Tag: Russell Martin

Russell Martin Injury: Updates on Blue Jays Catcher’s Knee and Return

The Toronto Blue Jays had high expectations for 2015 All-Star catcher Russell Martin this season, but he has been struggling offensively and now has an injured knee. It’s unclear when he will return.

Continue for updates.

Martin Out vs. Mariners

Saturday, July 23

The Blue Jays announced Josh Thole would start over Martin against the Seattle Mariners on Saturday.

Gibbons Comments on Martin’s Playing Status

Saturday, July 23

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons told reporters Martin was “feeling better” but would still be day-to-day.

On Friday, Gibbons announced Martin suffered a knee injury after falling in the shower, according to Hazel Mae of Sportsnet. He became lightheaded from spending too much time in the sauna Thursday before the fall.

Veteran Martin Crucial to Blue Jays Pitching, Offense

Martin was experiencing a late-career renaissance, finishing in the top 25 in MVP voting in the previous three seasons.

From 2013 to 2015, he posted the highest mark (50.0) for defensive runs above average among eligible catchers, and only Buster Posey (16.2) has posted more wins above replacement than Toronto’s backstop (12.5), per FanGraphs.

This year, however, has not been kind to Martin offensively. He’s hitting just .228/.317/.338 with seven home runs in 81 games after blasting 34 homers the previous two seasons combined.

Josh Thole has been Toronto’s primary backup catcher this season, offering superior defense to Martin, per FanGraphs. With Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion in the middle of the order, the Blue Jays lineup is loaded. They can withstand one dead spot.

Martin is starting to look like a 33-year-old catcher, so getting a few days off won’t derail the surging Jays.

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Russell Martin’s 2015 Impact Potential Is Key Under-the-Radar Story

When Marcus Stroman’s knee went, it didn’t take the Toronto Blue Jays‘ playoff hopes with it. 

Stroman is a key cog in the Jays’ rotation and the news that the 23-year-old right-hander is out for the season with a torn ACL was a painful blow, no doubt. 

Toronto can weather this storm, though, thanks to a guy who won’t throw a single pitch in 2015: Russell Martin.

Whatever route the team takes to fill the Stroman-sized hole on its roster, Martin will be the glue that holds the whole thing together. That’s why the Blue Jays snatched up the Canadian-born catcher, inking him to a five-year, $82 million deal before Thanksgiving.

It was the biggest free-agent payday ever awarded on general manager Alex Anthopoulos’ watch, though it was quickly overshadowed by the blockbusters that followed elsewhere.

Martin, however, could prove to be among the most important offseason additions, under-the-radar or otherwise, for any team.

Yes, he’s coming off the best offensive season of his career, during which he hit .290 with 11 home runs and a gaudy .402 on-base percentage for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Yes, he’s among the game’s elite defensive backstops, the 10th-best pitch-framer in baseball, per Statcorner, and a guy who gunned down an MLB-leading 37 would-be base stealers, per ESPN.com.

And, double yes, the Jays are hoping he can replicate those numbers north of the border.

More than that, Martin brings an intangible, essential quality: leadership.

Last season, as the Pirates were pushing toward a second-straight playoff appearance (after a 21-year drought), FoxSports.com‘s Gabe Kapler dubbed Martin “an extra coach on the field.” 

“As much money as we’ve spent and the commitment that we’ve made, you can’t feel better where we’re putting our dollars and who we’re giving it to,” Anthopoulos told MLB.com‘s Gregor Chisholm in November. “[He’s] the total package, as far as I’m concerned.”

With questions suddenly swirling around the team’s starting five, the signing appears more prescient than ever.

It’s possible Toronto will bring in pitching from the outside, either now or at the trade deadline. Another option is to call up Daniel Norris and/or Aaron Sanchez, the franchise’s top two prospects according to Baseball America

However, as Fox Sports‘ Jim Morosi notes, Toronto’s inexperienced arms would be tossed headlong into the hitter-friendly American League East; if they struggle, the bullpen might also get squeezed. Here’s more from Morosi:

Sanchez, 22, has thrown 33 innings in the majors, with zero starts; Norris, 21, has 6.2 innings and one start. History suggests it’s unreasonable to expect both to surpass 170 innings this year. Since 1980, according to STATS LLC, only 10 teams have had two pitchers begin a season with fewer than 40 career major-league innings and then pitch 170 innings that year.

