Revisiting Russell

Back in mid-December, I wrote a piece in which I crowd-sourced a possible Russell Martin contract extension. I think it’s worth revisiting now, considering how the catching circumstances in the Yankee organization have changed.

Obviously, Jesus Montero is no longer an option at catcher for the Yankees. The biggest impact player behind the dish, Gary Sanchez, is still years away. Francisco Cervelli is most definitely not a long term answer, and Austin Romine remains relatively unproven. Romine likely has the highest probability to succeed, but his ceiling may not be as high as we once thought it was. His bat has stagnated a bit, though BA’s latest scouting report (subscription required) still speaks pretty highly of his defense.

With the question of future Yankee catcher a bit less clear now, let’s look ahead to 2013 and beyond. Martin is now under contract for 2012; he and the team avoided arbitration with a $7.5M deal and even discussed a two year contract. If we look ahead to the list of free agent catchers for 2013, we don’t see many horribly desirable candidates. Brian McCann is obviously the best, but there’s no way his option isn’t picked up. Chris Iannetta is solid, but also has an option. Mike Napoli is essentially a catcher in name only. Miguel Montero is intriguing, though, and David Ross may turn a head or two.

Still, it’s too early to peg any of these guys as candidates as the 2012 season hasn’t even reached its infantile stages yet. The fact, though, that the Yankees discussed a multi-year deal with Martin is indicative of their appreciation for him. With Montero out of the picture, I’m starting to think we’ll see Russell Martin in the Bronx beyond 2012. The two factors that will come into play most are cost and the performance of Austin Romine. If Romine takes a big step or two this year, he and his cheap contract could trump Martin, especially with the $189 by 2014 target looming (which always makes me think of this). Perhaps, though, that budget concern won’t apply much to Martin. Unless he completely rips the cover off the ball this year, I don’ think his price tag will venture much further than it already has. What say you, readers? Do you want Martin in the Bronx beyond 2012?

15 thoughts on “Revisiting Russell

  1. T.O. Chris

    I love Russell Martin, he has become criminally underrated by a fan base that places entirely too much emphasis on offense from the catcher position and completely ignores defense. He has plus pop in his bat for someone playing catcher, and I don’t think it’s a reach to say he’s one of the best defensive catchers in the game. I’m thrilled to have him back for another season, especially at a relatively cheap 7 million, I’d also have no problem with him signing a 2 or possibly 3 year deal after the year is over. But I would like to at least have the Yankees consider Miguel Montero if he reaches free agency. M. Montero is no slouch behind the dish himself, and at the plate his left handed swing fits Yankee Stadium better than Martin’s right handed one. The biggest tipping point for M. Montero though is that he’s a year younger and never had the kind of injuries Martin has had in his career. When locking up any catcher on a long term deal injury is always a big risk, the catching position just opens itself up to injury more than any other position on the diamond. I feel a little more comfortable with M. Montero’s health in the long term than I do with Martin’s. Montero’s bat is also more of a middle of the lineup bat than Martin’s though so he will probably cost more and be inking a longer deal, which will obviously play a factor in which one the Yankees choose.

  2. Agree with T.O.

  3. I have no problem with a couple more years of Martin

  4. Tom Swift

    The 2014 target is driving a lot of things. Have to wonder whether M. Montero on a multi-year deal would put too much stress on the 2014 budget.

    • T.O. Chris

      How much do we think M. Montero is getting on his contract and for how long? I think as it stands now you’d have to expect Martin to get between 8.5-10 AAV for 2-3 years if he re-signs long term with the Yanks. How much more is Montero worth?

      I suppose the Yankees could always go with Romine for the cheap option, but I for one would be pretty upset with this plan. As it currently stands Romine is not as good as Martin defensively and both M. Montero and Martin are light years ahead with the bat, maybe more so than he will ever be.

  5. Bean Tooth

    A couple more years of Russell would be a fine thing.

  6. Patrick

    Ok I know Sanchez is few years away but what if Murphy,Higgy, or Romine step up this season? It seemed Russell had a good start to season but really declined after that. With his injury history it may be a good thing going year to year. Personally I like that kid down in Tampa, Ravel Santana. Hope he comes back from that ankle injury because he was really having a good season.

