First Pitch: If the Pirates are Going to Pay Market Rate on Anyone, Make it Russell Martin

A few weeks ago I wrote that the biggest priority for the Pittsburgh Pirates should be re-signing Russell Martin at the end of the year. On Sunday, Neal Huntington talked about a few of the catchers in the system, and also commented on the possible market for Martin this off-season. The comment was made when discussing Tony Sanchez and his improvements towards being a starter. That raised concerns that the Pirates were setting up for the loss of Martin already.

“Tony has had some challenges as most guys do when they feel that they’ve graduated from that level,” Huntington said on Sanchez. “Maybe the focus hasn’t been quite as sharp. But, as of late he’s played better and gotten back to being the guy that we need him to be and the guy that gave us comfort. If the market goes where we think the market is going to go on Russ Martin and we’ve got to become creative then we’ve got an internal option in Tony Sanchez. But, we’ll see, we’re still working through that. We need to see some things from Tony here in this last month to continue to grow and develop.”

There’s a lot to dissect in the second half of that quote. The key part is focusing on the potential market for Martin. I don’t know where the Pirates think the market could go for Martin. Charlie Wilmoth wrote an article at MLBTR looking at Martin’s free agent stock, and estimated that the price could be $12-13 M per year. I think that sounds about right, although if teams valued Martin’s defense and pitch framing properly, combined with the horrible catching market, the price could be closer to Brian McCann’s deal last year. I think the $12-13 M figure is a good figure, since I’m not sure that teams will place the proper value on catcher defense on the free agent market.

Last off-season the Pirates refused to make a qualifying offer to A.J. Burnett, with Huntington making a comment about how they couldn’t afford to spend that big of a percentage of payroll on one player. I never took that statement at face value. Burnett was in a situation where he was saying he would play for the Pirates or retire. Obviously that didn’t happen, and the Pirates ending up with no compensation for Burnett leaving is another topic. But I don’t think the Pirates refusing to give Burnett $14.1 M means they would also refuse to give anyone that amount. If we’re going to believe that, then we’d have to believe that Andrew McCutchen will only be in Pittsburgh for one more year, since he will start making $13-14 M a year in 2016.

But we know that isn’t the case with McCutchen. That’s an extreme example where you’re comparing an MVP who is in his prime to an aging pitcher coming off two good seasons. So where does Martin fall on this scale?

I didn’t have a problem with the Pirates not making Burnett a qualifying offer. I felt that their ability to judge pitchers and find good reclamation projects gave them some leeway. Basically, after finding Burnett and Francisco Liriano the previous two years, they had earned the right to build a rotation how they wanted to build it, rather than having to play it safe and go with moves that made the fans comfortable. Things were rocky at first, but the rotation they have now is looking great, with two reclamation projects — Edinson Volquez and Vance Worley — both pitching well.

The Pirates have shown a good tendency to find good value on the starting pitching market. They haven’t necessarily shown those same tendencies when it comes to developing catchers in the majors. Now it’s true that they saw something in Martin that other teams didn’t see. That led to one of the most valuable signings of the last two years when they signed him for $17 M over two years. At the time, that wasn’t even seen as a good deal, from myself included. Since that point, we’ve seen the value of Martin’s defense alone.

As far as prospects, Huntington praised Tony Sanchez, although the continued throwing issues from the 2009 first round pick raise questions about whether he can actually work as a starter. Chris Stewart hasn’t lived up to any of his defensive reputation this year, which means the Pirates would be better off going with Sanchez as the backup next year. This would give him another opportunity to prove himself in the majors, without the Pirates having to fully commit to someone who hasn’t looked ready defensively when he’s been up.

A step lower than Sanchez is Elias Diaz, who is having a nice breakout season. However, Diaz won’t be ready for the start of the 2015 season, and his offensive sample size is still too small to say that he’ll be more than just a backup.

The Pirates can find value when it comes to starting pitching. They can pass on outfielders like Marlon Byrd because they want to wait on Gregory Polanco. They can go with a platoon at first base to try and get a combined sleeper at the position. But they can’t afford to pass on Martin just because they don’t want to pay market rate.

