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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

First Pitch: How Russell Martin Went From a Perceived Bad Signing to a Must-Sign Player

There was a lot of talk about Russell Martin today, including an article from our own Ryan Palencer, who talked with some of the Pirates’ pitchers last week about their catcher. I thought it was an interesting article, because you always hear the general compliments about Martin from the pitchers, but this went a little deeper into how exactly Martin helps his pitchers.

Of course, any article this time of year about Martin is going to bring up his pending free agency. That topic came up a few days ago when Ken Rosenthal speculated that Martin would receive more than Carlos Ruiz (3 years, $26 M), but less than Miguel Montero (5 years, $60 M). I personally think that Martin will have a shot to receive more than those figures, which would put him in the $9-12 M per year range. It also seems that Martin might feel like he has a shot at this.

Jerry Crasnick wrote about how Martin’s days could be numbered in Pittsburgh, due to the value he has been bringing the last two years, and the importance placed on catcher defense around the league lately. The line I thought was most interesting came from Martin.

“It’s going to be the postseason or the offseason coming up shortly, so I feel like it would be unintelligent at this point to not be patient and see what’s out there,” Martin said. “I love the guys on this team, and I love what we have going on here. I love the direction this team is heading in, but who knows?

“If there would have been something done in spring training, it would have been a different story. So far I’m having a solid offensive and defensive year, and people are starting to recognize the defensive attributes of catchers more. It will be fun to see how important that is and how much people value that.”

The first parts of the quotes don’t really give much hope that Martin will return, or at least they don’t suggest that he will be giving the Pirates any sort of discount. The part I find interesting is the end of the quote, where Martin wants to know how teams are now valuing defense. I’m interested in that quote because, like Martin, I really want to see how teams are valuing defense now.

When the Pirates signed Martin two years ago, the overall reaction was negative. That includes my reaction the night he was signed (the article was being written based on rumors earlier in the day, before he signed, but the feeling didn’t change after the deal was done). The Pirates out-bid the Yankees, paying Martin $17 M over two years. That deal now looks like a steal, but at the time it wasn’t considered a steal at all. The Yankees refused to go over $14 M. Meanwhile, Martin didn’t want to sign for a third year with the Pirates because he wanted to re-enter free agency quicker. That looks to work out well for him, mostly due to the changes in perception of catcher defense. The biggest change in perception can be seen in the following from that article two years ago.

There are also recent studies on pitch framing, and catchers being able to get extra strikes due to their skills in this area. You can read one of those studies at Baseball Prospectus. This isn’t a widely accepted skill. I can’t say I fully believe in pitch framing. The best argument against it is that catchers on teams like the Yankees would get the benefit of the doubt, while catchers on teams like the Pirates wouldn’t see the same advantage. The counter to that is to point out that catchers from the same teams, even from the Yankees, can have totally different outcomes.

I’m on the fence about the value here, but if you’re a believer in the study, Martin looks stronger. In that BP link, Martin ranked second, and was an upgrade of 20 runs per 120 games over Rod Barajas. Barajas was an upgrade over Ryan Doumit (who was the worst in that study) but was rated in the middle of the pack.

Pitch framing was still a relatively new concept. By the end of the 2013 season, it was widely known. A big reason for that is due to the attention Baseball Prospectus gave to the subject. But Martin played a big role here too. The Pirates had one of the best pitching staffs in the majors last year. Ray Searage and Jim Benedict were big factors in this. Focusing on advanced metrics like xFIP over ERA also helped. And Martin’s pitch framing played a big role, which was really brought to light by a great article by Ben Lindbergh at Grantland last May.

Two-years ago Martin was widely under-valued, to the point where only the Pirates really understood his value. Now? We get to see how many teams have caught up to the Pirates, and how much the focus on catcher defense the last two years has driven up the price.

One thing I see often when discussing Martin is the risk due to his age. That seems to be just a blanket statement about the fact that he’s 31, and not a specific comment tailored to Martin. Today, Lindbergh had another great article on Martin (and the Pirates in general), focusing on how they’ve managed to avoid injuries this year. Aside from the possibility that the Pirates may have found a way to cut down on injuries, there’s the fact that Martin is in great shape. His offense might not carry over after this year, but his defense alone would be worth bringing him back.

