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

Tim Williams

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 AccuScore.com, 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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  • skliesen

    Tim, are we starting to see the effects f the new MLB TV deal in some of these signings? How else does one logically explain this contract? I realize the Phillies GM loves aging veteran players even more than Clint Hurdle, but seriously this signing is ludicrous at face value. If I was a Phillies fan, I’d be pissed.

    • jaygray007

      I dunno. Is the contract really thaaat bad? I think there’s a pretty good chance he outperforms it. It sure makes the Martin signing look even better, but i’m not sure i’m ready to say “I’d be pissed” if i liked the Phils.

      I’d be upset because they seem to be a franchise with no plan, but this contract as it is really isn’t terrible IMO. Similar with the Utley deal. I think there’s a good chance Utley earns that extension, but signing these vets to extensions gives them no ability to move forward as an organization. they’ll continue finishing just below .500, and getting mediocre draft picks, and extending their aging talent.

    • https://www.facebook.com/scott.skink Scott Skink

      That was my initial thought as well. All of sudden it seems like MLB has become the Argentine economy.

      The thing that should concern the Pirates is that with this kind of salary inflation, it would appear that the supply of players being offered QOs at end of the 2014 season will increase exponentially – potentially limiting the market as few teams are willing to give up a 1st round pick. Granted, the Bucs will have two of the better players on QOs with Martin and Liriano, still, it’s got to be making Neal a bit nervous and perhaps a bit more anxious to make a trade rather than wait till end of year.

    • http://www.facebook.com/stephen.brooks.581 Stephen Brooks

      The money isn’t out of whack even by pre-TV increase standards – Ruiz is a good bet to give the Phils 1.5-2.5 WAR over the next couple years and earn the deal. It’s the contract length that baffles me. Philly has 3 catching prospects in the upper minors (Joseph, Rupp, Valle) and this deal blocks all three of them. I get the concern that none of them is ready to take over for ’14, and of course Ruiz isn’t going to sign for less than 2 years, but you can bite the bullet with someone like John Buck on a 1-year deal and then promote from within. Instead, the cycle continues.

  • IC Bob

    You mention the Phillies will continue to finish just below 500. Am I missing something here. Do they have a history of performing below 500 or was last year the first year they did it in about a decade?. I think Ruiz is pretty good. Two years ago he batted 330. Last year he was hurt the whole year and it affected his numbers. This deal isn’t so bad. As a Bucs fan I think we should focus more on what our team does or doesn’t do and less on what other teams are doing. Also as fans I think we should reserve comments on perceived bad moves by historically successful franchises.

    • csnumber23

      Yeah he was hurt the whole year, that is the point. He is a 35 year old catcher breaking down. That is why this is a horrendous signing. The Phillies continue to do nothing but sign old players to big money. They will not be competitive for years. They either have no clue or just refuse to rebuild.

      • IC Bob

        Historically Martin has broken down more then Ruiz. Additionally I would think that Martin has caught far more games then Ruiz during there careers. Ruiz has been getting better until last year while Martins hitting has languished over the last 5 years. Don’t get me wrong I love Martin but I think that deal was pretty fair. I might not have gone three years but in todays game 8.5 million isn’t that much for a top end catcher (as the Pirates proved last year).

      • http://wkkortas.wordpress.com wkkortas

        “They either have no clue or just refuse to rebuild.”

        I’m not sure that shouldn’t be “and” instead of “or”.

    • jaygray007

      IC, I was the one who said the Phillies would finish below .500. you’re right it isn’t a huge history of not being there. I’ll be impressed if they improve this year with their aging stars. but there’s a chance they get a sip of the fountain of youth for sure. a bounceback by rollins and non-regression by byrd, and they could be okay. I just don’t see a contender, let alone a sustainable contender. But I didn’t mean to get anybody so riled up! apologies!

      i agreed with you on the Ruiz signing. I don’t think it’s too bad either.

      And I personally like talking about other teams as much as the Pirates, but that’s just me. What other teams are doing is important as well. It’s all connected.

    • buster09

      Wake up Bob. Most Phillie fans ARE pissed,they see an aging team falling further behind teams like the Nats and the Braves,with the Mets and Marlins beginning to stack up young pitching. And as a fan of BASEBALL and the Pirates,I am interested in the entire off season and the player movement. You concentrate on the Pirates,most baseball fans can walk and chew gum at the same time.

  • CalipariFan506

    I think given the Phillies current system that this is the only option to even remotely compete. They could tank it and get some top 5 picks, but with the money that organization makes, fans would be furious. Until their system improves (and they have traded A TON over the past 5 years) they are limited with their options.

    • http://wkkortas.wordpress.com wkkortas

      I can see where the Phillie fan base could be angry, but trying to somehow coax another playoff run out of the Rollins/Utley/Halladay?Howard/Lee core by surrounding them with a constant flow of guys in their mid-to-late 30s…well, that smacks of the last days of Biggio and Bagwell in Houston, and we see how that turned out. The Phils could lose 90 in 2014, and may be flirting with 100 losses before too long. They really need to hit the reset button.

      • CalipariFan506

        Amaro gets fired if he pulls the plug. He’s sacrificing the future of the organization to keep his job as long as possible.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 leefoo

    I hadn’t thought about offering Martin a QO after the year. That COULD work out real well for us.

    However, I DO hope Sanchez is ready….otherwise……aarrgghh!

    • leadoff

      Lee, he will be ready, he is ready now and would be the starting catcher this year if Martin was not around.