If there is anyone they should pay market rate for, it’s Martin. His value has been far too important to this team. He’s been one of the best defensive catchers in the league, and a huge boost to the rotation. I don’t think you can count on his offense continuing at the 2014 levels going forward, but I think he’s worth that $12-13 M estimated price on his defense alone. If you look at the Baseball Prospectus numbers on blocking and pitch framing, he has been worth two wins per year for those skills, not counting any other aspect of his game. He does come with the risk that he’s getting older and his skills could decline, but I don’t think the defensive skills will see such a decline, especially since Martin keeps in good shape.

The Pirates have to be careful with the risks they take financially. They have to look for value, and avoid being stuck with a lot of dead weight in salary. Martin is a good risk to take. I’d say the impact he provides, and the role he plays on this team is only second to Andrew McCutchen. He’s one of the most important players to the Pirates winning. There is no one on the market who can even match what he can do. There’s no one in the system who the Pirates should trust to replace him in 2015. If Tony Sanchez comes up as the backup and proves himself in that role, then making the switch to Sanchez in 2016 would make sense. Otherwise, Martin is the best guy for the job, and a guy who deserves to be paid market rate, along with an aggressive pursuit to sign him.

Links and Notes

**Andrew McCutchen Placed on the DL, Casey Sadler Recalled

**The Big Issue With Holding Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker Off the Disabled List

**Will Pedro Alvarez Play Another Game at Third Base for the Pirates?

**Alen Hanson Could Play in Pittsburgh in 2015

**Prospect Watch: Is Luis Heredia Starting to Show Improvements?

**Tyler Glasnow Named FSL Pitcher of the Week

**Austin Meadows and Buddy Borden Take Home Weekly Awards

**Prospect Highlights: Gerrit Cole Strikeout, Andrew Lambo Triple

**Minor League Schedule: Kingham and Glasnow are Headed in Opposite Directions

 

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.

Share This Post On
  • Scott Kliesen

    I was nodding my head in agreement with this entire article until the very end. How exactly are the Pirates going to re-sign him AND prepare to give the starting catcher job to Sanchez in ’16?

    If Martin comes back it won’t be on a $12-13 mm deal for one year. Somebody is going to pay him that much or more for several seasons. So which is it Tim, give Martin a competitive deal or prepare to have Sanchez take over behind the dish? Because I can’t see how they can do both.

    • emjayinTN

      Scott: The $12-13 would be the first year (2015), then possibly $11-12 the second year (2016), and then a club option or even a reasonable vesting option ($11 mil) for the 3rd year (2017). I would also include a signing bonus of around $3 mil – that would offset any difficulties with the numbers in any of the years. At worst, 3 years $39 mil. Sanchez is another story altogether. At 26 he has allowed Elias Diaz, 23, to be seen as a legitimate possibility to pass him by both as a defensive player and an offensive player. A 12% rate of throwing out base stealers compared to Diaz’ 30%+ at AA? I think he is up to around .225 for a batting average, which is also not in the ballpark compared to Diaz.

      The Giants, Cardinals, Atlanta, and Cincy are all falling back and the Pirates, playing without ‘Cutch, Walker, and Alvarez are playing winning baseball so far in August (6-4). The kids are maturing, and we have to like the leadership of guys like Martin, and new “veterans like Harrison and Mercer.

      • Jared

        This is all 100% correct in my book. I think, and people may disagree, that the Pirates would have a realistic chance of not only missing the playoffs but dropping from a winning team to a .500 team or worse without Martin. (1) the way he handles the pitching staff for me is the biggest factor, even beyond his defense. (2) look at how our team pitches and what we need from our pitchers to be successful and tell me that they would do as well with someone other than Russ (or you could just look at the stats and see how much worse they perform without Russ catching). (3) His elite defense is almost second to none…again, his year defensively last year was the best defensive year by a catcher in the last 12 years. (4) Look at how we’ve won…we’ve won so many or been in so many 1-run games and someone wants to honestly say that we could continue to win the 1-run games if our catcher went from 35% caught stealing to even 20% (giving Sanchez a little boost here)?

        The Pirates are in big trouble if they let Russ walk and not only will I be disappointed, but I will have to seriously question the front office’s intentions and ability. (By the way, why would the Pirates even acquire Stewart if Sanchez was so good? Couldn’t/shouldn’t he have earned the right to be the backup catcher then?)