Or at least I think so. And while the estimates the other day were $9-12 M per year, I wouldn’t be surprised if Martin receives somewhere around $15 M per year, and possibly more if the right teams get involved. I’ve written why I think the Pirates should pay that, even though it would be the total opposite approach from what they did with A.J. Burnett last year. That comparison will be used a lot this off-season, but the situations are much different. Burnett was a 38-year-old pitcher at the end of his career, who was contemplating retirement, and the Pirates had shown a tendency to find value in the starting pitching market — which they did once again by signing Edinson Volquez.

The difference with Martin is that he’s much younger, projected to stay the same from a skill standpoint on defense, and while the Pirates demonstrated an ability to find value behind the plate, the rest of the league discovered their secret. Now they don’t have a replacement option for Martin. It’s not like Burnett’s situation. There is no Edinson Volquez out there on the free agent market who everyone will hate, but will end up just fine. There might be one on the trade market, but every team values catching. Landing the right catcher would probably cost a lot in prospects, which seems foolish when you can just spend money to bring back the guy you really want.

Clint Hurdle recently said that Russell Martin is just as important to the Pirates as Andrew McCutchen. I agree with that. Over the next few years, McCutchen will start making $13-14.75 M per year. Last year Neal Huntington famously said that they couldn’t spend a large percentage of money on one player, referencing Burnett and their $12 M offer. That led a lot of people to believe that they had some sort of individual salary cap that they wouldn’t go over. I never believed this. I do think there’s a limit, but I don’t think the limit for a guy like McCutchen is the same as a limit for a guy like Burnett. And I think Martin belongs in the same group as McCutchen.

It will cost more to bring Martin back than what McCutchen will be making. That’s just the difference between the open market and a pre-arb deal that has worked out in the best way possible. There should be no question about whether Martin should receive a qualifying offer. And if Martin does cost $15 M per year, that’s a price that the Pirates should pay. They can definitely afford to pay that price, especially when it’s paid to a player who is as important as Martin. There was a lot of anger last year over Burnett. This year is going to be the true test for the Pirates. This is the off-season where they need to get aggressive and spend some money. Because while I thought the Pirates would remain contenders without Burnett, I find it hard to believe they’ll avoid any major drop off if they don’t bring back Martin.

Links and Notes

**Four Pirates Taken in the Dominican Winter League Draft

**The Chemistry Russell Martin Brings to the Pirates’ Pitching Staff

**Morning Report: Former Pirates Bringing High Heat For the Competition

+ posts

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.


Pirates Prospects has been independently owned and operated since 2009, entirely due to the support of our readers. The site is now completely free, funded entirely by user support. By supporting the site, you are supporting independent writers, one of the best Pittsburgh Pirates communities online, and our mission for the most complete Pirates coverage available.

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Daryl Restly

Was Martin really perceived as a bad free-agent signing? From what I remember, the Yankees made an offer but somehow, some way the Pirates made a better offer. That said, what Martin has done for the Pirates the last 2 seasons reminds me an awful lot of what Ivan Rodriguez did for the Marlins in 2003 (win a World Series), the Tigers in 2004-2008 (let Tigers to World Series in 2006). I imagine Rodriguez’s numbers are better than what Martin has done the last 2 years, but there’s no doubt Martin has earned the respect of his teammates with the way he handles the Pirates pitching staff. How can you not love that grin he has on his face after a Pirates victory?


I’ll be extremely disappointed if the Pirates fail to make a competitive offer to Russell Martin. I understand where some players are simply out of their price range, and Martin could end up there, but if they are never going to step up and pay someone who deserves to get paid, then they should get out o f this business.


Prediction 1……..The Pirates will make an offer to Martin and either he will accept or not.
Prediction 2…….. Some guy will punch his GF in the face.

Kevin Anstrom

Still happily “out of (my) fricking mind” 🙂

Just yesterday I was thinking Willy Garcia was one of the top three position prospects for the Pirates. Perhaps #2 behind only Cole Tucker and yes ahead of Austin Meadows, Josh Bell, Alen Hanson, Reese McGuire, etc. After reading John’s article and the comments, it’s likely that I’m in the very small minority regarding Garcia.

BTW I do think it will be difficult to sign Martin. Fortunately they have Diaz who is one of their top 3 position prospects.


My take, again, is 5 @ $70MM. $20, $20, $15, $10, $5.


Reminiscing on Martin’s current contract and his work with the Yankees that preceded signing it is important for this discussion because it established an expected range of performance.

