• Yanks Want Russell Martin To Be Their Starting Catcher?

    Posted by on December 9th, 2010 · Comments (10)

    Via George King -

    The Yankees have extended an offer to free agent Russell Martin and explained to his agent they view him as a starting catcher.

    “They made an offer and have serious interest,’’ agent Matt Colleran said Thursday. “We are at the point where we are having serious discussions with the Yankees, Red Sox and Toronto.’’

    Asked what role the Yankees have told the right-handed hitting Martin they want him for, Colleran said, “starting catcher.’’

    Though the Yankees never guaranteed stud prospect Jesus Montero the starting job when they told Jorge Posada to be ready for extended DH duty, it was assumed Montero would get first crack at replacing Posada behind the plate. If Martin signs it could be an indication the Yankees aren’t convinced Montero is ready.

    Martin, 27, was non-tendered by the Dodgers recently. They were wary of going to arbitration with him after me made $5 million last year when he batted .248 with five homers and 26 RBIs in 97 games. His season ended Aug. 3 when he broke his hip sliding into home plate.

    Know the last time Martin had a slugging percentage above .400? That would be 2007. Know the last time Martin had an Offensive Winning Percentage above .446? That would be 2008. Yeah, back in 2007-2008, Russell Martin was a pretty good, albeit not great, offensive player for a catcher. However, the last two seasons? Think: Francisco Cervelli, last season. Or, maybe a tick better than that…say…Rod Barajas circa 2008-2009 or John Buck circa 2007-2008.

    Sure, maybe Martin can bounce back to those 2007-2008 level? Then again, in Yankeeland, he could be this season’s version of last year’s Nick Johnson too.

    Comments on Yanks Want Russell Martin To Be Their Starting Catcher?

    1. December 10th, 2010 | 1:27 am

      I disagree. First of all, he will be the catcher, not the DH, where less than average offensive production is acceptable. Secondly, if he does well, I believe he will still be under contract for next year, giving them the option to either stay with Martin and make Montero the DH, or trade Martin, with newfound value, and move Montero into the catcher role.

    2. MJ Recanati
      December 10th, 2010 | 10:53 am

      First, it all depends on what it costs to sign Martin.

      Second, as the comment above correctly argues, you can’t compare expected results from a DH and catcher to be the same. If Martin puts up the numbers he’s put up the past two seasons then he’s an average 1.4 bWAR player. That’s not exactly setting the world on fire but it’s better than Cervelli. Martin is an average defender which is actually an improvement from what we’ve had behind the plate the past several years.

      As Granderson/Swisher/Gardner showed us this year, defensive improvements to merely average (up from Damon/Abreu/Matsui/Sheffield/Cabrera over the past several years) actually create tangible benefits to the team.

      As long as the money isn’t ridiculous (anything over $4.5M would be overpaying), then Martin is a fine target to shore up the defensive issues behind home plate and hope that he can produce his .249/.350 AVG/OBP.

    3. Raf
      December 10th, 2010 | 11:16 am

      I can see the logic behind the move and it makes sense to take a chance on him hoping that he bounces back to his previous levels. And he’s insurance against Cervelli, Posada and Montero.

    4. MJ Recanati
      December 10th, 2010 | 1:18 pm

      @ Raf:
      Even if he doesn’t bounce back to previous levels, being merely average defensively will be an improvement to the ballclub from the poor defense the Yankees have had behind home plate the past several years.

      It gives the Yankees a chance to be more patient with Montero, provides a caddy for Posada (I’m sure he’ll catch a handful of games this year) and makes Cervelli expendable.

      I love Frankie’s personality but he’s a bad hitter that doesn’t field the position. That sort of combination makes his time in New York unsustainable.

    5. Raf
      December 10th, 2010 | 1:42 pm

      @ MJ Recanati:
      I think they go with 3 catchers this year, regardless of if they sign Martin or not. If Martin signs, he’ll be the primary, Montero the understudy, and Posada a hybrid DH/C. Cervelli will probably be stashed @ AAA.

      Agreed that Martin buys more time for the kids to develop, but I think it will be more for Romine than anyone else. Pilittere and Cervelli will be around as well

    6. MJ Recanati
      December 10th, 2010 | 1:47 pm

      @ Raf:
      I agree, they are definitely going with three catchers this year, at least for the first few months to see how Montero handles the workload (and how the pitchers respond to working with him).

      I could see the Yanks signing Martin, using him a lot early and then cutting him loose if he’s not working out or if Montero is ready to assume greater responsibility. Sort of like Randy Winn last year as a hedge to if Gardner wasn’t up to the task.

      Also, FYI, I’m pretty sure PJ Pilitere became a minor league free agent this past year and was let go.

    7. Raf
      December 10th, 2010 | 6:54 pm

      MJ Recanati wrote:

      Also, FYI, I’m pretty sure PJ Pilitere became a minor league free agent this past year and was let go.

      Ah, I see he signed with the D-Backs (Kevin Towers strikes again?)… Oh well, point still stands that Cervelli & co will be @ AAA waiting until someone goes down @ the ML level :)

    8. 77yankees
      December 11th, 2010 | 10:13 pm

      I sure hope if they don’t get Lee, they don’t try to compensate by signing Martin, then turning around and wheeling Montero for a pitcher who doesn’t want to be here (cough, Greinke).

      Might as well just turn the clock back to the 80s then.

    9. MJ Recanati
      December 12th, 2010 | 8:28 am

      @ 77yankees:
      I don’t think the Yankees are signing Martin as a prelude to trading Montero. They’re trying to add Martin to hedge against Montero flopping behind the plate and being forced to put Posada back there more than they want to.

      When the Yanks couldn’t trade Montero for Lee in July, the ship sailed on Montero leaving the organization in 2011. We’re going to see him this year, either on Opening Day or by June 1st.

    10. Raf
      December 12th, 2010 | 12:40 pm

      MJ Recanati wrote:

      I don’t think the Yankees are signing Martin as a prelude to trading Montero. They’re trying to add Martin to hedge against Montero flopping behind the plate and being forced to put Posada back there more than they want to.

      Exactly. Martin would mean less of Cervelli, not less of Montero.

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