Over the last two days, there have been a few articles written on two of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ free agents, Russell Martin and Edinson Volquez, looking at what those guys could make in free agency. In Martin’s case, everyone agrees that he will receive a huge payday, although there hasn’t really been a consensus on the amount he could receive, or the years. From the looks of things, there is no consensus in MLB front offices either.
Buster Olney had an article today looking at Martin’s pending free agency. In the article, he polled executives around the league, who had some mixed opinions on what Martin could get. The key takeaway was that some felt a four-year deal would be a tipping point for Martin, versus a three-year offer. Other executives felt the key number to get Martin to sign will be five years. Olney comes up with a guess of four years and $50-60 M.
I’ve been more on the “five years is the tipping point” in my writing about Martin, mostly because big market teams like the Dodgers, Cubs, Rangers, and Red Sox have a need at catcher. If the price is four years and $50-60 M, then that’s a price the Pirates should pay.
There is some risk involved in paying Martin that much for his age 32-35 seasons. Travis Sawchik looked at that risk, noting that the decline in catchers from age 32-34 is pretty big, especially after the steroid era. He also notes something I’ve argued, that pitch framing — which is one of Martin’s big values — doesn’t see as sharp of a decline. I think that, plus his work with the pitching staff, will bring enough value to make him valuable for the duration of his deal. Dave Cameron made the same arguments about framing skills over at FanGraphs.
The Pirates will almost certainly be more risk-averse than big market teams. But Martin is a guy you take a risk on, and if the price is what Olney suggests, then that’s a risk I think they should take.
As for Volquez, MLBTR released a free agent profile, looking at what the pitcher could receive on the open market. The expected contract was a two-year, $18 M deal. Last week I wrote about reclamation projects, noting that Volquez could technically still qualify if the Pirates believe they can turn his top stuff into a true top of the rotation pitcher. I noted that if the price was $8-10 M per year, then it wouldn’t be a bad price to pay. All of that depends on whether you believe the advanced metrics (which say Volquez is a league average starter) are gospel, or if you believe he can take another step with more work from Ray Searage and Jim Benedict. Volquez has some of the best stuff in baseball, so I’d lean on the side that there’s more to him than the xFIP shows.
If the Pirates did go for Martin and Volquez at these prices, they’d be adding about $20-24 M to their 2015 payroll, which is currently projected at $65 M. I’m guessing that will go down a bit with an Ike Davis or Pedro Alvarez trade, meaning the Pirates would be at $80-85 M in 2015, giving them room for a second reclamation project starting pitcher.