Re-Signing Russ Is The Right Move

Bring this guy back. Courtesy of Jim McIsaac/Newsday

(The following is being syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod)

It could be a lot different.  Russell Martin could be kicking back right now recuperating from the long season and waiting to enter the second year of a 3-year contract.  But he chose to decline the Yankees’ offer before this season and took the plunge on another 1-year deal.  That plan backfired a little bit on him, as Martin’s .211/.311/.403 batting this season didn’t do a lot to help his negotiating leverage this offseason.  But Martin is a known commodity in the Yankee organization, and a valued on at that, and down season or not it sounds like things are already progressing towards a new deal to stay in the Bronx.

Anthony McCarron of The Daily News reported last Sunday that the team and Martin’s agent have already talked and that, “it was all very positive.”  Nobody is close to putting pen to paper yet, but the fact that talks are starting this quickly shows there is desire on both sides to have Russ remain in a Yankee uniform next year.  Checking the rest of the backstop landscape this offseason, that’s the best move the Yankees can make to address their catching situation.

Internally, the Yankees don’t have anybody capable of stepping in and filling Martin’s shoes should he decide to walk.  Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli are not everyday Major League catchers, and it sure doesn’t seem like newest Yankee Eli Whiteside is either.  Austin Romine isn’t ready for full-time duty after missing a huge chunk of this season, and Gary Sanchez is still years away from taking the job.  All indications are that the team didn’t lose much in terms of catching ability by giving up Jesus Montero, but the void he created between Martin and the next group of potential in-house catchers is still a very wide one.

Outside the organization, there isn’t much to get excited about on the free agent or trade market.  A.J. Pierzynski turns 36 next month, is coming off a career year driven entirely by what appears to be a freak spike in power, has never been a great defensive catcher, and is a notorious asshole.  Mike Napoli, appealing as his offensive numbers might be, played in just 108 games last year, caught just 72, and has never caught more than 96 in a season.  The last thing the Yankees need is to create another full-time platoon spot in their lineup.  Brian McCann is an interesting possibility, even after Atlanta picked up his option, but he would cost prospects in a trade and is coming off shoulder surgery.  And while David Ross is the hot new name on the scene, I’d be very wary about handing a starting job to a 36-year-old career backup who has only played more than 100 games in a single season once in his career.

So back to Martin.  Yes, as a whole his 2012 season wasn’t a successful one, but there are plenty of reasons to believe he can and will have a better year in 2013.  His 21 home runs were a career high and right up there with the best catchers in baseball, so there’s clearly still life in his bat.  And it’s not too hard to connect the dots and see there was some serious bad BABIP luck that affected him all season.  .222 is too low by any standards, and when that number did start to normalize towards the end of the year (.271 in September) so did Martin’s batting line (.258/.347/.539).  Martin is still a good defensive catcher, he’s got good rapport with the pitching staff, by all accounts he’s a great clubhouse guy, and he’s a pretty damn tough dude.

If there was a truly better option out there, I would be in favor of pursuing it.  But there isn’t, not one that is significantly better than the whole package that Martin offers.  He’s been relatively healthy in his time as a Yankee, he’s been productive, and he’s a great fit with the rest of the roster they’ve constructed.  Get a new deal done with him, preferably another 1-year job with an option for 2014, and check another thing off the offseason To-Do list.

Born in Dover, Delaware and raised in Danbury, Connecticut, Brad now resides in Wisconsin, where he regularly goes out of his way to remind Brewers fans that their team will never be as good as the Yankees. When he’s not writing for IIATMS, he likes to spend his time incorporating “Seinfeld” quotes into everyday conversation, critiquing WWE storylines, and drinking enough beer to be good at darts.

10 thoughts on “Re-Signing Russ Is The Right Move

  1. Is this article a joke?

    Martin is the worst catcher in the major leagues by .20 points among catchers with over 40 games, and his defense is crap. His clutch defense is even worse, as demonstrated in the playoffs. Martin does not even belong at the AA level. I will make a prediction right now and say that if Martin is the Yankees catcher next season, they will not go to the Series in 2013.