Warm and fuzzy stories about Martin’s conditioning and skateboarding aside, we shouldn’t delude ourselves into believe Russell Martin, at age 31, has established a new level of performance or even elevated his baseline. It just doesn’t happen like that in pre and post PED Major League Baseball. Just last year we saw him struggle mightily in the second half as his body wore down. This year he won’t top 115 games played, including only 56 in the 1st half.

This isn’t to say he should not be signed, but to to temper expectations for what that signing would mean. If the Pirates do go down that road, and I personally believe they should, then the correct strategy would be to sell out for the next two seasons. Truly attack a World Series bid. Because the chances of having a top of the line catcher AND payroll flexibility by 2017 are slim to none.

Mike C.

I really believe it’ll take 4/50-60 to resign him.
I haven’t looked at his future projections, but just guessing WARs of 4,3,2,1? With of course declining PAs behind the plate.
If this be true, would that big contract still seem fair?
Anyone with better info/guesses plz chime in.


I personally believe his contract will fall on the low end of that spectrum with the 4th year as a vesting option.

The Pirates were not ahead of the league in signing Martin two years ago any more than they were ahead of the league in shifting. Martin was coming off a season in which he posted a -6 DRS and hadn’t been better than +7 since 2007. They were desperate, he was the best player available, and they only had to commit to a short duration.

Look at top catchers around the league and one thing will stick out: it’s a young man’s position. Will teams bet on Martin being the outlier? Do teams think his bat will play up enough to split time at 1B or DH, like every other high-paid catcher in his 30s? Will they be willing to block top prospects in their organization, or forego attempts at other top catchers in the coming years?

We’ll find out the answer this winter.

Kevin Anstrom

“The Pirates were not ahead of the league in signing Martin two years ago any more than they were ahead of the league in shifting. Martin was coming off a season in which he posted a -6 DRS and hadn’t been better than +7 since 2007. They were desperate, he was the best player available, and they only had to commit to a short duration.”

They were ahead of the curve regarding shifting. I don’t understand your point.


Yadier Molina signed a 5-year deal in his age 30 season (he turned 30 4-months after signing the deal)…and the deal didn’t take effect until the following season…that takes him through his age 35 season. Russell Martin, if signed for 4-years, would take him one year further. Martin isn’t Molina and I do not think he should get 5-years and $75M. I do think that he can continue to put up 10-12 DRS per year as the Pirate catcher.


Martin is a top of the line catcher, but he is possibly the 4th best catcher in the Pirates division, (Reds,Brewers,and Cards). None of these teams would give up their catcher for Martin. He is valuable to the Pirates, but for some reason they already know they can’t make a deal, since the Pirates per agreement with the MLB and the Union cannot discuss any financial dealings with a player, we won’t really know what they are doing until something actually happens with the player.

Mike C.

2012 Stupid NH signed this .212 bum who even the Yanks wouldn’t pay!
2014 He is the team’s co MVP! NH better sign him or else!
2015 (if RM leaves) NH is stupid to not sign the bestest catcher ever!. Boycott the Pirates!
2017 (if RM is resigned) why is this overpaid old broken down bum still on our team?!? We could get an ACE for this money. Fire NH!

~DK + most fans


Hindsight is always 20/20 🙂 Sad but true


I don’t care for calling out “most fans”, but it is so, sooooo easy to see this coming true.

Mike C.

I agree with you ^^. Just couldn’t find a better alternative phrase.
“casual fans?” “sports talk radio calling fans?”


I think the key to bringing back Martin is four years over 50M. Maybe the Pirates can frontload the deal. Something like 15M, 15M, 12M and 12M = 54M. That would take care of Martin 32,33,34 and 35 years old seasons. A reasonable gamble on a player who seems very health conscious and compromised with staying in shape.
That is enough time to see if Reese McGuire is the real deal by the 2018 season.


I disagree on a couple of points Barletta. I think it will take more money than that, probably 4/$65 mil and I’d back load it but give a big signing bonus. The Bucs will have some extra $$ in 2015 with Wandy, Frankie, Eddie coming off the books (and possibly an extra $10 mil in 2014 they didn’t spend on AJ, Josh Johnson or Loney). So give Russ a $12 mil signing bonus, then $4/$12/$17/$20.
Then look to trade him each off season, assuming Diaz has a decent season at AAA and in MLB for the last couple months of 2015. That way you either get Russ for $16 mil for 1 year (a little more than the QO) or $28 mil for 2 years plus you get something decent back in a trade. Let the Yankees or Dodgers pay the last 2 years of inflated salary for the probable decline in performance.