      • leowalter

        It isn’t hard to agree with that emjay.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com/ Tim Williams

      Multi-year deal for Martin. Then, if Sanchez looks like he can be a starter, due to his work backing up Martin in the majors next year, you trade Martin and give the job to Sanchez in 2016. Otherwise, keep Martin.

      • Scott Kliesen

        I thought you may have had that in mind Tim, but since you didn’t mention it, I wasn’t sure.

      • csnumber23

        Tony Sanchez does not look like a starting MLB catcher to me. Completely agree, Martin has to be resigned. Start with a QO and then work out the extension.

      • FrankRestly

        Tim,
        Do you think the Pirates keep him longer than 3 years (3 years + option year), if they are able to play him at 1b some? Still like to have the veteran leadership even if Martin isn’t behind the plate every day. I think this is Gaby Sanchez’s last year on his contract so can Martin become the right handed portion of a 1b platoon? It could spell him from catching duties while keeping his bat in the lineup.

  • HamburgBucco

    The Pirates should make a good offer, maybe even slightly overpaying is an option, 15m a year or so. Money should be there as wages will be saved most probably by letting go the likes of Barmes, Liriano and Volquez.
    This is still a rather cheap team as far as wages are concerned, there aren’t too many big earners on this team and our policy of recruiting from the farm system mainly means that the wage bill will remain manageable.
    We are even getting by using utility players like Nix who is cheap, but a decent defensive option to fall back on whenever needed – in short: We should be able to afford Martin, hopefully he likes Pittsburgh and the organisation enough to not consider leaving for a matter of one million dollars or so, with the career he’s had so far I reckon he’s pretty much set up for life anyway.
    Of course, if bigger teams come in with a ridiculous offer (20m a year for four years) we reach a point where the risks involved may dwarf the overall benefits.
    Tony Sanchez (or Elias Diaz) would still get plenty of opportunities to get involved

    as aging catchers like Martin will probably start needing more days of rest.
    So Sanchez could play at least twice a week.
    Either way no matter how hard the Pirates work on a deal and how much they are willing to sacrifice in financial terms, the ultimate decision is with Martin.
    We’d all like to think that the players love the Pirates and the city of Pittsburgh as much as we do and consider this too when making contract choices.
    The harsh reality may be that Martin would gladly play in Colorado as long as they offer a bigger contract than the Pirates.

    • emjayinTN

      HB: We will not sign Barmes or Liriano, but we should do a QO to Liriano. But, you mention Volquez and all he has done in the last 3 months so far is go 4-2, 3.67 in June, 2-1, 3.12 in July, and so far in August he is 1-0, 2.13. I am not sure whether we will make him an offer of any sort, but he has done an excellent job for the Pirates and especially when we needed him most.

      • HamburgBucco

        Agree about Volquez, all I’m saying is the money should be there IF the Pirates want to make Russell their priority number one signing.
        I think they might be willing to sacrifice someone like Volquez even, simply because Russell handles the entire pitching staff so well.
        Sanchez will probably be nothing more than a backup for years to come.

  • jaygray007

    letting martin go would be the first time in a looooongggg time that i’ll be legitimately mad at something the Pirates do money-wise.

    Burnett made sense to me. Losing Martin would not.

    It wouldn’t be logical to let him leave. Therefore, they will not let him leave. I truly believe that.

    • Lee Young

      Jay Gray….I am cautiously optimistic that they will, at least, QO him.

      And, Burnett made sense to me, also.

  • Lahinch02

    Well, we know RM has played 3rd. Maybe he can play 1st a couple of games a week? The price of retaining RM will be minimal when compared to the cost of letting him leave. How management handles this negotiation will exhibit much to the fan base, His departure would create a void on the field and in the clubhouse.

    • lsutton

      His offense doesnt play well at 1B unless he continues this career type year.

      • Lahinch02

        Agreed.
        His average year is better than the platoon tandem there now.
        Doubtful the FO will fund both RM and a big bat at 1st.

      • FrankRestly

        As the right handed bat in a platoon system, I think it would play well enough.

  • DarkPhenix

    2 years $30M. And he’d still provide a ton of value. If Martin goes to another team for less than that, NH has blown it. I get the impression the FO understands the importance of Martin and should be willing to shell out the appropriate dollars. It seems to me that catcher is the single most important position in baseball. And good catchers are hard to find.

