Since Hiroki Kuroda signed up for another tour in the Bronx last week, the hot stove season has heated up quite rapidly for the Yankees. Yesterday we learned that the Yankees expect to have deals in place with Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera sooner rather than later, and today Jon Heyman reports that a decision from Russell Martin may be coming this week as well, and that Martin is likely to choose between the Yankees and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
On the whole, four teams are interested in Martin at the moment: the Yankees, Pirates, Mariners, and Rangers, and Heyman characterizes Pittsburgh as making a “spirited effort” to land the Yankees’ starting catcher. Heyman speculates that Pittsburgh may make the high offer for Martin somewhere in the three year, $25 million range, which is both at the low end of the speculated range for Martin’s contract that’s been batted around recently, and easily less than what Martin is reportedly seeking. Heyman also reports that the Yankees haven’t approached that figure in their offers yet.
I know that a lot of fans are down on Martin after he hit .211 in 2012, and spent a hefty chunk of the season below the Mendoza line, but all the same I think he’s largely being undervalued by those who’d rather see him elsewhere next season. For one thing, while his offensive line wasn’t much to write home about on the surface, his 95 wRC+ was average for an American League catcher, and he’s a superb defender behind the plate. Given the scarcity of quality backstops around the league and the fact that catcher is clearly a premium defensive position, I don’t have any problem paying an average hitting, run saving player to man that spot. It would be one thing if the Yankees had solid alternatives, but they certainly don’t have any of those in house at the moment, and it seems unlikely that they would sign A.J. Pierzynski or make any major effort to acquire a viable starting catcher in a trade.
In other words, which of these scenarios makes you cringe more: Russell Martin signing a 3 year, $25-30 million contract, or Francisco Cervelli and Eli Whiteside competing for the starting catcher job when Spring Training comes around?