Pirates making serious push for Martin

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?

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

18 thoughts on “Pirates making serious push for Martin

  1. lazlosother

    I've been beating the sign Martin drum pretty much all season, for the same reasons you listed. He's actually been a solid player for NY in terms of salary/value and unless he falls off a cliff his demands aren't out of whack. I would hope it could be kept to three years, but even 4 would be less than terrible. In the meantime NY can see how Sanchez & co. develop.

    • uyf1950

      If they give Martin 3 or more years they might as well kiss Romine and J.R. Murphy goodbye and trade them. Plus the fact I can't in my wildest dreams imagine why the Yankees would consider giving/offering Martin a contract better in both dollars and or years then he turned down after last season. Consider his 2011 performance was considerably better in my opinion then this past season.

      • BrienJackson

        But it really wasn't. His wRC+ dropped just 5 points, difficult as that is to believe, and he didn't get hurt. Add in that he's a free agent now, and offering him an extra $5-10 million above what they offered last year should be a no-brainer.

  2. uyf1950

    Brien, actually what makes me cringe more is watching Martin look pathetic batting for 5 of the 6 months of the regular season. I just don't think Martin is worth 3 years at almost any price. That's just my opinion. And people always seem to want to bring up his defense. But if you ask me you shouldn't have to commit to 3 years and $20 or $30MM for a catcher who's primary value is defense.

    • This requires us to presuppose a suitable alternative to Martin, which I just don’t see. And the fact that he’s garnering such interest suggests that a handful of other teams, at least, don’t view him as being a part of some lump mass of indistinguishable catchers either.

      • uyf1950

        Seriously there is NO suitable catcher that can be had on the cheap for 1 or 2 years that can bat less than .200 for 5 of 6 months and is a good defensive catcher. Until either Romine is ready later this year or J.R. Murphy probably in 2014 or 2015 at the very latest. I really have a very difficult time believing that.

        • BrienJackson

          I can't think of one that's obviously realistic. Plus, you're overstating the extent to which Romine and Murphy look like good catcher-of-the-future options. The harsh truth is that the Yankees don't have one of those in any of their full season levels.

          • uyf1950

            I understand that about their "full season" levels. But Romine if his back doesn't act up looked pretty good when he had an opportunity to the Yankees what he could do. In fact if you recall this past September when the Yankees needed a backup catcher for a few games didn't they bypass Montero and place an "emergency" call to Romine. Also that why I mentioned J.R. Murphy for the 2014 or at the latest the 2015 season. Murphy played 43 games in Double A in 2012. He will probably spend part of the 2013 season in Double A and if the Yankees call up Romine at some point he should spend part of 2013 in Triple A. Like I said the problem with signing Martin to an extended deal is it stymies all these guys at their current levels there is nowhere for Romine to progress to and as a result nowhere for J.R. Murphy to progress to. If that's winds up being the case the Yankees might as well trade these guys and get something for them. Just my opinion.

  3. Tom

    Sign Martin, ease Romine into full time catching and trade Martin when he is ready to take over if necessary. Murphy and Sanchez need seasoning in the upper minor league levels.

  4. Cs Yankee

    I would max out at a 3/24 deal for Martin…they clearly need him this year in a big way, likely will need him in '14, doubtful he'll be more than a backup in '15. If he walks you could try and pay up for AJ on a 1-year only deal that he couldn't possibly pass on, like 1/15 or roll the dice with what you have and makeup for the "lost" production elsewhere (like Hamilton 1/35) .

    I would hate to lose cap dollars above 8mm for a guy that very realistically can be replaced in '14, or most likely in '15.

    They should spend like its 1999 this year, but be real careful for any committments in '14.

  5. Edmund_Dantes

    Hmm…I suppose there's no chance of getting montero and upton from the d'backs for granderson and the yankees farm system?

    • Gonna be a tough lift to make that work with the austerity budget, first and foremost.

      • jay_robertson

        An OT creativity question here – I know you can't front or back load a contract – its AAV. But what about a player option (or some kind of option that worked, if that didn't) – that paid low thru 2014, but then gave the player the discretion to bump his salary to market value (plus whatever he missed the first couple years.) ?

        • lazlosother

          If the player holds the option MLB treats it as a guaranteed year on the contract, and the amount is figured into the AAV.

          • jay_robertson

            Thanks – figured if I could think of it, MLB would have already closed the loophole.

          • uyf1950

            My friend I don't believe that's correct. At least that's not the way Jeter's contract is interpreted by MLB. Jeter's contract is for 3 guaranteed years ($48MM) with a player option for 2014 with a $3MM buyout. The ONLY portion of Jeter's option that MLB uses to calculate his/teams AAV for luxury tax purposes is the $3MM making Jeter's contract AAV for 2011/2013 $17MM per. Not the $48MM for the 3 years and the original $8MM 2014 option or $14MM per. I believe.

  6. Bill

    Romine's injury history should scare all of us. Of the young catchers, Sanchez and Murphy appear to make more long term sense than Romine, simply from a physical standpoint. Romine is a fine catcher and probably will hit enough, but a catcher with a back problem is not something you want to bank on long term. Martin is a known quantity and I will never be convinced that he's not a better average hitter than what he's shown the last two years. Plus he's hit 39 homers (plus one in the postseason) for the Yanks. From a catcher, that's pretty good. And his defense is just fine. If the Pirates are offering 3 years for $25 mil, the Yanks should at least match it. That would buy time for the young players and provide stability behind the plate, which is always important. Plus, his personality fits this team far better than AJ Pierzynski.

  7. uyf1950

    Even though personally I'm against the Yankees re-signing Martin for anymore then I've stated on this blog several times and for the reasons I've stated. I'm getting the feeling more and more that the Yankees will indeed make him a serious offer. Probably for 3 years and in the $21 to $24MM range which ultimately I think he will wind up taking.
    And as I've said previously I think that will be the clearest indication that Granderson will NOT be with the Yankees in 2014 and may not even make it through the entire 2013 as a Yankee. Just my opinion.

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