Thinking out loud on failing to extend Russell Martin

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As I’m sure you know by now, there were some mid week reports that the Yanks and Russell Martin were discussing a contract extension. Those reports were shot down almost immediately, and it turns out they were just a rehashing of some pre-arb hearing conversations that went nowhere. Both sides have since decided to shelve any further discussions until after the season, when Martin is due to become a free agent. The talks apparently broke down over cost. The Yanks were willing to go 3 years and around 20M, while Martin was seeking more than that. Both sides have solid reasons for walking away. From Martin’s perspective, he knows another healthy and productive season should garner him a more lucrative deal in terms of years and dollars. From the Yankee side, a player with Martin’s health history has to come at some discount unless and until he proves his issues with his hip and knee are behind him. He had solid year overall (.237/.324/.408) posting a 3.1 WAR according to Fangraphs, but has yet to recapture the All Star form that he had early in his career. Though injuries may not be the main reason he hasn’t been the same. It could be argued that after an eye opening rookie season and a breakout sophomore campaign in 06-07, his numbers declined and have leveled off to the player he is today. Looking at his BP player card there doesn’t appear to be anything serious injury-wise before August of 2010, and his numbers had already declined the year before. There may be a bit more there with the bat, as his career .359 OBP would suggest, but we haven’t seen the elite bat (to go along with his always stellar defense) for the past 4 years, most of which were relatively healthy.

Even with that being the case, 3 WAR Catchers are a highly sought after commodity. Only 6 players at the position posted a higher WAR last year, 2 of whom (Miguel Montero and Yadier Molina) are scheduled to become free agents along with Martin next year. “Scheduled” is a key word there. Players like Montero and Molina are considered to be cornerstones of their respective franchises, and its hard to imagine their clubs not locking them up long term before hitting the open market. Neither player is repped by Scott Boras, so there’s no guarantee they’ll hit the open market. Martin could find himself in a strong position as the only real Catcher (sorry Mike Napoli) available and the 3 year deal the Yanks were kicking around during arbitration could easily become 4 or 5 for Martin, who just turned 29 only 11 days ago. At that point, the timing of the deal and who they have in house gets a bit complicated.

Let’s address the in house candidates. No one familiar with the Yankees views Francisco Cervelli as an everyday catcher. In the classic mold of the platoon player he hits lefties well but struggles facing righties. Plus he makes goofy faces, and as any old time scout will tell you guys like that are destined for the bench (sarcasm alert). The next Catcher in line would be Austin Romine. On the plus side he earns well deserved raves for his defense, pitchers love throwing to him, and the bat has made strides in recent years. But he’s yet to log a full season in AAA, had concussion issues last year, and its difficult to imagine him being ready to assume control of a veteran staff as soon as 2013. That may change, Cervelli has had a number of his own bouts with concussions, and if he lands on the DL again this year Romine would get an extended look. Should he impress with the bat as well as the glove, the Yanks may opt to get a veteran backup with some pop and hand Romine the starting gig, which would mirror the Girardi-Posada platoon of the late 90s. But the ideal scenario would be to extend Martin for 2-3 years, and work in Romine slowly before handing him the reigns. Failing to extend Martin makes it unlikely that will happen, so now a team loaded with Catching prospects may have a bit of uncertainty at the position over the next few years.

4 thoughts on “Thinking out loud on failing to extend Russell Martin

  1. RobertGKramer@AOL.Com

    I’m a little concerned about Romine’s back.

  2. Jerkface

    Are you sure Romine’s bat has ‘made strides in recent years’? It seems more like he peaked at A+ and has been all downhill from there. His reputation as a solid defender is not backed up by his defensive stats in the minors, where even a guy like Cervelli managed to throw out 40% of runners and as we recall Cervelli was touted as major league ready defensively quite early on in his minor league career.

    • T.O. Chris

      CS% is a terrible way to determine catcher defense. First of all it has nothing to do with the most important aspects of catching defense, blocking balls in the dirt, framing pitches, and calling a game. It also can vary wildly based who’s running against you, pitchers ability to hold base runners on, and pitchers control. If you have a pitcher who can’t hold a base runner close, and is really wild with his fastball, you probably aren’t throwing out a high percentage of runners that day.

      With that said the times I have watched Romine behind the plate I haven’t been overly impressed by what I’ve seen. He’s not bad, and you can tell he has the potential to be a good backstop, but he isn’t yet at the level of an above average MLB catcher as most proclaim him to be. All the scouting reports back up his potential to be an above average defensive catcher at the major league level one day, though a few have said that he is still raw right now and needs more work.

      He looks over matched by good fastballs with the bat, that is my biggest worry about his future development. He didn’t have as bad a year in AA as many make it out to be, but it wasn’t overly impressive either as his slug really dropped from years past. One thing I do like is that his walk rate has steadily increased as he has moved up levels, which can only be a good thing. But as pitching has gotten better his ability to make solid contact consistently has gone down, which is a scary trend for someone who has yet to play in AAA more than 4 games.

      Ultimately I’m not worried about the defense, his bat is going to determine his future in this league. If the bat develops a little further I see him as either a league average, to slightly above average league starter. If he continues to be over matched by good fastballs he’s going to end up a back up catcher, in the mold of a better version of Cervelli. At worst though I do think his floor is higher than that of Cervelli right now as he should have more power than Frankie, which holds value.

  3. Frank Spero

    romaine didsn’t strike me as better than montero as a matter of fact he sucked in comparision they should have kept jesus m. and gotten pitching by buying it

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