    • bucsws2014

      I doubt Martin signs a two year deal. I’d think somebody will offer him at least four, possibly up to six for some irresponsible AL team (or Dodgers).

      If the Bucs don’t sign any major FAs (e.g. >$10mil/yr), they can afford to pay Martin $15 mil/year for 4 years and still not break $90 mill payroll until 2018, assuming they continue their current MO of paying minimum-$2mil to most of the bullpen and reserves. That would include potential extensions for Cole, Hanson, Mercer, plus keeping expensive parts like Walker (in addition to the entire OF and Harrison through third year arb).

      Looks to me like next year they’ll be hard pressed to spend $75 million w/o signing some big name. Based on Tim’s numbers, even with Martin making $15 mil, the payroll looks like it’ll come in around $65 (assumes a rotation of Cole, Morton, Locke, Cumpton, Kingham).

      They can afford Martin w/o breaking a sweat.

      • Jared

        And I will repeat that they can and should also consider affording Liriano. Look at him pitching healthy and tell me that he couldn’t be a strong asset for the Pirates rotation for the next 2-3 years. The knock on him was that he couldn’t repeat a good year he was one-year-on-one-year-off…if he keeps pitching like he has been lately he’ll end 2014 with an ERA around 3.40 (or better) and a 1.20 WHIP for the season. Since the All-Star break Liriano has a 1.69 ERA and opponents are hitting .168 against him.

        I do believe Nutting once said that when the time came that the Pirates were competing and contending the money would be there to spend. The Pirates are going to break their all-time attendance record this year…yes, they can afford to keep Liriano and Martin on this team.

        • bucsws2014

          Given DK reported that he confirmed Nutting was willing to go to $90 this year to get Price, we know the money is there. This now becomes a philosophical question that might actually be answered by front-loading a multi-year Martin deal so that there’s positive value throughout the term of the contract. Imagine the Bucs offering $18/$18/$14/$10 or something like that. That could easily give them the advantage over other bidders.

          • Jared

            The Pirates, especially with the extra TV revenues and the soon-to-be all-time high in gate revenue, can 100% afford to go beyond $90M in payroll as well. IF the Pirates want to continue to be competitive and continue to see the high turnouts (Martin is also clearly a fan favorite) by fans then they’ll have to act like competitors and keep some of the talent, albeit expensive talent, that they have. Russell Martin is not only worth extra wins on the field but he’s definitely worth extra wins with the fans off the field. The way he plays he’s gained a ton of respect by the fans and has been a huge reason that respectability has come back to Pittsburgh…and it is not like we’d only be paying for those intangibles…he produces. He had the best defensive season by a catcher since 2002 last year and is batting .290 this year (even if that is unlikely to be sustained).

        • leowalter

          +++ Jared. See my comment on a potential rotation not including Liriano.

          • Jared

            If the Pirates do not sign Martin AND Liriano OR someone similar and a decent bench player I will be very very upset. This is a contending team with amazing fan turnout…and the capability of continuing to be competitive and get the turnout. Produce a winner and Pittsburghers will show. The investment needs to be made and the money available and it should be…Martin and Liriano are a good start to that.

      • leowalter

        I shudder to think of that potential rotation. You are counting on Cumpton and Kingham along with Morton and Locke on a contender next season ? Who is catching might be irrelevant in that case.

        • http://batman-news.com NMR

          Truth.

          • leowalter

            NMR : just thinking about that gives me the shivers.

        • bucsws2014

          Read it again. That rotation is at a payroll of $65 million – of which $15 million is going to Martin. So there’s another $10 million to buy another starter just to get to this year’s payroll level. If they open with an $85 mill payroll, they’ve got $20 mill to spend.

          In other words, there’s plenty of money to go buy a starter or pay Liriano and even Volquez if they wanted.

          • leowalter

            Sorry, but I can’t read between any one’s lines, or their minds. If you would’ve said that, I would have agreed with you. All I could think of is a rotation counting on pitchers like Kingham, Cumpton ( who is now converting to relieving anyhow ) Locke and Morton and Taillon coming back from TJ is a depressing thought.