    • T.O. Chris

      Santana is an outfielder, not a catcher, so he isn’t really a qualifier for this job.

      Murphy has yet to even play in AA ball, and will start the season in High A, so even if he had a monster year at the plate and made huge improvements behind the dish he at best would make it to AA by the middle of the year and go no higher. Not exactly anything to count on, or not re-sign Martin because of.

      If “Higgy” is Kyle Higashioka, I don’t you think have to worry about it. He just made it to High A last year and he has struggled mightily with the bat at every level he’s been in. He really isn’t even on the radar as far as future catchers, or even prospects in general. He’d need to have a huge year just to start being in the conversation of being successful in the minor leagues.

      Romine is the one who could potentially change plans around for the future. He should start the season in Scranton, if he somehow makes huge strides at the plates, and continues to improve behind the plate he makes himself a legit option for starting catcher in 2013. Though I think he would have to have a monster year with the bat. He’s stagnated in AA posting a .727 OPS in 870 PAs over the last two years in Trenton.

      If Martin puts up another season of 120+ games he deserves to be the starting catcher over anyone else in the Yankees system come 2013.

  7. bpdelia

    I think he might have been talking about tejada when he said Santana. Even as intriguing as Murphy tejada and Sanchez are the EARLIEST we will see them is 2014. Romine reeks of brad ausmus to me. A guy who will peak in his early 30s as a decent everyday catcher. He is nowhere close to ready to supplant Martin who considering his defense is IMO one of the top 5 catchers in the al right now

  8. Patrick

    Tejada! That was who I was thinking of… Doh!
    I just don’t think Martin should be considered relatively cheap at 7M per. If you look at the list of highest paid catchers, Martin comes in at the 4th highest paid catcher in baseball. With the Yankees trying to get below 189M they may be better off spending their money elsewhere.

    • T.O. Chris

      It depends on how big the downgrade is at the position. Catcher is an extremely important position on a baseball team, and much more so defensively than offensively. Considering how good Martin is behind the plate, combined with his power he is a very valuable player. I wouldn’t be comfortable going from Martin to Romine at this point in Romine’s career.

      Considering Soriano’s nearly 12 million per year, and Burnett’s 16 million per year comes off the books after 2013 we can allocate some of that money into Martin’s, or M. Montero’s contract, and still have plenty of money left over to get under 189 for 2014.

  9. Michael P.

    No need to sign him to an extension now. We only have him because of injury concerns. Let him prove he can stay healthy (and productive) another year.

    • T.O. Chris

      I don’t think anyone is suggesting signing him to an extension now. He just inked a one year deal to avoid arbitration, so we don’t have to worry about his contract situation again until next year. But it is an appropriate discussion to have. The Yankees clearly broached the idea of a 2 year deal, which in essence would’ve been a 1 year extension. That actually would’ve been pretty favorable since it would’ve kept him a Yankee while limiting risk.

      The question now becomes who would you rather have for 2013 and the forseeable future, M. Montero, Martin, or Romine. Romine is clearly the least desirable choice of the three, but I think the contracts are going to be pretty different between Montero and Martin. With Martin probably signing a 2-3 year deal and M. Montero signing for somewhere between 4 and 6 years.

      • Michael P.

        I would rather resign Martin and have him mentor Romine. That is, if Romine can prove his bat worthy in AAA. Pitching staff likes him, so after this season a 3 year deal for me would be ideal. catchers usually take a long time to develop, and I don’t want to hand over the reigns to an unproven rookie. I like the idea of letting catchers ease their way into the position. Its not like any other in baseball, its contingent on your relationship with the pitchers as well as your own performance.

  10. dirtywater

    “Do you want Martin in the Bronx beyond 2012?”

    Maybe you should ask the question before giving the answer that the Yankees need him beyond 2012.

    Romine is slipping in prospect rankings and thats not because the tide is rising.He ranks way behind Martin’s bat which seems to be on life support now.

    Cervelli is the forgotten man.

    Sanchez shows signs of following the Montero path…too much too soon and not a lot of blocking drills in between trips to go stand in the corner.

    So really there is no choice is there?

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