Russell Martin Is a Symbol of the Weak Catching Market

Russell Martin didn’t have a season like Rod Barajas had in 2012, but he wasn’t exactly elite. The catcher hit for a .211 average and a .713 OPS, which was almost 90 points higher than Barajas. Those numbers don’t look like an elite catcher, but that doesn’t mean Martin won’t be a highly sought after target on the free agent market.

In perhaps the biggest sign of how weak the catching market is, Jon Heyman explains how Martin is the top free agent on the catching market. Heyman notes that Mike Napoli is seen as more of a hybrid player who will spend time as the DH and at first base. He also points out that after the options for Brian McCann and Carlos Ruiz were picked up, the market looks thin.

Martin and AJ Pierzynski are the top names on the free agent market, although Heyman notes that the White Sox could bring Pierzynski back. He also notes that the Yankees have good depth at the position, but could bring Martin back to be their starter. If not, he mentions the Pirates, Mariners, and Rangers as teams who are in need of a catcher and could spend.

After Martin, the list of catching options isn’t that appealing. David Ross seems to be the next best name, even though he’s strictly a backup. Ross had 196 plate appearances last year and played in 62 games. Both were his highest marks since 2007. After Ross there’s guys like Miguel Olivo, Yorvit Torrealba, Kelly Shoppach, Gerald Laird, and Barajas. None of those guys are prime candidates to be starters.

Martin made $7.5 M last year with the Yankees. Considering the lack of talent on the market this year, he could be looking at something similar for 2013. If the Yankees want him back, they’ll probably get him, which means the already thin market would only get worse.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • kimbercarry

    I’m not very optimistic about the Pirates catching situation for next year. At this point should be give the Fort the starting job and give Sanchez a chance to prove himself at the back up position? I’d hate see us spend money just to do it and end up in the same situation as this season (Barajas)

    • Ian Rothermund

      Maybe this is this situation where the Pirates would benefit from making a trade, whether it’s a younger player or a veteran.

      I just have a problem with the idea of McKenry and Sanchez as the catchers on a major league team. If they had a legitimate starter, then yes, definitely bring Sanchez up….but McKenry is not that guy. It’s possible that the two of them would wind up being the weakest links in the NL, and if McKenry doesn’t come out slugging next year, there would be no reason to hold back Sanchez from being the starter since he’s most likely a superior defensive player.

    • Lee Young

      Ian…I agree…trade seems the best route.


  • emjayinTN

    Martin is a sign of a weak market for Catchers, but he is 30 years old for the 2013 season compared to Rod Barajas at age 37 to start the season. That is why I cannot see a problem with offering Barajas the backup role – just a reversal of the numbers of games he and The Fort did last year. If we can get him for $2 mil, and use him as the backup, and mentor to both McKenry and Sanchez, we are money ahead. What he has between his ears is much more valuable to us at this point where we have 2 young, inexperienced kids as our future behind the plate.

    • jalcorn

      Barajas was terrible defensively too. You can’t have a no hit, no glove C. They would be much better off giving Tony Sanchez atbats and at least have a good glove back there.

      If you want a mentor, hire Barajas as a coach.

      • Lee Young

        jalcorn….agree….still hoping for a trade of some kind for some young, at least semi-promising catcher.



      • emjayinTN

        j: Are the Pirates going to promote Tony Sanchez? You know that will not happen until at least June. It is the era of former Catchers as successful Managers, so why not get the player/mentor/coach combo? Where the minimum is around $500K, I see $2 mil as a bare minimum for what he can bring. After Sanchez does his time at AAA, bring him up and keep Barajas in a different capacity.

  • thatboringdude92

    It’s a good thing it’s a weak catchers market this offseason or we might have to rely on players like Barajas as we did last offseason where the top free agent catcher was 35+ year old Ramon Hernandez.

    Good teams aren’t dumb and let good catchers go.

