Looking at Russell Martin’s Potential Value on the Open Market

Ken Rosenthal discussed Russell Martin’s upcoming trip to free agency in today’s column (h/t MLBTR). In the article, he mentioned a lot of things that we already know, including that the Pirates want Martin back. He also included speculation that is often said, such as how Martin’s price could soar beyond the team’s comfort level. The speculation rests more on the potential for Martin’s price to soar, as Neal Huntington has said himself that the Pirates think Martin’s price this off-season will go beyond what the Pirates could spend.

Rosenthal does add some speculation on what Martin will cost. He says that Martin probably won’t get the five-year, $60 M deal that Miguel Montero received from the Diamondbacks, but that he should beat the three-year, $26 M deal Carlos Ruiz got last year. There’s not a big gap there, as we’re talking an annual value of $9-12 M per year between the two contracts. Perhaps Rosenthal was focusing more on the years for Montero, rather than the price.

If Martin costs $12 M a year, then the Pirates definitely have to bring him back. They got him for two years and $17 M the last time around. At the time, that wasn’t universally regarded as a huge value, and was actually seen as a big price to pay for Martin. Since that time, we’ve learned a lot more about the value of catcher defense. However, there is still a lot that we don’t know, or don’t fully appreciate. Martin probably isn’t repeating his offensive success from this season, but his defense alone would be worth more than $12 M per year.

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.

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Jason Kendall has ruined for ever the notion of the Pirates signing anyone other than Cutch long term. His albatross contract ruined the Pirates chances for years. The will never take the chance on an expensive older player again. Grant it Kendall wasn’t old but his contract was an albatross from the moment it was signed.

Richard Ya'Zhynka

Martin is a more valuable player than catcher Brian McCann, who signed with the Yankees last year for 5 years and $85 million.

The big money Dodgers and Rangers both need a starting catcher. One of them will give Martin the same $17 million per year that the Yankees gave McCann.

Russell is in his last days as a Pirate.

Bill Williams

We’ll see Rich…


I hate it but Martin is not going to sign nor is Cutch or Cole. You would not and neither will they. We may have a shot at Walker but that is slim even with the hometown boy done good possibility. Be realistic. This is small market baseball built by the draft with few exceptions. Meadows, Glasnow, Heridia is our free agent pool with some discount, rebound players mixed in. I for one expects nothing more and actually look forward to it. We all come to this website to see what our future holds but seem unable to believe it.

Bill Williams

That’s not etched in stone.


Cutch has said his goal is to play for one team, throughout his entire career. He does not chase after gold and illusions.

He and his family KNOW his $60,000,000 contract, accruing interest every day, is more than enough money for a man of conviction.


NCB. I want you to know I am a man of conviction and know that Cutch and his family are too. I also would bet by your reply you are as well. The wild card is the agent. He gets in Andrews ear and paints visions of what the extra 50 million or so could do for charity. What lives OTHER than the McCutchen’s can you change with that enormous amount of cash. And to an extent, he’d be right. The agent may not have that conviction in his heart but it sure plays well in his pocket. I want to see this once in a lifetime player and man wear black and gold proud all the way to Cooperstown. But gold and illusions are way different than curing disease and improving those who need a better life with your bat and glove


We can actually afford to pay Martin though, while you are right, if Cole lives up to expectations the best we can do is get an extra year out of him with an extension. Cutch, I don’t think anyone is under the misgiving that he will be able to be resigned, period. You never know, but it would be a shock if we rolled out an additional 3 year extension with 22m per, cause that’s the minimum it would take


Let’s say Martin achieves the following over the next four years in terms of WAR: 4.2, 3.5, 2.8, 1.5. That’s a total of 12 WAR. Based on value of one WAR being $6 mill this year and increasing half a mill each year, Martin’s estimated market value would be $73.8. Take 75% of that and you get $55.4 mill. That’s what I offer. And I front load it, something like $17/$17/$12/$9.4. The front loading makes the deal more attractive. The Bucs aren’t going to spend $100 mill on payroll in the next three years and adding Martin at even the $17 mill for a couple of years doesn’t put them over $90, unless they’re going to splurge on another 8-figure FA. After 2016 they can then trade a still well above replacement level Martin for something useful or a couple of prospects, and the remaining salary wouldn’t scare anyone off.