    • GMC

      Calling him the worst Catcher in the league is a little much in my opinion. I know his stat line wasn’t great, but he did hit 20 HRs and was solid behind the plate.
      I mean think about what he went through defensively in the playoffs, can’t deny the guy is tough as nails. By no means is the best Catcher though, I just think its unfair to call him the worst and frankly given the market for catcher he’s probably the Yankees best bet, at least in the short term.

      • Nick

        There’s better options short term. The Yankees’ problem is all or nothing hitters and this guy for the longest time was just nothing. Signing AJ or Napoli or looking internally would be a better option and should be the route the Yankees go.

        • GMC

          As Brad pointed out AJ and Napoli weren’t exactly tremendous upgrades. Especially with Napoli who, if I remember correctly, hasn’t played 100+ games at catcher ever.
          Honestly, I was thinking of a really short deal (1 maybe 2 years) with Martin its not like I wanted the guy for the next 5 years. Still I completely understand most people’s frustration with Martin.

    • bottom line

      I tend to agree that re-signing Martin would be a mistake — unless it’s a one year deal.
      But I think the bigger issue — and one Cashman refuses to address — is that the $189 budget cap makes it highly unlikely that the Yankees can both win in the near future and rebuild over the longer term. Getting better while losing our own core players and being unable to bid top dollar on free agents will be really tough. And trading young talent to get veterans who can help for a year or two will cripple the franchise long-term. I see no realistic alternative but t bite the bullet and begin rebuilding.

      I’d like to see a realistic acceptance of the difficulty of contending without financial flexibility and with an old and declining set of players. To me, biting the bullet would include a willingness to at least consider trading Cano and Granderson, along with a refreshing new willingness to integrate young homegrown players on to the major league roster. Maybe they can compete this year with retreads. But by next year they will need to start bringing along their own young players or the future under this new CBA (Selig’s dream come true for reing in the Yankees) will be very bleak.

  2. Nick

    Bringing back this garbage is anything but the right move. Are you kidding me? He had a horrendous first half complemented with and overhyped average second half. He’s not a super star defensively and I honestly believe the Yankees would be better batting eight players and substituting an instant out for him instead. There’s plenty overall options out there. AJ might be an ass, but can play. Who cares if his defense isn’t great? Martin isn’t either and is an asshole when it comes to contributing offensively. Or take a chance on Napoli. Anything is better than Martin. Get real.

  3. roadrider

    Wow ,Russell is not getting much (or any) love in the comments here. I agree that bringing him back is the right move. Yes, last season was frustrating and there is some risk that the future might not be much better. But those who are arguing that he shouldn’t be brought back haven’t proposed any realistic alternatives. AJ Pierzynski? You’re buying high on an older guy coming off a career year who’s bad defensively and considered to be a jerk. Napoli is a DH who can catch some games not a first-string catcher. I like the idea of acquiring McCann but he’ll cost a lot and you’re gambling that he’ll be the same guy after the shoulder surgery. Romine’s not ready, Cervelli is not a major-leaguer and Stewart is a backup (at best).

    The idea of a 1 year deal is ludicrous. Martin will be looking at multiple offers for more years than that. The Yankees aren’t the only team that needs catching. 3/$24 is probably what it will take and the risk is somewhat mitigated by the fact that Martin will be tradeable if Romine makes big strides during the term of the contract.

    • Chris

      Hey common sense! I’ve missed reading you in relation to the Yankees in recent weeks.

  4. Duh, Innings!

    I’d sign David Ross to a one year $2M base contract where he makes more the more plate appearances he collects.

    The name of the game is defense and Ross and a re-signed Stewart would play it at a fraction of the cost of two or three years of Martin who is worthless without his homeruns.

    • Chris

      That’d be difficult since the Red Sox signed him to a 2 year 6.2 million dollar deal before your post.

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