  • leadoff

    And to think, to get Martin they would need to spend north of 7mil. I wish me or the Pirates would have the ability to see the future, in hindsight, I wish they would have taken Posey instead of Alveraz even though I think Alvarez will develop into a great player. The catching position is so weak with talent these days.
    I have seen Sanchez play and I think he could give the Pirates more than Barajas gave them and still develop further, however this team is pretty well built at this time and the missing piece for position players is the catcher. I think I might be inclined to make a trade for a veteran catcher, if that does not work, then go with Sanchez and the Fort.

    • Lee Young

      In hindsight, Weiters over Moskos.

      I’d like BOTH Pedro and Weiters.

      C Foo


      • kimbercarry

        Bingo Lee. That draft mistake is costing us big time right now. Another one that I’m anxious to see how it turns out…… I really liked Manny Machado in 2010. I hope Tailon pans out in the long run.

    • buster09

      @leadoff : I wouldn’t disagree with both of your points leadoff looking back now. However,if Littlefield had done his due diligence in 2007,taking Posey in ” 08 might not have been necessary. Not only did he pass on Wieters for Moskos,he also passed up Devin Mesaraco and then Yasmani Grandall later, if I’m not mistaken. He, ( Littlefield ) in my opinion, committed many more drafting mistakes than are usuall out in the open.

  • Thom Kay

    I want David Ross, if we don’t have to overpay to get him to Pittsburgh. What’s the guy have to do to impress people?

    In the last four years, he only has 663 PA’s. But his .816 OPS, wRC+ of 122 and .357 wOBA over that time are better than Yadier Molina. He’s also thrown out 40% of base runners, just slightly behind Molina.

    Not saying he’s as good as Yadier. But strictly a backup? I hope we give him a chance to be a starter.

    • Lee Young

      Thom….I agree…we had him once….let’s get him again.


    • Stephen Stull

      Completely agree that he would be a better option than Barajas or Martin. I live in ATL now and have watched Ross play the last couple of years. He’s not great but should be relatively cheap and would perform better than Barajas.

      • jalcorn

        There’s little reason to think Atlanta will let Ross get away. McCann just had surgery and will miss the first few weeks of 2013.

  • beatembuccos21

    Can we all stack hands and agree that Huntington bungled:
    1. Giving Doumit an extension that was too heavily weighted on the back end. He was going to get $15 million plus for two years while MIN has locked him up for three years at $10 million.


    2. Not getting him to stay in Pittsburgh at a reduced rate. The fact that the Pirates paid Barajas another $1 million over what Doumit got and signed him about two weeks before MIN inked Doumit drives me batty.

    I don’t care if the guy is hurt for half the season. Give me 80 games of McKenry behind the plate, 60 games of Doumit and let Sanchez or someone else handle the other 22. I’d be happy and I’d be happy on the cheap.

    There was talk after the 2010 season that Brian Sabean was lucky – all of his moves in 2010 paid off, the team won in spite of some bad FA signings by him, that he hadn’t done much well except in picking his first round picks etc.. Sometimes you make your own luck and Huntington botched the handling of Doumit two times. The 2012 Pirates paid for his mistakes.

    Also, Tim – is John going to post something about Pascual Perez’ death? I expected to read something on this site about it and have been surprised by the silence regarding his murder.

    • emjayinTN

      I think the Pirates would have signed Doumit, Maholm, Wilson and Sanchez for less. All were given generous contracts and the thought was that they would be worth the kind of money that was back-end-loaded. However, when it gets to that point and the guys have not earned consideration for anything near that, it is their call whether they want to take less to stay. Doumit got $3 mil and he is right where he belongs – in the AL where he had extra value as a DH. Maholm got half of what he was due in a Club Option from Pittsburgh to go to the Cubs. He would still be a Pirate if he would have taken that.from the Pirates. Atlanta has accepted the CO for 2013, which is around $6 mil, and I think he is in a good place for he and his family.

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