Managing the team’s young arms and balancing the workload of those arms against the pen’s will fall primarily to manager John Gibbons and pitching coach Pete Walker. But what an asset for them to have that “extra coach” in the squat.

“He makes each man feel significant out on the mound, like he’s the best guy there,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said recently of his former field general, per Ian Denomme of Yahoo Sports Canada. “He brings an edge every day to the team that he’s gonna find a way to beat the other team. Bat, glove, legs, mind, whatever it takes.”

What will it take for the Jays to win a wide-open AL East and end their two decades-plus postseason drought? Another exemplary effort from Martin.

He’s not the only player shouldering the load, obviously. Third baseman Josh Donaldson, acquired from the Oakland A’s, and outfielder Jose Bautista combined for 12.7 WAR last season, per FanGraphs

Martin, though, is the hub, the fulcrum, choose your clumsy metaphor. He’s the reason the Blue Jays can withstand the Stroman storm—and fly north with their hopes intact.


All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference unless otherwise noted. 

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Predictions for Each Top Offseason Acquisition’s 2015 Season with Blue Jays

After missing the playoffs for the 21st straight season last year, the Toronto Blue Jays spent much of the offseason retooling their roster in an attempt to reverse their fortunes during the upcoming season.

Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos began his overhaul by first electing to part ways with several notable players from last season, such as Adam Lind, Melky Cabrera and Brett Lawrie.

The GM then made several acquisitions, headlined by players such as Russell Martin, Josh Donaldson and Michael Saunders.

These new acquisitions should give Toronto’s lineup a very different look during the 2015 season. Both Martin and Donaldson should hit out of a top-five spot in the Blue Jays’ lineup. Saunders should provide a veteran presence in the bottom part of Toronto’s batting order.

Let’s take a closer look and predict how each of these top offseason acquisitions will perform in 2015.


Josh Donaldson, Third Baseman

Acquiring Josh Donaldson in a trade with the Oakland A’s was easily Toronto’s biggest move of the offseason.

An All-Star who finished eighth in MVP voting last season, Donaldson hit .255/.342/.456 with 29 home runs, eight stolen bases, 98 RBI and 93 runs scored in 158 games.

According to Baseball-Reference.com, the third baseman also put up a dWAR of 2.6. In terms of overall WAR, Donaldson was just behind American League MVP Mike Trout for the highest WAR among position players.

Keep in mind that Donaldson was playing all of his home games in the cavernous O.co Coliseum last season. His home/road stats reflect that fact, as the right-handed hitter had an OPS of .874 on the road compared to a .718 OPS at home.

With Donaldson now playing his home games at the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre, his power numbers should see a spike. It also doesn’t hurt that he’ll likely be getting plenty of RBI opportunities while hitting behind high on-base percentage players like Jose Bautista.

2015 Prediction: .275/.358/.490 with 32 home runs, 10 stolen bases, 108 RBI and 94 runs scored.


Russell Martin, Catcher

The Blue Jays signed Russell Martin to a five-year, $82 million contract during the offseason. This was the largest contract in terms of money that the club has ever given out to a free agent.

Martin had a spectacular season with the bat last season, hitting .290/.402/.430 with 11 home runs, 67 RBI and 45 runs scored in 111 games.

The catcher was also defensively sound behind the plate, allowing just three passed balls and gunning down 39 percent of all base stealers against him.

Heading into the new season, the Blue Jays will likely slot Martin into the No. 2 spot in their lineup. This means that he should hit in front of the team’s power hitters. Provided that he lives up to his career .354 on-base percentage, Martin should be able to score plenty of runs.

Overall, though, it’s probably unlikely Martin repeats his offensive performance from last season again in 2015. According to FanGraphs.com, the 31-year-old’s batting average on balls in play was a career-high .336 in 2014. That will probably drop closer to his career BABIP of .289 in 2015. Playing at Rogers Centre could mean that Martin sees an uptick in his home runs total, though.

2015 Prediction: .265/.358/.401 with 17 home runs, 63 RBI and 65 runs scored.


Michael Saunders, Outfielder

The Blue Jays acquired Michael Saunders in an offseason trade with the Seattle Mariners, sending pitcher J.A. Happ the other way.

