As one of the most valuable free agents on the market this winter, it’s no surprise that 31-year-old Russell Martin is already attracting attention from teams. 

The nine-year veteran is coming off his best offensive season since 2007, posting a .290/.402/.430 slash line with 31 extra-base hits for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He also remains one of the best defensive catchers in baseball, only adding to his immense value. 

According to Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago, Martin’s list of potential suitors has grown:

The Cubs have wasted little time in their pursuit of becoming a contending team in 2015. After hiring veteran manager Joe Maddon on Monday, the team rolled out the red carpet in a meeting with free agent catcher Russell Martin on Thursday, according to an MLB source.‬

Martin is considered one of the top catchers in the game and will have further serious conversations with four teams, including the Cubs, according to industry sources. The Pirates, Martin’s most recent club, and the Dodgers are known to be two of the other teams that Martin and his agent will visit with.

Among catchers with at least 450 plate appearances in 2014, Martin ranked third with 5.3 wins above replacement, per FanGraphs. Only Milwaukee’s Jonathan Lucroy (6.3) and San Francisco’s Buster Posey (5.7) were better. 

Using FanGraphs‘ metrics, Martin was the National League’s most valuable defensive catcher last year and only trailed Kansas City’s Salvador Perez and Detroit’s Alex Avila in all of MLB. He was one of the biggest reasons for Pittsburgh’s turnaround and why the Pirates were in the playoffs each of the last two years.

In other words, as D.J. Short of Hardball Talk wrote back in September, Martin is one of the most underrated assets in Major League Baseball:

Gabe Kapler of Fox Sports wrote about how Martin acts as a coach on the field when he’s working with a pitching staff:

The lack of a quick acronym should not lead people to overlook the impact they have on their teammates. Is it perhaps reasonable to think that Martin raises the performance of a pitcher by one-fifth of a win over the course of a season? If he works with 15 pitchers, he’s added three wins to his club. Whoa, that’s a badass bump.

While there isn’t much science in Kapler’s reasoning, it’s not hard to see that Martin is unique among MLB catchers.

The Pirates will want to retain Martin as their starting catcher, though it won’t be easy. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported in October that he turned down a contract extension in the middle of the season. There is no statement as to the details of the offer. Heyman also speculated that, as a free agent, “Martin could easily request a big five-year deal considering his stellar season.”

The most important thing for a catcher is to be productive behind the plate, and anything with the bat is a bonus. 

Martin held up his end of the bargain, and then some, in two years with Pirates. Now, he’s poised to get the first big payday of his career. 


If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. 

Read more MLB news on