            • bucsws2014

              Leo, you don’t have to read my mind. All you need to do is read English. It was clearly stated $65M included Martin with the rotation pieces mentioned. With that info it should be obvious there’s $10-$20 mill let to spend. Even the grammar, punctuation, verb-noun agreement and proper sentence construction conventions were applied :-)

              • leowalter

                That 1st comment of yours regarding an assumed rotation,says nothing at all about re-signing Liriano,Volquez or any one else at all. You mention ” buy another another starter ” in your 2 nd comment. But you first comment, which I was replying too, assumed a rotation of Cole, Morton,Locke, Worley etc etc…. and that is very much what I was referring too as frightening, depressing, scary or any other adjective that fits

  • NorCalBuc

    Part of the Bucs success has been their quality play up-the-middle. Cutch and Martin provide tremendous value; I’d say Mercer and Walker provide above avg. on offense and at least average on D. This quartet ought to be maintained as long as possible.

  • Matt Beam

    I’d definitely give him a QO; what would be too much to pay even for Russ? I’m thinking it’s actually the number of years and not the yearly rate; for me, I’d find it hard to give him 4 yrs, unless the 4th yr is at a discounted number – 2yrs/$25M or 3yrs/$35-40M or 4yrs/$40-45M yes; 4yrs and over $50M no

    • bucsws2014

      This is where the Bucs will be in uncharted territory for them. How to think like a real World Series contender.

      What is the worth of a 4-year contract that will probably have a negative return the final one or two years? Can the FO handle that philosophically? It’s a big question as the probability of the Bucs making a WS run in next two years without Martin are significantly less than with him. But those last two years, you’re probably paying him over market.

      Thus, what is the cost of truly wanting to win? Ball is in your court Neal & Bob.

      • Jared

        I think you also have to weigh this: McCutchen is 27 and is going to be 28 at the end of the season. Can you really afford to continue to say “we’ll keep getting gradually better and eventually it will pay off” when your MVP/leader is going to be 28 next year? Can you say “keep looking forward” when your best player, while under team control for 4 more years, is in his prime and does have a window where he can be a part of the overall success of the organization. I, like Tim, do not agree with “windows” for organizations, but I do think that a player has a certain window of success and with McCutchen heading into his 28 year old season do you let a vastly inferior catcher come and waste one of the few seasons you have left of McCutchen when you could have spent the money to keep Russ?

      • lsutton

        That isnt “WS contender vs. non contender” its “large market vs. small market”. Teams like Oakland and TB are WS contenders some years, yet they dont simply give away 4 year deals to aging guys and think “2 bad years of that contract is worth the price of winning”. 2 bad years at 15 million per makes it very tough to sustain success and resign key guys.

        • bucsws2014

          Open up Excel. Then open up Tim’s link on projected payroll. Then enter Tim’s salary data for each player onto your spreadsheet. Take a stab at who you’d keep on the team for the next four years. Figure out projected arb salaries using the standard 40/60/80 formula. Figure that for bench and relief, other than your 8th/9th inning guys, all salaries are between minimum and $2 mill.

          As the last step, come back here and tell us when the Bucs are in trouble of spending north of $90 million between now and 2018 that would make it difficult to re-sign anyone.

          You’ll find the answer is only in 2018 do they even have the potential for going north of $90 – and that’s if they’re still paying Walker $10 mill do something other than play 2b. Keep in mind that 4 years from now, $90 mill will be a bottom-feeder payroll and the Bucs will have new TV revenue streams.

          In other words, money is no longer an issue. The Bucs have achieved astounding cost control at virtually every position, other than catcher.

      • FrankRestly

        You could front load the contract – $15 million for the first year, $12.5 million second, $10 million third, club option at $7.5 million for fourth year. It would work well with the upward adjustments on McCutchen’s contract.

  • impliedi

    Nice write-up, Tim, as usual. You have the unenviable task, sometimes, of trying to parse Neal’s words. Luckily, you take them for what they’re worth, whereas, I think sometimes others (and in other places) feel that whatever Neal says is EXACTLY what the Pirates are thinking (and that it never changes – like applying the quote about the AJ situation to every other discussion about possible Pirates signings).