While Saunders began the 2014 campaign in a starting role, injuries limited him to just 78 games played during the season. The outfielder did put up solid offensive numbers when he played, though, hitting .273/.341/.450 with eight home runs, 34 RBI and 38 runs scored.

Considering that Saunders was able to play 139 and 132 games during the 2012 and 2013 seasons, respectively, there’s a strong possibility that his injury-prone 2014 season was simply an outlier.

As long as he stays healthy, Saunders will be the Blue Jays’ starting left fielder during the upcoming season. If he can repeat those 2014 offensive numbers over a span of more games, Saunders should be able to replace departed outfielder Melky Cabrera’s production quite nicely.

It’s worth noting that Toronto will likely place Saunders in the lower half of its batting order, so the left-handed hitter probably won’t get as many RBI opportunities compared to some of the other hitters on the team. Playing in Rogers Centre instead of the pitcher-friendly Safeco Field should be a positive factor, though.

2015 Prediction: .260/.330/.425 with 18 home runs, 14 stolen bases, 62 RBI and 66 runs scored.


*All stats are from Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.com

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Which MLB Free-Agent Contract ‘Overpay’ Is Actually Money Well Spent?

The MLB offseason is just getting started, but key free agents have fallen off the board, and not every contract handed out so far will pay off.

Buying early has its advantages. It allows teams to address needs in a timely fashion and to gain clarity on their remaining priorities. But pre-winter splurges carry risks as well, most notably the dreaded overpay.

That label has been slapped on a few of the deals handed out so far.

At least one doesn’t fit the bill: that of catcher Russell Martin, who inked a five-year, $82 million pact with the Toronto Blue Jays on Nov. 20.

On the surface, that sounds like a lot of coin to toss at a veteran backstop entering his age-32 season. It’s certainly fair to wonder if Martin will produce in the latter stages of the contract.

And because Martin received and rejected the qualifying offer from the Pittsburgh Pirates, he’ll cost Toronto a draft pick.

But we’re not simply talking about a guy coming off a .290/.402/.430 season, though that’s a nice enough slash line, particularly at a position where offense is a bonus.

We’re talking about one of the better defensive catchers in baseball, the 10th-best pitch-framer, per Statcorner.com, and the man who threw out an MLB-leading 37 would-be base stealers, per ESPN.com.

More than that, Martin is an acknowledged clubhouse leader, a player loaded with that mythical quality every squad covets: intangibles.

As the Pirates marched to the postseason last year, FoxSports.com‘s Gabe Kapler called Martin “an extra coach on the field.”

“As much money as we’ve spent and the commitment that we’ve made, you can’t feel better where we’re putting our dollars and who we’re giving it to,” Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos told MLB.com‘s Gregor Chisholm. “[He’s] the total package, as far as I’m concerned.”

Martin was born in Toronto, so the union marks a homecoming of sorts. It’s also the first time the Jays have given more than three years and $16 million to any free agent on Anthopoulos’ watch.

As Chisholm notes:

The strength of Toronto’s future clearly lies within its rotation. Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Daniel Norris and Drew Hutchison, along with promising prospects such as Jeff Hoffman are expected to be the strength of this organization for many years to come, and in order to maximize that talent, an elite receiver such as Martin was required.

So Toronto was looking for a field general, someone to wrangle and harness its biggest asset. Add the hometown hero aspect, and the fact that Martin should be able to sustain his offensive output in the hitter-friendly AL East, and suddenly this “overpay” looks like a downright bargain. 

Compare Martin’s contract with the one the Boston Red Sox gave Hanley Ramirez, per Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal:

The 30-year-old Ramirez is slightly younger than Martin, but his .283/.369/.448 line compares unfavorably when you consider he’s a corner infielder who may be moving to a corner outfield spot, as The Boston Globe‘s Pete Abraham notes:

There’s also Ramirez’s injury history and his reputation as a malcontent. It’s possible he and fellow free-agent arrival Pablo Sandoval will pan out in Boston, but it smells like a gamble.

Speaking of gambles, how about Michael Cuddyer, who signed a two-year, $21 million pact with the New York Mets on Nov. 10?

Yes, the years and dollars are more modest, but Cuddyer spent an extended stint on the disabled list last year, playing in just 49 games with the Colorado Rockies. 

And because Colorado (somewhat inexplicably) offered Cuddyer the qualifying offer, the Mets coughed up a pick to nab him.

