Russell Martin has been connected to four main teams so far — the Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, Toronto Blue Jays, and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Last week we heard that he intended to meet with all of those teams. A report out of Toronto today gives us an idea of the contract he is seeking. Jeff Blair of Sportsnet reports that Martin is looking for five years and $75-80 M. That’s similar to what Brian McCann received last off-season, when he got five years and $85 M from the New York Yankees.

Blair also says that Martin has the desire to move out from behind the plate at some point. That would be an interesting thing to think about for the Pirates, although the only long-term spot I see him being able to play would be third base, or maybe first base, and he doesn’t really have the bat for either position.

The rumored range for Martin is close to the qualifying offer price of $15.3 M. Martin will be declining the qualifying offer today, which will give the Pirates a draft pick if he signs elsewhere. As for their chances of signing him, I think they have a chance if he signs a four-year deal at that average annual value. If a team like Chicago or Los Angeles is willing to take him on for a fifth year, then that might tip the scales away from the Pirates.

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42 COMMENTS

  1. Russ Martin will most assuredly erode and devalue whatever contract he signs. But pitch framing , game calling and staff managing will not erode and cannot be taught to his elite level. Combine this with A 32 year old free agent Neil Walker , also heading toward payday , no catching prospect with the ceiling of Alan Hansen… I believe a year or even 2 of poor offense at $15mill is still our best option… We can still fill every potential hole and stay under $100mill for the life of Martin’s deal.

  2. No thanks. The thought of paying $15 mil to a 38 year old catcher in the post – PED world is insane. Pirates need to be too smart for that.

    • My thought at 1st also. If you look at Tim Williams possible payroll outcomes for the next couple of seasons , combined with potential major league prospects at all positions, he may change your mind…. Then consider any other option over that span we find to catch vs Martins values that wont erode,i.e, Handling a young staff, pitch framing , game calling.. Its worth one even 2 years of .220 7hr’s. Better value than a 33 year old second baseman with little defensive value at the same price.Especially with a league min. Alen Hansen waiting in the 2b wings.

  3. I am also looking for a 5-year $75 million contract. Just like Russell Martin (and his silly-looking beard) I am unlikely to get one.

  4. Really happy for Martin – he was a big contributor to getting the team back winning. But this is getting a bit silly and way too expensive. I do think there will be something available via a trade that should be a good bridge to 2017. Hopefully McGuire and/or Diaz can be ready by then.

    • I think we’re going to live with Chris Stewart and Tony Sanchez as catchers until Diaz is ready. The Bucs don’t like to rush guys along, but I’m thinking they might put Diaz on a faster track than we’ve seen guys in the past. Now, provided Stewart continues framing, and Sanchez’s “yips” to 1B go away — and his offense is passable — the Bucs have bought some time. But putting all that money into a 31-year old catchers with guys in the fold makes no sense to me. I agree with what Cutch recently said… the Bucs need an everyday 1B.

      • I def agree with the reasoning , but i also think it is possible to add 2 starters and up grade 1st without hamstring future financial flexibility while paying Martin to do things at 38 that most catchers cant ever do.

        • Paying Russell what he wants will hamstring the Pirates financially. I was looking at the 1B market last night, and I didn’t find it particularly promising… although anyone might be an upgrade over Gaby in the RH platoon. I think the LH will set up nicely with either Pedro or Lambo.
          The issue is Walker, J-Hay, Melancon, and Tony Watson all are going to get raises in arbitration. Pedro will also likely go to arbitration, although no telling what will happen with him. There’s still the issue of getting Polanco signed long-term… and how long will Cutch continue to play for what’s now comparatively piddling cash he’s getting now. Martin’s contract will be for more that Cutch’s!! As for starters, Kingham might be ready… and we need to see how Taillon’s Tommy John recovery is going. Morton is also getting close to “raise” territory.

          I hate to see Russell go, but that’s just a lot of money for a small-market team to tie up for 4 or 5 years when there are guys in-shop who can play — and prospects Diaz and McGuire who could be ready in 2-to-3 years.

