According to everyone on earth the Pirates have signed Russell Martin to a two year deal worth $17 million. The Pirates were rumored to be heavily interested in Martin and were said to have offered him three years earlier this week.
It seems the fanbase is pretty split on this deal. Most of what I’ve read to this point is negative. And that’s fine. Martin isn’t a risk free signing. In fact he hit just .211 last year. That .211 included 21 homers though.
One thing we can probably feel safe to say is that he is an upgrade over Rod Barajas. Still I find myself somewhat neutral on the signing.
I certainly don’t think it’s a bad signing in and of itself. If it’s the only signing, or acquisition, the Pirates make it will be a problem. If it forces the Pirates to non-tender Jeff Karstens tomorrow, or trade Joel Hanrahan to try and recoup some of the cost it is a problem.
All of those are hypothetical though.
Martin was ranked the #21 Free Agent in all of baseball by MLB Trade Rumors before the season started.
- Batting Average is low and has declined for five straight seasons.
- PNC Park may drain some of his power.
- Low BAbip.
- Pirates may have overpaid.
- Strikeout rate has increased.
- Solid walk rate. Would have led the Pirates in walk rate last season.
- Clear power potential.
- Great at framing pitches to get called strikes.
- Above average arm.
- Above average defensively.
Is Russell Martin a top catcher in the majors? No. Is he at least league average. Sure. Probably slightly above average with potential to be even better than that.
Martin is only 29, seeming older due to coming up at 23.
Part of the reason I think his power numbers increased last year is due to Yankee Stadium. It aided them. I also think it hurt his average and K-rate. The longball became a bigger part of his game, and he went after it. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to see him lose some power but see the average jump up a bit, and the strikeouts decrease.
Keep in mind though that he did hit for power in Los Angeles which is far from a hitters park.
Another aspect that we need to consider is his ability to throw out runners. I know the Pirates pitchers have to change, but we have a bit of an example to use in A.J. Burnett.
Burnett had a CS% of 24.1 in 2011 when Russell Martin was his catcher. Last year it was five.
There is no reason they can’t find some success again.
Is he overpaid? I think so. But the reason why is huge I believe. They overpaid him for two years, instead of giving him a fair market yearly salary for three. That reduces their risk. A three year deal on a guy like Martin could be a disaster. Two? Nothing major, dump the salary next year or sit him on the bench, it’s just one more year.
Overall, I’m neutral for now on this deal. The Pirates need to do more than this. This could be a good foundation for other moves, or it could be more window dressing. More on that as it unfolds though.