According to Newsday‘s Marc Carig, New York GM Sandy Alderson liked Cuddyer because of “his power from the right side and his ability to fit into the Mets’ hitting philosophy.”

OK, fine. But we’re talking about a 35-year-old with declining numbers who missed more than two-thirds of the previous campaign.

Again, the offseason is young. The winter meetings approach. We’re a long way from knowing which deals will stand out as savviest and which will look like bright crimson flags.

Whatever transpires the rest of the way, however, Toronto’s decision to lock up Martin appears sound, though time, as ever, is the final arbiter. 


All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Mapping Out Cubs’ New Plan After Whiffing on Key Target Russell Martin

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 ESPN.com, 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 ESPN.com’s Buster Olney wonders whether Blanco’s presence will “create any traction” for Chicago’s interest in Montero.

MLB.com’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.

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Free-Agent Catcher Russell Martin a Target for the Toronto Blue Jays?

The Toronto Blue Jays have had internal discussions about signing free-agent catcher Russell Martin, per Jeff Blair of Sportsnet.ca.

Martin is coming off a career year with the Pittsburgh Pirates, hitting .290/.402/.430 with 11 home runs, 67 RBI and 45 runs scored. He is easily the top catcher available in the market this winter.

While adding Martin would be an upgrade, the Blue Jays did get solid production from their catching tandem of Dioner Navarro and Josh Thole during the 2014 season.

Navarro hit .274/.317/.395 with 12 home runs, 69 RBI and 40 runs scored in 139 games. Thole hit .248 in 57 games but did have an on-base percentage of .320.

The Blue Jays recently traded away designated hitter Adam Lind to the Milwaukee Brewers, per Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com. Acquiring Martin would mean that Toronto could shift the switch-hitting Navarro into the DH spot.

Thole—who will be eligible for arbitration this offseason—will likely be retained as a backup primarily because of his ability to catch knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.

While their run production numbers are similar, Martin offers a significant defensive upgrade over Navarro. Last season, Martin gunned down 39 percent of base stealers compared to the 21 percent for Navarro. According to Baseball-Reference.com, Martin’s defensive WAR in 2014 was 2.0. In comparison, Navarro’s dWAR was just 0.9.

The Pirates have extended Martin a qualifying offer, per Tom Singer of MLB.com. This means that the Blue Jays would have to surrender their first-round pick in the 2015 MLB draft if they were to sign Martin. On the flip side, Toronto could get a draft pick back if the team fails to re-sign its own free agent, Melky Cabrera.

While they may have had internal discussions about signing Martin, it’s hard to imagine the Blue Jays prioritizing this move. Toronto’s main areas in need of improvement are still at second base, outfield and the bullpen.

It’s worth noting that Martin’s great 2014 season means that he’ll be drawing plenty of interest from other teams throughout the league. The 31-year-old Canadian will no doubt be looking for a large multiyear deal and has given no indication that he would be willing to give a hometown discount to Toronto.

Considering that they already have solid production at the catching position, it’s very likely that the Blue Jays will not engage in a bidding war for Martin and will ultimately decide to allocate their resources elsewhere this winter.


All stats are from Baseball-Reference.com.

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Yankees Shore Up Rotation, but Huge Hole Remains at Catcher

The New York Yankees look to replicate the pitching success they enjoyed down the stretch and in the playoffs this past season.

They agreed to bring both starter Andy Pettitte and the greatest closer of all time, Mariano Rivera, back to the team for the 2013 MLB season.

Pettitte, who made his season debut on Mother’s Day, was limited to just 12 starts thanks to an ankle fracture. He pitched very well in his return to the majors after retirement in 2011, pitching to a 2.87 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and a 146 ERA+. He also pitched well in the playoffs, allowing just five runs in 13.2 innings.

Rivera pitched just nine games this season, out since May due to a freak accident during batting practice, tearing his ACL. However, he immediately decided that he would not retire and would work his way back. 

Both moves, along with Hiroki Kuroda returning last week, make the Yankees pitching staff again a threat when healthy. The pitching staff showed what it was capable of in this past postseason and hope to replicate this success for the entire 2013 baseball year

The offense, on the other hand, is still a work in progress, and now has suffered a setback.