Seems like a fair enough deal to me.


Or just round it up to 60M with a 6M signing bonus.


There’s no reason to not give him the QO. He is worth at least 14 mil.

It wouldn’t necessarily keep his open market price down because the draft pick compensation has been shown to not hamper the deals given to the elite FA guys. But they would at least get a pick.

Just because the declined to give AJ one doesn’t mean they’ll decline Russ. Apples, Oranges.


Is Russell Martin an elite FA?


If you paid him based off of this year, which is what happens in FA, then yeah. I think so at least. Elite defender (including pitch framing) with OBP above .400 and some power. I guess it depends on where you draw the “Elite” line for FA. He isn’t… like… Kershaw or Troute elite obviously, but he’s probably a top 7-10 FA this year. For reference, the MLBTR FA power rankings have him as the #9 FA. In the grand scheme of FA, i’d say that’s elite.

i forget the exact wording of the article I read, but the main idea was that the better the FA, the less the draft pick compensation hurts the amt of $ they get.


Well that’s not what happens, first of all.

No team out there is dumb enough to think the Russell Martin of this year will be the Russell Martin of the future.

The contracts being discussed for Martin are similar or less than the one Michael Bourne ended up signing two years ago, and we all heard how much the QO factored there.


Good point on Bourne. I might’ve drawn the Elite line at too unimpressive a player.

I guess the difference could be that there are rich teams out there who need a catcher. Dodgers, Rangers and the Cubs (depending on what you/they think of Welington Castillo) come to mind. I think i remember that there just weren’t a lot of teams in need of a Michael Bourne back then, which just added to the draft pick compensation problem.

That said… dang. Michael Bourne’s downfall has been swift and severe. Wow.


Don’t get me wrong, you’re making good points all over the place.

On top of the big market factor, it just so happens that several of those teams really suck this year, meaning their R1 picks will be protected.

Speaking of Bourne, he was in pretty good shape at the time he signed his deal as well…


Amen! AJ and other pitchers tend to be individual contributors and need to be evaluated and paid as such. Martin is both a solid individual contributor AND a catalyst for making other individual contributors (I.e., the entire pitching staff) that much better. He also has been among the best in baseball in throwing out base runners and snuffing out potential rallies and big innings. He’s worth every penny and If the Bucs don’t re-sign him it says a lot about their competence and commitment to winning and the great fans who have turned out in droves over the past couple years. It will also mark the beginning of a return to mediocrity.


The biggest key to getting Martin back on the team next year will be to give him the QO (the Pirates still, I think, were foolish not to do so with Burnett last year) and the same goes for Liriano. Second, the team really needs to come out of the gate with a huge contract offer EARLY. I am talking about a 4 year $56M offer with an option for a 5th year. Try to get some good feelings going with Martin right away and get a competitive, fair offer out early to increase our chances. Russell Martin is an absolute must sign. Not signing him will, honestly, lead to a loss of probably 6-8 games in the standings (his WAR plus non-attributable factors)…and that is a HUGE waste considering that McCutchen is getting older and only has so many years of control and MVP-like play left in him etc. Getting Martin back in bucco black not only has to be the biggest priority…but really has to be THE priority this offseason. Anything less than him in our uniform again will be a huge, huge issue. The QO needs used on both him and Liriano…


I agree with the QO to Martin, and the early generous offer. But I think what would seal the deal with Martin would be to offer the opportunity to be a back up third baseman, playing there when Jay Hay is needed at another position. I really think he would relish the opportunity to play at a different position than catcher some of the time. This non cash benefit to Martin might also free up money that would otherwise be spent on a bench player, adding more to the till to sign Martin.
I am not so sanguine on the QO to Liriano due to inconsistency. If the Pirates can find out if they have a shot at Lester I would rather sign Lester than Liriano. If they have no shot at Lester then go ahead and QO Liriano, but there’s no way they have the money to sign both Lester and Liriano.


They won’t have the money to sign Lester and Martin…Liriano and Martin they could. I think Liriano is extremely good when he’s healthy. He’s pitching like he did last year and, ultimately, if he keeps it up it will be his second consecutive strong year (despite the poor start due to injury)…the first such string in his career.


