach.

Martin became a free agent following his best offensive campaign since 2007, as he batted .290/.402/.430 with 11 home runs and 67 RBI over 460 plate appearances for the Pirates. More significantly, Martin ranked second in both weighted on-base average (wOBA) at .370 and weighted runs created plus (wRC+) at 140 among all catchers with at least 450 plate appearances. He also ranked third in wins above replacement (fWAR) at 5.3.

Yet it’s what Martin does on the other side of the ball that made him such a coveted free agent—the kind a team is willing to overpay for.

According to, Martin registered a 38.5 percent caught-stealing rate and committed only three passed balls over 940.2 innings in 2014.

Beyond that, Martin also paced all catchers last season with 12 defensive runs saved—after saving 16 runs the previous year—and finished the season ranked as the third-best framer in the major leagues, according to Baseball Prospectus.

More on that from ESPN Stats & Info: “He got strikes on 85.5 percent of taken pitches in the zone, 12th-highest among the 42 catchers who caught the most pitches last season. That’s about 2.5 extra strikes for every 100 of those pitches above what an average catcher would get.”

Had he accepted the Cubs’ offer, Martin would have been an enormous upgrade over Welington Castillo as the team’s everyday backstop, presumably relegating Castillo to a backup role. It also would have put reserve catcher John Baker’s future with the club in jeopardy.

In 2014, Cubs’ catchers ranked 22nd among all 30 teams with a .672 OPS, 24th with an 85 wRC+ and 19th with a 6.6 fWAR.

Specifically, the 27-year-old Castillo regressed offensively and finished the season with a disappointing .237/.296/.389 batting line in 417 plate appearances, though he did hit a career-high 13 home runs. On the other side of the ball, Castillo ranked as the 97th-best pitch-framer in the game last season, according to Baseball Prospectus, as he cost Cubs pitchers 77.4 strikes and 10 runs.

With that in mind, it’s easy to see why the Cubs were all over Martin this offseason.

But just because they failed to sign the top free-agent catcher on the market doesn’t mean the team is done searching for an upgrade.

One player on the Cubs’ radar is Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero, reports Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic, and the two teams have already spoken about the possibility of a deal.

Piecoro notes the Cubs recently pried Henry Blanco—who joined Arizona’s coaching staff last season after retiring as a player—away from the Diamondbacks to serve as the quality assurance coach under Joe Maddon, while’s Buster Olney wonders whether Blanco’s presence will “create any traction” for Chicago’s interest in Montero.’s Anthony Castrovince had the following to say about Montero, whom he listed as the 10th-best trade candidate this offseason:

The fears here are twofold, though: Montero makes a lot of money (another $40 million over the next three seasons) and he’s caught a lot of games. The wear and tear of the job seemed to get the best of him in 2013, when he had a .662 OPS. He did bounce back a bit in the doubles department this past season, so his slash line was a more respectable .243/.329/.370 (a solid line for a catcher), but there is no telling if he’ll cross the .800 OPS threshold again.

The D-backs don’t have an obvious backup plan in place should they move Montero, but this could be a way for them to free up some cash and land some pitching, although Montero‘s offensive downturn and hefty contract don’t help his value.

If the Cubs were to trade for the 31-year-old Montero, they’d likely be on the hook for a majority of the $40 million remaining on his contract over the next three seasons, via Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

The Cubs might also explore trading for a younger catcher who’s a potential extension candidate, such as Jason Castro of the Houston Astros, though that’s merely my own speculation.

The Astros have made Castro available this offseason after acquiring Hank Conger earlier this month. General manager Jeff Luhnow previously told Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle that the team is at least “50-50 on dealing away a catcher.”

Drellich also notes that Houston’s asking price for the 28-year-old catcher is steep even though the team hasn’t explored a long-term extension.  

If the Cubs can’t strike a practical deal with the Diamondbacks or Astros—or another viable trade candidate that enters the mix—then it might make sense to stick with Welington Castillo for the 2015 season.

Should the Cubs can make it through next season with Castillo as their primary catcher, chances are he’ll be a more valuable trade chip—that is, if you believe his 2014 numbers suggest room for improvement.

Plus, next year’s free-agent class will feature another elite catcher in Matt Wieters, who will presumably be targeted by most large-market teams provided he doesn’t sign an extension with the Orioles.

That being said, Epstein and Hoyer surely have an idea of the projected market for catchers moving forward, which is why they were willing to offer Martin, a catcher on the wrong side of 30, a four-year deal.

The Cubs may have missed out this time around, but it’s clear that adding an impact catcher to the equation, whether it be signing a free agent or executing a trade, remains one of their top priorities.

Read more MLB news on