Russell Martin, the replacement to longtime Yankee catcher Jorge Posada, left the Bronx for the Pittsburgh Pirates, signing a two-year deal worth $19 million. Martin spent the past two seasons with the Yankees, hitting .224 over a 258 game stretch. 

Despite the poor numbers, this a huge loss for the Yankees, as they also lose one of the best defensive backstops in the game. They must make a decision and perhaps some reactionary moves to solve this situation. 

The Bronx Bombers are now without a starting catcher, with the depth of catchers on the roster currently as follows:

Chris Stewart: .241/.292/.319/.611 in 2012 with the Yankees

Francisco Cervelli: .246/.341/.316/.657 in 99 games at Triple A Scranton/Wilkes Barre

Austin Romine: Injuries cut him to just 31 games and 120 plate appearances

None of these players are suitable options to start, and only passable options as backups. The Yankees cannot afford to have this kind of depth on Opening Day. Martin only got a two-year deal, as did former Braves backup David Ross with the Boston Red Sox.

So, the best options that remain are former Los Angeles Angel of Anaheim and Texas Ranger Mike Napoli and longtime Chicago White Sox backstop AJ Pierzynski

Napoli is the cream of the free agent catcher crop, coming off five straight seasons with over 20 home runs. He had his best season in 2011, hitting 30 bombs and putting up a line of .320/.414/.631/1.046. He was an All-Star for the first time this past season.

Pierzynski had the best season of his 15-year career, setting new career highs in home runs, RBI, slugging percentage, OPS and OPS+. He also took home his first Silver Slugger award. 

However, there are problems coming if the Yankees bring either in. Napoli is a very poor defensive catcher, and you can’t put him at first base at all as long as Mark Teixeira is in the lineup. He can still double as a regular in the Yankees’ rotating DH system. But he also is looking for a pretty big deal.

Pierzynski is turning 36 next month, and is a huge risk given his age and the money he may want based on his contract year. Not exactly a guy the Yankees may want based on their plans for the future. 

However, it seems the Yankees may have to bite the bullet. In all honesty, nobody thinks either Napoli or Pierzynski are plans for the long-term future. Heck, neither is Russell Martin.

This has all been about covering the gap between the Jorge Posada era of Yankee catching history to his eventual heir. Jesus Montero is gone, and Austin Romine, Gary Sanchez and J.R. Murphy are still at least a year away from being able to step in as the starting backstop for the next several years.

The Yankees are an aging team with not too many prospects coming very soon. The organization also plans on spending even less than they have for so many years starting in the 2014 season.

This is obviously a reaction to the declines and long-term deals of Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia. The Yankees do not want anymore of those contracts on their payroll in the long-term.

However, the Yankees also have plenty of money to spend, with the departures of Martin, closer Rafael Soriano, and outfielder Nick Swisher, a grand total of almost $30 million between the three. 

That is the reason why not bringing back Russell Martin makes so little sense. He only got two years from Pittsburgh, and will only paid an average of $8.5 million, which is the same amount he earned this season. 

So now, the Yankees are forced to fill their spot at catcher with a high-priced free agent (Napoli, Pierzynski) or go with minor league talent (Stewart, Cervelli) in order to eventually bring up one of the three prospects they have still in their farm system.

The Yankees are in this dilemma because of themselves. They have time, but they cannot dawdle, because the remaining options could run out at any time. 

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MLB Free Agency 2013: Russell Martin, Pirates Agree on 2-Year, $17M Deal

******UPDATE (10:07p.m.)**********

According to Buster Olney of ESPN, the Yankees never even made an offer to Russell Martin this winter.




We had heard that Martin was waiting to see what the Yankees would do, but I guess he couldn’t wait any longer and pass up on the Pirates offer.


The New York Yankees officially have a vacancy at catcher for 2013.

Their catcher for the last two seasons, Russell Martin, has reportedly signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.

The deal is pending a physical and it’s for a two-year deal worth around $17 million, according to David Waldstein of the New York Times.


Martin hit just .211 but had 21 home runs and 53 home runs in 133 games for the Yankees last year.

The Yankees had offered him a three-year extension worth around $20 million in the winter, but it was rejected by Martin and his agent, Matt Colleran, thinking he could get more money and potentially more years in a deal.

Martin will join former Yankee teammate A.J. Burnett in Pittsburgh, who was traded there last winter with two years left in his deal from back in February.