    I think it’s pretty clear that Huntington NEVER shows his hand when it comes to discussing trades or free agency ahead of time. I’m guessing that he doesn’t want the Pirates interest known in an unnecessary way to drive up a players’ cost (If he were to come out and say “Signing Russ is our #1 priority”, then other teams might prepare higher opening bids to Russ or allocate more money, knowing they would have to outbid an intensely interested team.) Although, I have to wonder if this really works. I’m sure on the INSIDE, teams know which teams are interested and who has offered what. And while the Pirates might act nonchalant about their interest in Martin, hoping that it keeps the PRICE down, might actually drive up the NUMBER of teams that make offers. A team that figured the market might be too high for what they want to spend to upgrade their catching position, might say, “wow, with only (blank) teams interested, we might be able to get him at a lower price.”

    I think that the Pirates will make a very competitive offer for Martin. As we find out all too often, sometimes that gets you the guy, and many times it doesn’t. So, you have to prepare for either way.

  • bucsws2014

    This has nothing to do with Martin, but as I have tix for tonight (and my Honus bobble!) and it looks highly unlikely the rain is going to stop before tomorrow, I checked both team’s schedules and there is no common off day for a makeup. Thus, the probability of a Sept 29 game exists – along with potential pitching alignment issues that might screw up planning for the playoffs if that game actually matters to seeding.

    I’m anticipating MLB waiting forever to get tonight’s game in if there is any hope of a couple of windows to complete 5 innings.

    • DarkPhenix

      They’ll play an early afternoon game then fly to Detroit and play a night game as a home and home doubleheader. Lol.

  • jaygray007

    Watch them let Martin walk, the fans nearly burn PNC Park down, and then Sanchez goes and hits .300 and 20 dingers.

    But seriously, letting Martin walk would be a case of trying to win the WAR/$ competition. That’s the competition you play when you’re rebuilding. A contender should be playing the “maximize WAR while getting close to your max payroll allowance” game.

    If they let Martin go, I’d better see somebody like James Shields or Jon Lester in the rotation to make up for it.

    My ideal realistic 2015 roster includes Brandon McCarthy and/or Liriano, Russ Martin, and… if they’re feeling frisky…. Chase Headley.

    • Jared

      With a top 5 farm system, a competitive major league team, and a lot of money coming off the books next year you’re right the Pirates should definitely not approach the offseason like a rebuilding team. The Pirates can afford a couple of things this offseason, realistically: Martin, Liriano, and a bench bat or two. They can let Davis walk play Alvarez/Sanchez and save $5M there. They will save $5M without Volquez. They can save more without Barmes. Giving both Martin and Liriano $5M a year extensions would really only bring the Pirates back to where they currently are (plus extras in arbitration etc).

      • jaygray007

        They’ll probably might need Barmes or someone similar on the bench, but yeah i agree with your points.

        Some money coming off the books, and there is strong evidence that Nutting will allow a payroll into the $90 millions (the $12 million offer to Burnett as well as the pursuit of David Price). No reason not to bring in someone fun whether it’s Martin or someone else.

      • Monsoon Harvard

        They could let Sanchez walk too and get at least the same, if not better production from Matt Hague.

        • S Brooks

          It may not be defensible, but Gaby’s struggles irk me a ton more than Ike’s do.

        • http://batman-news.com NMR

          Gaby is a career .290/.385/.482 (139 wRC+) against Big League lefties. Matt Hague is a career .306/.379/.443 hitter against Minor League lefties.
          .
          It’s completely understandable to be disappointed in Gaby this season, and it’s reasonably understandable to not want to pay a 1B-only, short-side platoon hitter $3m or so, but let’s not delude ourselves into thinking Matt Hague would be anywhere near as good.

          • S Brooks

            The caveat being if your $3M short-side platoon 1B-only guy is at or below replacement level, that’s $3M better put to use elsewhere. So Hague is not the answer, fine, there will likely be alternatives on the market (free Corey Hart! No, seriously, take him. He’s free).

            • http://batman-news.com NMR

              There will be alternatives, but will they be as good? I assume you were joking about Corey Hart.

            • http://batman-news.com NMR

              Even in a down year, Gaby has still been the 2nd best platoon 1B bat in baseball. I could see a Jeff Karstens-like non-tender followed by signing him at something below projected arb. But really, that’s a lot of tap dancing for a million bucks or so.

              • S Brooks

                That’s not a very long list.

          • Monsoon Harvard

            Whatever bat speed Gaby ever had is long gone this year. Not to mention power. I am more inclined to believe the reports earlier this season about his use of steroids in college, because he hits so many fly balls to the warning track these days.