P: 2 years – 21-18, 3.26 ERA, 9.5 K/9 / 3.5 W/9; 26 starts 161 IP in 2013, probably 29 starts and 170 IP in 2014. A 3.5 WAR in 2013 and probably 2.5 to 3.0 in 2014. A QO is an absolute necessity, and he is not accepting – he wants a 3 or 4 year contact in the range of $15+ mil/year. When you see guys like Edwin Jackson get 4 Years at $50 mil, you realize just how anxious the other teams are these days.


And the market says he’s worth it…getting some form of compensation back is a no-brainer in the liriano situation.

David Lewis

The only thing that coming out of the gate with a huge offer early will do is set the baseline that the Rangers and Dodgers will have to beat. Because you can bet that mysterious leaks of contract offers will start hitting the press about five minutes after the FA signing period starts.

Martin and Paradigm Sports Management are too smart to be “blown away by the first offer” and jump on it. If the Pirates offer 4/56, all that means is that they’ll go to the other teams and say, “OK, how much can you beat that by?”

Where Martin signs will be determined by the following factors:
1. Total contract value
2. Contract duration
[large gap]
3. Other situational factors (location, competitiveness of the team, etc.)
[very large gap]
99. Negotiating tactics of the signing team


I could be totally wrong on this, but my understanding is that offering a QO effectively removes negotiating a longer term deal from the table. It’s one or the other. And a QO has to be offered within 5 days after the WS ends. The player has 7 days to accept. So if Martin declines the QO, the Bucs are out of the running for Martin’s services. And if he accepts, that deal is just for the one year. If they can’t negotiate another deal in 2015, then they can’t QO Martin a second time. At least that’s my understanding.

So basically you have a situation where the Bucs need to make their best offer by the end of October, and give Martin a short window to accept. And if Martin doesn’t, then you QO within the designated time frame.


That is not, to my knowledge, how the qualifying offer works at all. The player is more than able and allowed to decline the offer and sign with his original team…that team just doesn’t get compensation obviously because he did not sign elsewhere.


A team can offer any amount of money it wants regardless of qualifying offer.


I don’t think a declined QO really prevents anything.

I THINK Stephen Drew declined a QO, and then signed with the Red Sox after he realized that he wasn’t as good as he thought he was.


And lost half a season doing so.

R Edwards

I never heard one person criticize the Martin signing, at the time that the Pirates signed him. Given the quality of the catching pre-Martin (horrendous), everyone I read or listened to raved about the signing – in spite of the bad batting average he had with the Yankees his last year there.

We will be very fortunate to be able to re-sign him. Unless he gives us a “home team” discount, I am not optimistic about re-signing him, Liriano, or Volquez. At their stages of their careers, they will be looking to cash in one more time. The only good news? We should be getting a number of comp picks in return! 🙂


You must not have been on the internet 2 years ago if you didn’t hear a person criticize the signing….Tim linked his article above, and DK similarly bashed the signing, among others.


just read through Tim’s old Martin article. It’s amazing what all we’ve learned about catchers since then.

and i just looked at martin’s 2012. his BABIP was just .222! we should’ve had more faith at the time!


What have we learned about catchers since then that Tim didn’t have in that article?


It was mostly that these days, we have estimates of 2ish WAR contributed by Russ Martin’s pitch framing alone.

in the article, pitch framing was in its infancy.


Ah, sorry, you meant “we” as in Pirate fans, not “we” as in the general baseball community. Got it now.

I agree wholeheartedly with your comment on athleticism.


“I never heard one person criticize the Martin signing, at the time that the Pirates signed him.”

Get your ears or your memory checked. There was a good deal of it. He was seen as offensively-challenged and the Pirates overpaid for him.

R Edwards

You are a rather obnoxious person, aren’t you?

Anyway, if anybody suggested Martin was “offensive-challenged” when the Pirates signed him, must not know much about his career. He had a bad year, average wise, in 2012 – but still hit 21 HRs which was a career high. Prior to 2012, he was always a good producer with the bat – especially for a catcher. So, that criticism is curious at best – especially after the Pirates endured a couple of seasons of Rod Barajas.

Lukas Sutton

Yeah, but you dont get 21 HR credit while playing in Yankee stadium. No one trusted the HR numbers. They said it loud and proud. That was actually a fair point by the “terrible signing” crowd. Russell hit 21 HRs because he got pull happy and used that jet stream to his advantage all while his average tanked.



this is just one example of media members ripping it at the time.