Right now, the Yankees have Francisco Cervelli and Austin Romine penciled in as their catchers. Both are nothing more than backup catchers and aren’t projected to be starters.

So now Yankees GM Brian Cashman has to figure out a plan for the catcher spot.

Does he turn to a free agent like Mike Napoli or A.J. Pierzynski, or does he pursue a trade elsewhere?

Bleacher Report lead writer Zachary D. Rymer speculated on the Yankees trying to make a trade for Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer, although that would be a long shot.

Mauer is due $23 million per season until 2018, which is a huge salary for a catcher on the verge of turning 30. Plus, Mauer has a full no-trade clause, and who knows if he’d even waive it to play for the Yankees.

If any of you had hope in the Yankees trading for Mauer, don’t expect it happening anytime soon.

So right now, we all wait and see what Cashman will do as far as filling the catcher spot.

Stay tuned, Yankee Universe.

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Pittsburgh Pirates Reportedly Agree to Deal with Russell Martin

Russell Martin has reportedly agreed to sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates, according to Ken Rosenthal (via Twitter):

David Waldstein of the New York Times announced the terms of the deal shortly after the announcement by Rosenthal (via Twitter):

Martin, 29, was also considering a two-year offer to stay with the Yanks. Other interested parties joined in on the bidding as well.

The Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers both made offers, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

The seven-year MLB veteran catcher played with the Los Angeles Dodgers for five seasons and spent the last two years with the New York Yankees.

Last season, Martin was a Gold Glove finalist, but hit just .211 with 21 home runs and 53 RBI for New York.

His 2012 stat line of .211/.311/.403 wasn’t elite, but he is a middle-of-the-road performer at the plate, and a top-tier catcher behind it (.994 fielding percentage).

It’s surprising that the deal was only for two years. It was believed that the Yankees were only willing to offer two years and that’s why the Pirates had the upper-hand in negotiations.

It’s also not too hard to imagine why the 29-year-old opted to leave the Bronx.

The Yankees melted down in the playoffs last season, and there is uncertainty throughout the organization this offseason.

By going to Pittsburgh, Martin will get a fresh start and have the chance to bolster a team that is certainly on the rise.

Pittsburgh, in turn, gets the best-available catcher, albeit one who underperformed last year, but could return to form and outplay the value of his deal.

The veteran has a career stat line of .260/.352./.399/.751.

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MLB Free Agency 2013: Russell Martin Looking for Four Years, $9-10M Per Season

Russell Martin is one of the top catchers available on the free-agent market right now.

The New York Yankees are interested in bringing back the 29-year-old Canadian as their starting backstop, but according to Andrew Marchand of ESPN, his asking price is pretty high:



Martin turned down a three-year, $20 million extension to stay with the Yankees back in the offseason last year, but many felt he should have taken it given how his 2012 campaign went.

Martin hit just .211, but had 21 home runs and 53 RBI in 133 games for the Yankees.

After they transitioned Jorge Posada to the designated-hitter role in 2011, the Yankees brought in Martin on a one-year deal for $4 million and liked how he handled the pitching staff, which led to them giving him another one-year deal for $7.5 million for 2012.

According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports and WFAN, the Seattle Mariners, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago White Sox and Texas Rangers have all expressed interest in acquiring Martin this winter.

Aside from Martin, Mike Napoli and A.J. Pierzynski are the two other top names on the market. The Yankees have shown some interest in Napoli, but he has not met with them yet (he has, however, already met with the Boston Red Sox).

If the Yankees decide that is too much to offer to Martin, which according to Marchand in his tweet, seems to be the case, they will need a plan B.

I could see the Yankees inquiring on Pierzynski, but that’s only if they don’t bring back Martin.

I still think Yankees GM Brian Cashman’s main intent for the catcher position is to bring back Martin, but at a lower cost, because I can’t see them giving Martin a four-year, $36-40 million deal.

I think a two- or three-year deal for $7-8 million per year is a more reasonable contract for Martin.

And in my opinion, I think that’s what the Yankees will do—wait on Martin and see where his market is.

If his price comes back down to the offer from a year ago, I think they end up locking Martin up. If not, he’s as good as gone.

It’ll be very interesting to see where this situation goes from here and if Martin is back in the Bronx or not.

Stay tuned, Yankees Universe.

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