          • All smart stuff. I had to have my mind changed by the guy who owns the website. Check out his projected payrolls for the next few seasons. Cutch will be the exception in our history , i believe/ hope. Our Jeter. Yes he is the 83rd highest paid in MLB , without complaint, But Russ wont be paid more for long if my pipe dream comes true. Say goodbye to Melancon , we do not value big money relievers , thank goodness. Walker is not going to be in our future either. Yes , we love him, but if you dont value Martin you cant Walker either. Second base we can fill internally much more aptly than catcher. Bye Bye Pedro…. Even if Pedro breaks the Dave Kingman mold , he has no intention of staying in Pittsburgh… I’d hate to see Ike figure it all out for $3.7m somewhere else next year. And you may be spot on with the rotation.. I have no idea , but i know Huntington , Benedict and Searage will assess who we can expect to emerge and who we need to compensate for another year. Tough decisions will be made but i dont see this brain trust losing ground in the next 10 months. P.S. I dont mean Pedro is going now.. Just when its his turn to be paid.

  5. Russ Martin has so much hidden framing value that he should be good for at least an extra win worth of stolen out calls at first base, am I right?

    I’ll hang up and listen.

    • Haha.. awesome. . Took me a sec to get what you’re saying. . Martin is so good with his glove he’s likely to get it to make the thumping sound before the ball even hits his glove..

  6. I don’t give up on Martin just because he’s asking for the sun and the moon but I don’t give them to him either. There is no reason to think this offense will last like this for 5 years any more than Liriano will keep pitching like this for 5 years. Suggesting he might move positions down the line is conceding that catchers rarely play at this level into their mid thirties.

    It’s time to let Russell negotiate his best deal and be ready to move on. Hopefully, since they said he had “major league defense” when they drafted him Sanchez can get his act together in a hurry. That’s life.

  7. Don’t know if the Cubs will pay that, but the Dodgers will.

    And the thought of Martin and Kershaw as a tandem…yikes.

  8. I could be alone on this one but there is no way Russell Martin is worth that kind of money and years. I truly believe that Martin achieved his ceiling last season. We can use that money to get better at other positions. I’m sure there are some comparable catchers on the market that could be just as effective for the Bucs.

    • Everything you said was reasonable until the last sentence. The catcher market is awful. Soto has some bounceback potential, but… it’s bad.

      There could be some interesting trade candidates though. Who knows.

    • BG

      Yeah, I’m with you. But let’s remember that he’s “seeking” 5 years at $15+ that’s not necessarily what he’s going to get. Could happen and, frankly, I hope Russ gets all the money he can, because he’s a class guy.

      But to think he’s going to repeat his career year after age 31 and not suffer substantial loss of playing time to injury while playing the most demanding position on the field…. Well…. I gotta say I’m with you that that contract would come back to haunt the Bucs.

      I’m with Tim on the 4/$15 but 5/$15 is Cubs/Dodgers money that we cannot afford. My feeling is the Cubs are gonna go get him, too, and that makes them instantly better and knocks us down a notch. Still, I think it best we go with Stewart and Sanchez and spend the money on pitching (starting and bullpen) and first base. My God, there’s a mess over there at first. And the simple fact that there isn’t much more than fungible players available over there…. I’d support throwing money at that problem.

      I disagree with you, however, that “There are some comparable catchers on the market that could be just as effective for the Bucs.” Russ is gonna get his price precisely because there are not catchers like him aplenty on the market.

      —————————————————-
      “Every day, the same thing! Nothing but variety! Cook! Bring me some hossenfeffer!”
      -Wabbit

      • Important point made here – the “seeking” figure is the ceiling, and in almost all circumstances that do not involve the Yankees, the final contract falls short in years and/or AAV.