            Last season and this season it has been all too obvious, he just doesn’t have that ‘oomph’ to get it over the fence anymore. Whatever strength & bat speed he ever had that led to him hitting 19 homers one year was no where to be seen from him last year and now.

            Gaby Sanchez should be batting 8th if he even plays, because he has no ability to knock in runs. Ever since Tabata left, he’s been their biggest rally killer.

            • Frank Brank

              Did you not read above where he’s 40% more productive on offense against lefties than the league average hitter? Do you really think the ability of keeping rallies going is an actual skill or talent?

    • marcorincon

      .300 and 20 dingers still most likely won’t make up for Martin’s defense. He’s such a pro behind the plate – It’s like, “No worries” when he’s in the lineup.

      • jaygray007

        the actual numbers were not the point of the comment! i guess i should’ve just generalized to “watch sanchez be awesome next year”

  • Mike C.

    I agree with everything Tim said and the comments below.
    But…… even if we pair market price, hell even if we go Over, sadly I think a team like LA makes him a offer he can’t refuse.
    Look at the many would be contending teams with bad catchers, look at the 2015 catcher FA market.
    High demand, low supply.
    Hope I’m wrong.
    I wish RM loved his time here too much to leave, wish he doesn’t take the highest offer, wish NH is willing to really over pay…

    • BlueBomber72

      I agree with this. We can’t really compete once he hits the open market. The rest of MLB isn’t stupid and someone will beat whatever the Pirates offer. I would like to see him sign before he hits the open market, but he has no incentive to do so. We’ll see who plan B is.

      • http://batman-news.com NMR

        I don’t blame you guys for being conditioned to think this way, but is Russell Martin really the kind of player the Pirate truly can’t afford on the open market? I don’t think so.
        .
        Also something to think about regarding big markets is that Matt Wieters is the real big fish in the coming years. The Cubs or Dodgers may rather wait a year for him than commit to Martin.

  • Stargell_Stars

    1000% agree! Russell Martin is so valuable to the Bucs on and off the field that they should do everything they can to re-sign him.

  • scbucsfan

    So if the Pirates make a qualifying offer, wouldn’t that decrease his market value and increase the Pirates chances of signing him? How many years would a team be willing to sign a 32 year old catcher? I don’t think a 3 year deal would offset the first round pick and I don’t think anything more than 3 years would be wise. But I guess the big market teams don’t seem to care about dead money at the end of the deals.

    • S Brooks

      QO does depress his market. Although, it should be noted, the teams most in need of an upgrade (and with no prospects in the upper minors) will likely have protected picks – Cubs, White Sox, Rockies. The Jays need a catcher but I don’t see Martin signing up for three years on turf. The Padres might also be on the list, but their focus is on getting some guys who can hit first and foremost.

      • http://batman-news.com NMR

        It’s a good point, but I just can’t see it making any sense for the Rockies to take on another sizeable position player contract when they so desperately need pitching. I’m also not sure if CWS is at a point in their rebuild where short-term contracts make a lot of sense.

        • S Brooks

          Yeah, I was weighing the “what they should do vs. what they will probably do” when adding Colorado to that list. Rockies could very easily seduce themselves into believing the only thing keeping them from a competent pitching staff is health. Among Lyles, Anderson, Matzek, Nicasio, Chacin and Butler they have choices to start the season, with Chatwood and Gray likely to help round about summertime.

          Rosario, on the other hand, is 10 miles of bad road, and it would help both parties to Carlos Santana him (though the bat is decidedly not on a par with CS).

          With respect to the Sox, I was prepared to take the over on their rebuild until I checked his stats: while I’ve been sleeping, Tyler Flowers apparently went all ape-poo on the league and is now a perfectly serviceable catcher.

          • http://batman-news.com NMR

            Ha, I did the same thing with Flowers…
            .
            Thing is, your scenarios are completely plausible as I’m sure are others we aren’t even thinking of. I can talk my way out of them, but that isn’t necessarilly what the team is thinking. Gonna be a shootout, for sure.

  • JRay03

    If he doesn’t get a QO, shame on them. Anything more then 2 years is too much. Catchers offense tends to fall off a cliff, 2 years 28 million should be a gamble they are willing to take.

    • Frank Brank

      Agreed on the falling off the cliff portion but 2 years at $28 million is nowhere close to what he’ll get from other teams. He’s well worth $28 million and I don’t classify that as a gamble at all. Nearly every team in the MLB would offer more than that in years and money for him.