I didn’t say the criticisms were well-thought-out and soundly based: just that they existed, regardless of whether you heard them or not.


Yep. lots of criticism for bringing in a .211 BA catcher.

Yep. There was so much criticism that i will forever have Russ Martin’s 2012 Yankee BA memorized. If only i could remember more useful things.


There was plenty of criticism. It was mostly about his lack of offense. Defensively, most agreed Martin was a good option in that he could throw out base stealers, something that escaped Barajas and McKenry.

And the Bucs won’t be getting “a number of comp picks” unless they QO all those guys. Which they won’t do.


there is no good way to replace Martin’s wins other than to bring back Martin when you consider the lack of other holes the lineup has.

i meannn i GUESS Elias Diaz could be the real deal, but if they let Martin go, I had better see (James Shields OR Jon Lester) OR (Liriano AND McCarthy) in that rotation.

Leefoo Rug Bug

Goodbye Russ and Frankie. Hopefully, we QO your butts and NOT hear the dreaded “We couldn’t take a chance on them accepting it and throwing our payroll out of whack”.

Scott Kliesen

Sad to say, but he’s as good as gone. Better hope Diaz’s bat can play at ML level, because by June he’s likely to be Pirates primary Catcher w Stewart warming the seat for him early next year.


I think Martin will go to the club that offers him the best package, the longest deal, the best wages. And this means the Pirates won’t be able to keep him. A team like the Dodgers or the Rangers are likely to offer a lot more than the Pirates are prepared to pay. The Pirates will have to replace Martin with another free agent catcher.
But we didn’t expect Martin to turn out this good when we signed him.
There’s a good chance we might find another experienced catcher who will at least give us decent service…

Mike C.

I agreed with not signing AJ, but I agree signing Martin is important. Simply because even without AJ we had alternative players who were close to substiuting his numbers (volquez, aaa pitchers etc.). And this turned out true.
But there is no player who can really substitute Martin in FA or the minors.
I had hoped Sanchez would be ready to step in but sadly we all know he’s not.
And no one’s close to his value in FA.
I hate overpaying (just means less $$$ to sign extra FA pitchers or resigning guys like Liariano) but this seems like the one instance wherr overpaying makes perfect sense.


Mike: I like Martin a lot, and never saw the signing of him as a perceived negative – I had experienced enough with Doumit, Paulino, etc. However, just for grins and giggles, the best pitching teams in the majors are the Mariners, Nationals, Padres, Dodgers, and Athletics – off the top of your head, can you name 3 of the 5 Catchers? If so, you are way beyond an average fan, and none of them is even close to the Top in pay. In the same order with their throwout %age – Zunino (30%), Ramos (39%), Grandal (12%), Ellis (23%), and Oakland uses a combo of Jaso and Norris and they are both around (13%).

The Catchers who make the big bucks, and their 2015 salaries – Mauer $23 mil, McCann $17 mil, Posey $16.5 mil, and Molina $15 mil are paid for a combination of hitting and defense, but mostly for their bats. Mauer is no longer a Catcher, but he got the salary as a Catcher. This is RM’s best offensive season since 2007 – can he maintain this rate of production? Do his past stats support that? Framing, handling of pitchers, and throwout %ages are very important, but MLB clubs do not pay for that – they pay for HR’s and RBI’s.


There is a difference between saying/asking whether RM is a big reason why our pitching staff has pitched even as well as it has and saying/asking who the best pitching staffs are in baseball. The Mariners, Nationals, Dodgers, and Athletics have multiple top-line starting pitchers…in fact I would honestly say that there are probably 5 of the best 10-15 starters in baseball on those teams. Better catching probably would make them even better but it is sort of irrelevant that the teams with the best catchers aren’t in the top 5. How good were the Cardinals last year?

Mike C.

I think this offseason will be a big test to see if teams finally value catcher defense. Hopefully they don’t, but I’m not hopeful.
Plus the derth of quality FA catchers on the market, plus many teams are in need of a quality starting catcher ain’t gonna help either.
Supply & demand.


Great article, Tim. I couldn’t agree more that Martin will get at least $15 million per year and the Pirates can afford that and need to pay that to retain an extremely valuable asset. These national writers are totally underestimating the market and I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t get that kind of offer.

