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Russell Martin could in hot demand as a free agent this offseason
Russell Martin could in hot demand as a free agent this offseason

This year, Russell Martin has quietly become a vital piece of the Pirates, both offensively and defensively.  His .409 on-base percentage and 136 wRC+ (meaning he has produced 36% more offense than the average player) have bolstered the lineup.  His pitch framing and game management, although less quantifiable, have resulted in repeated accolades from the pitching staff and coaches.

I’ve already expressed my interest in the Pirates re-signing Martin for something like 2 year/$21M, due in part to Martin being 32 at the start of the 2015 campaign and having caught 1000+ games in his career, but there is a high chance that some team will be willing to go 3 or 4 years for him.

Martin would be an asset to any team, but some teams already have top-notch catchers in place, while others may be committed to using a young prospect or young veteran.  So who would be in and who would be out on Martin?  Note: This assumes that Martin would be primarily a catcher and not be switched to some other position.

NL Central

  • Brewers — NO.  The Brewers already have a younger version of Martin in Jonathan Lucroy, who is also under contract for ridiculously low salaries through 2017
  • Cardinals — NO.  Yadier Molina is not going anywhere
  • Reds — NO.  The Reds seem committed to Devin Mesoraco, who is under team control for 3 more years
  • Cubs — YES.  The Cubs have Wellington Castillo, but they may want a veteran presence upgrade to help with all their young and upcoming hitting prospects

NL East

  • Nationals — YES.  Wilson Ramos has had some injury issues in his career.  The Nationals are in a win-now mode and not afraid to spend money
  • Braves — NO.  If you believe that Evan Gattis is OK defensively, plus the presence of young catching prospect Christian Bethancourt, then there’s no good fit here
  • Marlins — NO.  The Marlins made their catcher move last year with Jarrod Saltalamacchia in free agency
  • Mets — YES.  Travis d’Arnaud simply can’t stay healthy.  I see the Mets as a dark horse playoff team next year, so they want to upgrade in anticipation of a playoff run
  • Phillies — NO.  The Phils have Carlos Ruiz under contract for 2 more years plus a club option.  Besides, at age 32, Martin would be too young for this team as long as Ruben Amaro, Jr. is still in charge

NL West

  • Dodgers — YES.  This would be interesting.  The Dodgers clearly don’t mind spending money.  They have A.J. Ellis, who is pretty good defensively himself, but the chance to get back Martin (who came up with the Dodgers and had his best years there) may be tempting
  • Giants —NO.  Buster Posey is here for now, although his full time shift to another position seems like it will come sooner rather than later
  • Padres — NO.  I’ve said this before — I have no idea what the game plan is with the Padres.  Perhaps their soon-to-be-named GM will decide to tear it all down this offseason.  Either way, I can’t see the Padres making a move for Martin
  • Rockies — NO.  The Rockies still seem committed to Wilin Rosario.  This is another team that should be rebuilding, but probably won’t
  • Diamondbacks — NO.  Miguel Montero is still under a long-term, big money deal through 2017

AL Central

  • Tigers — YES.  Mike Illitch is determined to burn through his kids’ inheritance until he gets a World Series, so money is no object.  Alex Avila is here, but he’s getting expensive through arbitration and his production is dropping
  • Indians — NO.  The Indians are content with Yan Gomes
  • Royals — NO.  The Royals are currently drastically underpaying Salvador Perez to be an underrated star
  • Twins — NO.  They just extended Kurt Suzuki for 2 more years, plus have Yosmil Pinto in the fold
  • White Sox — YES.  Much like their cross-town counterparts, the Sox are a young team on the rise that could use Martin’s abilities on both sides of the plate

AL East

  • Orioles — NO.  Not this year, with Wieters still in black and orange.  If this were for the 2016 season, it could be a different story
  • Blue Jays — YES.  YES.  YES.  The Jays are built win either in 2014 or 2015, so they would definitely go for Martin (even with Dioner Navarro at $5M in 2015) if they felt he was the missing piece.  Add in the subtext that Martin is Canadian.
  • Yankees — NO.  Consider that many Yankee fans feel that the recent downfall of the Yankees stems from letting Martin get away before 2013.  Then add in that Brian McCann was signed through 2018 last offseason and there is no other spot in the field to move McCann to.
  • Red Sox — NO.  I wanted to make this a ‘yes’, but the rapid rise of catching prospect Blake Swihart, coupled with the newfound reliance on their cost-controlled farm assets, made me reconsider.
  • Rays — NO.  Martin would be too expensive for the Rays, plus they have Ryan Hanigan under contract for 2 more years…for some reason

AL West

  • Athletics — NO.  Derek Norris is basically having the same season in 2014 as Russell Martin
  • Angels — NO.  Although Ianetta and Conger aren’t world beaters, they’re capable enough
  • Mariners — NO.  They seem to want to roll with Mike Zunino at this point
  • Rangers — YES.  After suffering through some of the worst injury luck in modern baseball this year, I could see the Rangers reloading in the offseason and storming back next year.  Their catcher position is a gaping black hole.
  • Astros — NO.  They’re going to stick with Jason Castro for the next couple of years it seems

So that’s 8 teams that could be a potential fit for Russell Martin.  At this point, if the Pirates don’t re-sign him early in the offseason, I would put the Blue Jays, Rangers, and Tigers as the three most likely suitors for his services.  Hopefully, Russell Martin is a man of his word and won’t chase every last dollar at the sake of being comfortable with a great clubhouse.

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