    • bucsws2014

      Let go of the dogma. This isn’t Pujols for 7 years and a quarter billion. It’s not Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee, Justin Verlander or anyone else for nine figures and six years or more.

      It’s just Russell Martin and 4 years (perhaps). A 4+ WAR catcher (maybe pushing 5 this year). Who happens to be a HUGE key to getting to the WS with the current core group of cost-controlled players.

      Some math with reasonable projections based on increasing WAR values and rate of decline for catchers of similar age:
      2015, WAR 4.0, WAR value $5.5 = $22 million
      2016, WAR 3.3, WAR value $6.0 = $20 million
      2017, WAR 2.5, WAR value $6.5 = $14.25 million
      2018, WAR 1.6, WAR value $7.0 = $11.2 million

      Total WAR value = $67.45 million.

      At $60 mill, Bucs are still coming out ahead. If they were to go with a typical 80% of expected value, that’s around $55 million, which for 4 years is almost $14/year.

      In the Bucs’ position, giving up 2-3 WAR from the catcher position means the difference between a division or a WC – or missing the playoffs all together. Add in increased value of wins between 86 and 90 and Martin more than pays for himself even if Bucs have to overpay a little in the final year.

      This is a slam dunk unless someone else comes out the gate with 4/$80 or something absurd.

  • Jason

    I’m less concerned about the per year dollars it would take to keep Martin and more concerned about the number of years. McCann is 2 years younger, but as a comp, he is getting an average of $17m per year over 5 years. I’d like to think the Pirates could afford something just below that figure ($14-15m), if needed, to compete for Martin on the market. But will another team give him more years? Say, 4 years? Studies show that catchers traditionally don’t age well, and a smaller-market team like the Pirates can’t afford to pay a lot for a player who has fallen off the cliff, which is a risk with Martin in a couple years. (He’ll be entering his age 32 season. McCann is in his age 30 season.) Maybe front-loading a contract could work — pay him $15-17 million the first two years, then $10-12m for another two years — but it’s still a risky proposition. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to keep Martin for another couple years, but I worry that the market will drive up the number of years for his next contract, making it less feasible for the Pirates to retain him.

    • Frank Brank

      Nearly every player/agent negotiates the contract the other way for security. I doubt he takes less money in future years. The cash flow usually increases as the years continue.

      • Jason

        Actually, it’s the teams that usually push money to the back-end of a contract, with an optimists eye toward saving money near-term and believing they can afford it in a few years. Players want front-loaded contracts so that they can benefit more from interest and investments.

  • Guy Nito

    One thought — we speculate about how players age, and catching is extremely physically demanding. Do the new collision rules reduce the risk of shelling out big $$ on an aging but otherwise healthy and highly productive catcher? Pirates or maybe another team may look at FA catchers through this new lens.

  • John Lease

    He should be extended, but at the VERY least they have to make the qualifying offer to him. He’s far too important for the team, it’s night and day without him.

  • Simon Weaver

    Martin 8.5
    Ike 3.5
    Liriano 6
    Volquez 5
    Stew 1
    Barmes 2
    Gab 2

    28M opened up. Let’s see where they’ll consider that money spent.

    Cutch increases 2.75M in his contract
    Tony Watson increases 2M arbitration
    Melancon increses 750K arb
    Walker increases 1.5M arb
    Harrison increases 2M arb
    Morton increases 4M in salary.

    So, 15M available. Looks like monkeys throwing darts at the dartboard. A few Liriano/Volquez lightning in a bottles to fill out the rotation. Some bum 1B and maybe bring back good ole’ Stew.

    MARTIN IS GONE…

    • jaygray007

      don’t forget that they were also willing to add $12 million via AJ Burnett and were willing to add ~$20 million via trading for David Price. Payroll should go up.

      I bet they keep Barmes around too :)

      arbitrarily throw 9 M (the difference between the Burnett Offer and what Ike Davis makes since they added davis after the burnett offer) on top of your 15M. At least 24M to play with. use 14 for Martin. i’d use 8 or so on a guy like Brandon McCarthy. 1-2M on Barmes.

      plus you didn’t factor in that they won’t be paying wandy or Grill/Frieri either.