If he signs for 4 years and $60 million or less and the Pirates don’t sign him, Huntington will have made a massive mistake. Bob Nutting will deserve some of the blame too, but I believe he basically sets a budget and Huntington can spend as he sees fit within that budget. I believe Huntington underspent his budget by $8-10 million this year and he should have at least $90-$95 million to spend in 2015. There’s room for Martin at $15 million per year for the next 4 years with the young, cheaper pitching and outfield the team will have the next few years. This team will take a major step back without Martin and it won’t just be 4 games of WAR…not everything can be measured by WAR and I think it will be a 6-10 game drop back in the standings if they replace Martin with some other free agent scrub (or they will waste several top prospects trying to trade for someone who is worse than Martin).

Mike C.

Sadly, money not spent this year doesnt accrue to next year in baseball. Just doesn’t happen, and right or wrong we shouldn’t expect it ever will.


This coming year could be the exception to this. Due to the fact that all the money from the TV deal that teams were anticipated to be spending this offseason really was not received until this fiscal year. That means that the Pirates undoubtedly will have extra money.


even when you don’t factor this in, they should be able to make it happen. Between Wandy and Grilli/Frieri being off the books, presumably 1 of either pedro or ike being gone, letting Volquez cash in on his luck-aided rebound somewhere else, and the fact that they were willing to pay either Burnett or Price, they TOTALLY have the money to bring back Martin and do some other fun stuff to the roster.


The Pirates have only, what, $23M dedicated to next year? Even with Arb there is a LONG way to go before you get to $80-90M.


It’s about soooo much more than next year when you’re talking about handing out a contract in the neighborhood of $50m.


It is, but if you look at Tim’s payroll projection page, things don’t start really getting hairy until 2018. There should be plenty of room for a big Martin contract over the next three years. And you can trade him before the 4th year, although I imagine he’ll negotiate a fairly long no-trade list. Meantime, with the guys the Bucs are projected to bring up over the next 3-4 years, they’ll still be paying at or near MLB minimum for most of the rotation/bullpen, bench and a few positions. Even extensions for Polanco and others won’t be major dollars until the current TV deal expires in 2019. Who knows, maybe they move Cutch by then if Meadows looks like a winner.


As soon as 2017, the Pirates will need three new starting infielders and four new starting pitchers – unless you’re picking up Morton’s option – before even getting into bullpen and bench pieces.

Committing close to $30m to just Cutch and Martin will require an awful lot to work out just right with the prospects you’re speaking of.

Will the Pirates have the money? Sure they will. But it won’t be easy to fill out a complete lineup with those two salaries.


See jaygray’s comments. By 2017 you have Bell at 1b, Hanson at 2b, you still have Mercer and maybe Ngoepe as backup, you still have Harrison and possibly Mathieson as your corner backup. Your OF is still set. Martin at C, unless Diaz is ready in which case you’ve traded Martin in the offseason. Your bullpen is mostly min wage guys, and your starters should include Kingham, Taillon, Cole and two other guys (Locke, Cumpton, Morton, whomever) with Glasnow ready to be called up along with whomever else is ready to make the jump at that time.

So most of the team is still making very little money assuming the Pirates don’t change their operating philosophy.


Right or wrong, I guess my thinking as far as counting on prospects to work out is that if the Taillons and Kinghams and Hansons fail, they’re kind of screwed with or without Martin to be honest.


Yeah it is, but the pirates can pull it off because the rest of the team projects to be both talented and relatively inexpensive for at least MOST of the next 4-5 years.

maybe if the Pirates remain poor-ish, it could get iffy at the very end once Cole gets into Arb, Cutch is at the end of the deal, marte’s more expensive yrs start kick in, etc. I guess what i’m trying to say is that further analysis is needed.

Belief or lack thereof of Elias Diaz should absolutely play a part in any Russ extension talks and how high they go. if they can get 3 WAR/year out of a cheap Elias Diaz instead, then sign me up.

S Brooks

A fat signing bonus, on the other hand…


That is what got AJ – $7.5 mil signing bonus and a salary of $7.5 mil, and he just locked in the 2nd year that can be ill-afforded by the Phillies. $60 mil for 4 years is a real stretch IMO. $12 to $13 for the first 2 years and then coming down for years 3 and 4 . . if not, QO!

david jung

Exactly, still 2014 money.

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