        • I’d normally agree with you but a) once you get past Russ, there’s just not any real viable everday option at catcher on the market and b) if the Dodgers and Cubs get into a bidding war, I can easily see Martin getting McCann term/money plus. I know Russell is a couple years older than McCann was when he signed his deal, but if someone sees him as THE piece to get a championship, some GM may go to Crazy Town.

          • Well, we have some track record for the GMs/management teams in discussion with Martin, and the only one that has any history of overpaying for free agents is Theo Epstein, and he really only did it once (Carl Crawford). The other consideration here is that Matt Wieters hits free agency next year, and as much as Martin is head and shoulders above everyone else now, all of the contenders have reasonable incumbents if the bidding gets out of hand, not to mention other critical items on the shopping list. For the Cubs, Jed Hoyer’s recent comments suggest they’re looking at a 2-year acquisition window for free agents, which leads me to believe they’re not in win at all costs mode.

            Reasonable minds can disagree but I think Martin winds up with a contract in the $60-$65M range.

  9. sounds like a lot, but he really is technically worth it. Even with a conservatively low $5 million per WAR estimation, he’d only have to be worth 3 WAR per year.

    This could be where the ability to frontload a deal could help the pirates. i might rather take 5 yrs, 70 million over 5 years, 75 million, if the first deal loaded like $20 million on year 1.

    If nothing else, i’d definitely rather have a frontloaded deal if they were both 5 x 75.

    They have about $8 million that they just chose to not spend in 2014. This is where that inventory can come in handy.

    But this price is definitely getting to the point where i’d rather just go with Stewart, and spend more on pitching and maybe 1b instead.

    • If Martin is stating that he is open to moving from behind the plate, I don’t think it is a good assumption that he’ll be a 3.0 Win catcher for the duration of the contract.

    • I guess I don’t get the front loading idea.. $75m is guaranteed regardless.. it seems we’d be better off paying more in the backend and accrue interest for 4 yrs.. it would make sense in football in order to manipulate a cap

      • saying it purely as a way to make the Pirates a more attractive destination for Martin. since we are pretty sure they didn’t spend all the way to their internal salary cap last year, they just have the money sitting there. They COULD invest that money and get interest, dividends, whatever, but giving Martin the extra money up front to let HIM gain interest would be a fantastic way to separate the Pirates from another competitor for his services.

        Just suggesting it as a way to potentially break a tie with another team.

      • The primary reason for frontloading, IMO, is that it makes it more possible to trade Martin on the back two years of the contract w/o eating cash.

        IMO, for a veteran FA, you want to try to limit cash outlay to only 67%-75% of WAR value (or less).

        Let’s say Martin remains in the 3.9-5.3 WAR range and projects a 13.6 cumulative WAR for those three years. Let’s also say prevailing average WAR across those three years is $6 mill, for a total of $81.6 mill. You could theoretically pay him $20 mill each of those first three years and still end up well on the positive side of the deal. The last two years combined would only be $15-$20 mill, making it far more likely some other team would pick him up in a deal that could be favorable to Bucs.

        Interest rates ain’t what they used to be, so saving $5 mill/year over those three years probably only nets you enough to pay one rookie at minimum salary.

        • It is the time value of money why teams back load contracts. Free agents are by their nature declining assets, thus to capitalize on the best years teams favor shorter term flexibility. For the Pirates committing 20-25% of payroll to one player over the next three years provides no flexibility, over what everyone seems to agree are very important years.

          The future is hard to predict, I don’t think a trade assets 4 years from now is more important that having the financial ability to supplement a free agent signing with additional talent. Outside Ian Kinsler and Johnny Peralta are there any other examples?

          Also I think a 4.0 Win projection for Martin is absurdly optimistic, let alone over 3 years. Here are the >3.5 Win catcher seasons of catchers 32 and over since 1968,. Players with more than one appearance are Carlton Fisk, Mike Pizza, and Jorge Posada. A HOF and two of the best hitting catchers of all time don’t sound like a peer group for Martin.

          http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=c&stats=bat&lg=all&qual=y&type=8&season=2014&month=0&season1=1968&ind=1&team=0&rost=0&age=32,58&filter=21019&players=0

          • You can add Gene Tenace, Javy Lopez and Ivan Rodriguez to that (take PAs down to 400).

