First Pitch: Russell Martin’s Deal is Looking Great Right Now

The Russell Martin deal looks even better today. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

The Russell Martin deal looks even better today. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Today the Philadelphia Phillies signed Carlos Ruiz to a three-year, $26 M deal with an option for a fourth season that comes with a $500 K buyout. The deal will pay Ruiz $8.5 M in each of the next three years, with the chance to earn an additional $500 K for 125 games caught. My immediate reaction to that deal?

Russell Martin looks like a steal right now.

The Pirates signed Martin to a two-year deal, paying him the same $8.5 M per year that Ruiz will receive. The differences:

**Ruiz will be 35 years old next year and is coming off a season where he played 92 games and had a .688 OPS. Martin was signing for his age 30-31 seasons, and was coming off a year with a .713 OPS.

**Ruiz isn’t a bad defensive catcher. He was worth 3 defensive runs saved in each of the last two years. But he’s nothing like Martin, who was worth 16 defensive runs saved this past season.

**As far as defensive runs above replacement, Ruiz has seen his numbers on the decline, going from 15.5 to 6.2 from 2010 to 2013. Martin had a career year this past season with a 22.7 mark.

It’s possible that the Ruiz signing could work out for the Phillies. Maybe his bat returns to what it was in 2012. Maybe he stays healthy and continues to put up strong defensive numbers. But forget about Ruiz for a second, and consider the impact with Martin.

If Carlos Ruiz — entering his age 35 season, coming off an injury shortened season with poor offensive numbers — can get a three-year deal paying $8.5 M per year, then what is Russell Martin going to get after the 2014 season? Martin will be entering his age 32 season. He might not have a career year defensively again, but as long as he doesn’t totally tank this year, he should be in high demand next off-season. If Ruiz is getting $8.5 M with his situation, then Martin could be looking at eight figures a year easily.

For the Pirates, this means a few things. One is that they had better hope Tony Sanchez is ready to take over in 2015. It would be best to have Sanchez as the backup in 2014, getting major league at-bats and playing time, while working in the same clubhouse with Martin. I’m not saying it’s impossible for the Pirates to re-sign Martin, but they’re going to have other players starting to make big money during that period, and Martin could be in high demand with a high price carrying him into years where you might not want Martin at a high price. The best approach might be to consider the Martin signing a tremendous deal, then see if Tony Sanchez can be a younger version of Martin.

If Martin leaves, it’s also possible that the Pirates could see compensation. They didn’t make the qualifying offer to A.J. Burnett, but that was a different situation. Burnett is probably only returning for one year. Martin will be looking at multiple years if he has another good season in 2014. There would be no way he takes a one year deal over multiple years at $10+ M. Getting a draft pick for Martin, after hopefully two great years at a great price, would be the icing on the cake.

For the 2014 season, the Ruiz signing means that Martin is coming to the Pirates at a huge value. If you had a choice to pay $8.5 M in 2014 to just one of the two catchers, Russell Martin would be the easy choice.

Links and Notes

**Pre-Order the 2014 Prospect Guide

**2014 Baseball America Top 10 Pirates Prospects

**Pirates Name Jeff Branson the New Hitting Coach

**Pirates Release Three Minor Leaguers

**Winter Leagues: Ramirez and Polo Come Up Big in Win

Author: 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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