It seems like every day brings a new twist in the free agency of Russell Martin, but today the news is not good if you’re a proponent of bringing Martin back to the Yankees. George King reports that, with the Pirates and Rangers showing much interest in the Yankees’ incumbent catcher, Martin may sign with another club without the Yankees so much as making an offer of their own:
With the Pirates increasing an offer from two to three years for upwards of $22 million and Texas showing interest in Martin, the Yankees feel there is a solid chance Martin grabs a deal .
“He could be off the board before they get to him,’’ a person familiar with the situation said of Martin and the Yankees, who made pitching an early off-season priority over catching and right field.. “The Pirates and Rangers have needs at catcher.’’
King further reports that, though Martin likes the Yankees and would like to remain with the team, he’s not necessarily going to wait around and let the other interested teams move on to other options, especially if the Yankees are reluctant to offer him the prevailing market wage. And yes, this is about Hal Steinbrenner’s austerity edict.
I understand that a lot of people aren’t keen on paying Martin to stick around after he struggled at the plate, but as Stacey and I both agreed last night; I think this underestimates the extent to which viable alternatives are going to be hard to come by. In terms of free agents, it’s basically A.J. Pierzynski or a quasi-platoon scneario with Mike Napoli, neither of whom is likely to come at any less cost than Martin. They could hit the trade market for a young, cheaper, catcher, but that kind of commodity is almost never available, so to get one would likely require a hefty return. The only other option would be the waiver wire, but obviously the pickings there are likely to be slim.
All of which is to say that the choice is likely between re-signing Martin and having Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli doing the catching in 2013. Framed that way, I’d like to think Martin 95 wRC+ last season doesn’t look so bad.