            I’m not convinced Martin lives up to that contract. However, if the Bucs do not re-sign Martin, what are the corresponding moves that must be made to better ensure winning the NLC? Realistically, the only places Neal can expect to get better is at RF and 1b if all that’s being targeted for SP are reclamations/bouncebacks. Bucs will live or die with Polanco in RF. There isn’t a FA catcher out there worth 2+ WAR. So it comes down to needing something like a 5-6 WAR 1b to even things out.

            If Bucs can’t get that – or some equivalent elsewhere in the IF that allows them to reposition existing players – then they’re going to regress. At which point it does make sense to re-sign Martin, regardless of the risk.

              • And what makes you think that adding two more reclamation/bounceback starters to replace Liriano and Volquez will do significantly better than Liriano and Volquez?

            • Lowering 400 PAs you expanded the sample to 20/168 qualifying seasons.

              Things will look bleak when you overvalue Martin, he is not projected to be 5.0-6.0 WAR player. Assuming 450 PAs 3.5 WAR is reasonable, with Sanchez and Stewart being projected for 1.3 and 1.1 WAR respectively. A 2.0-2.5 Win gap that I think can be made up by an outside catcher acquisition and rotation improvements, heck the Pirates lost 13 runs from Alvarez’s fielding this season.

              • Andrew, I understand what you’re saying and I don’t disagree about Martin exceeding value in each year of the contract. However, you and I are thinking a little differently. You’re projecting how to make up the difference of a Martin at 3.5 WAR, I’m concerned about making up the difference of a Martin at 5+ WAR, which is the level he just performed at – which was only good enough for a WC.

                So I’ll ask the question again – where do the Pirates make up the difference in what Martin offered in 2014? IMO, every position save 1b and RF are fairly well maxed out. I expect a slight decline from Josh and a larger one from Walker. I expect Polanco to offset that. So six positions are a wash from 2014.

                I don’t think adding an FA catcher and putting Pedro at 1b alone will make up more than half the remaining difference. And if we’re not going to sign an established pitcher and shop only in the reclamation aisle, I don’t think Bucs do better than offset losses of Liriano and Volquez – they don’t improve on those slots. Maybe Taillon/Kingham help out later in year.

                • I understand your overall sentiment, I just don’t like the starting point. The correlation between Team WAR and actual wins is something like 0.7-0.8 in a given season, with a deviation of 7-8 games. And when two games decides a division using last year’s performance and combined with team’s WAR creates a muddled picture, at least for me.

                  The Pirates’ team fWAR was 82.7, bWAR 86.5 last season (Pirates pitching was 2nd to last based on FIP-WAR hence the low Fangraphs rankings.) Different numbers and when I try to regress and project in my head I get lost, and there is also bit of an anchoring bias.

                  I think a better starting point is using the current projections for next year. Fangraphs has depth charts with all players under contract or in arbitration, there total WAR is 945 so it there is 55 Free agent wins missing.

                  http://www.fangraphs.com/depthcharts.aspx?position=ALL&teamid=27

                  Pirates are on 82 wins, so not good but that is 11th overall, and 3rd in the NL, so not terrible. Biggest potential improvement is starting pitching, then projected RF and SS, followed by 1B. I cannot sort through the mediocre in-house options at 1B, I think there could be trade targets at catcher, and I think the Pirate will be more aggressive in pursuing starting pitching. I think this off-season resembles 2012 more than 2013, in terms of moves.

            • Ugh, why remind me of the Gene Tenace era of Pirates baseball! He was a ‘winner’ though. And still not as bad of a signing as Amos Otis.

      • the team can afford to pay him more now. They don’t ‘have very much tied up in contracts. a few years down the road it would allow them to move resources to guys they wish to sign long term then. Martin would cost less when they need him to cost less.

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