IMO, pre-empting the Dodgers or anyone else with a creative deal that fits in with Pirates current finances is the way to go. You basically cannot “overpay” Martin unless he’s going to suddenly fall off a cliff and regress not only offensively, but defensively. He’s in too good physical condition for that. He’s not Brian McCann – but somebody will pay him McCann money and it might as well be us.


I don’t know if he’ll get 5-years $85M like McCann…but I do think being only a year older and being one of the best two catchers in the NL (and having the best statistical season for a catcher in a very, very long time last year included) I think he’s worth every bit of 4 years and $60M…considering, further, that 4 years gets him to the same as as Chooch who just signed a 3-year $26M deal with the Phillies that takes him through his age 38 season and with Martin being in even better shape and being a better catcher. I think the Pirates would be very wise to offer 4-years plus a 5th year option (that can either vest into a player option or automatically vest with certain criteria being met). Russell Martin is well worth the 4-year $60M.

Bill Williams

Ahhhh since what century has A good defensive catcher not been of value?


I just cannot see the Pirates going into next season with Sanchez, Diaz or Stewart behind the plate as number one catcher. So if we lose Martin we will definitely sign some other experienced free agent catcher.
And let’s not overestimate Martin’s value, he’s been fantastic for us, no doubt.
But at the end of the day we will have another catching tandem working with our pitching staff. Overall we may have a decrease in offensive and defensive value from our catching position next season, but that could be more than compensated by getting (offensive) upgrades/better hitting from other positions on our roster. (1B, 3B, SS)

Bill Williams

Sign him he’s very talented and fits in perfectly!


If he hits free agency he is gone; the only hope is an extension before that occurs. That said, his agent isn’t going to pass up free agency coming off the year Martin is having.


The one advantage we’d have is the QO. Martin is a more valuable player than Cruz, Drew, or Morales, but we saw how QO’s depressed their values.


And this is exactly why the qualifying offer not only should be used but MUST be used for Martin. First, it guarantees us compensation if we lose him and two it ups the ante a little bit with other teams so to speak. It also shows our dedication to Martin and that we greatly value him as a player and person within our locker room. The QO is a no-brainer…and I think the Pirates should consider it with Liriano as well.


PS – there is little reason to expect Martin to get less than 4 years $60 million. Teams are too smart across teh board to ignore his defensive value and he is coming off a big year at the plate. The team that goes the extra year to 4 will get him.


I think this should get mentioned in the discussion…Chooch (Carlos Ruiz) received a 3-year $26M contract at the age of 35…IF the Pirates signed Martin for 4 years he would end up being 35/36 at the END of that contract. I think people are going to seriously undervalue the offers he ends up getting and the contract that will have to be offered from the Pirates to bring him back. If Martin stays healthy and plays the way he’s capable…he’ll be easily worth the 3-year and $26M deal AFTER his next contract. It will likely take 5 years to get him (or if not 5 then a really nice/expensive 4-year). Russell Martin is only 1-year older than Brian McCann…and while his bat isn’t as good, I think his glove is better.


4 years and $50 will be what I think it takes to get it done. But I mean the joke I made earlier…Martin really is priceless to this team in many ways. Not even because of what he has done with the bat (which I am not sure if I believe he couldn’t continue to do) but with the defense, the handling of the staff, the attitude and intangibles that he brings. Russell Martin is a must sign. Failure to do so will have huge, HUGE repercussions.

Bonds Top Hand

Dodger blue is what Russ will be wearing starting next year again. If the Dodger’s weren’t in such a dire need for catching; I wold think we stood a pretty good chance at resigning him. But with their top flight rotation, and his top flight defense and framing. No way they don’t sign him over market. 4 and 56 is my guess as to how they’ll over pay to make sure they get him on their roster.

Bill Williams

Oh yea, you mean the same Dodgers that dumped him once before?

Bonds Top Hand

And I forgot to mention that the Rangers will most likely be in on him heavily. Pockets are way too deep, and after coming after the horrific year they had in Arlington. They will want to make sure it doesn’t happen two years in a row if not for injuries.


Unfortunately, there are lot of teams, some in large markets, that need catching. I would be happy if the Pirates offered in the 3 yrs./$35 million neighborhood, maybe even going to a player option in the fourth year. Still, a lot of teams need catching, and it only takes one owner or GM to make a really stupid offer to player.

Bill Williams

He’ll be looking for 4 to 5 years.




I can see the Buccos going to their absolute limit to sign Russell. Three years with 12 or 13 million a year. Then it’s up to him. I don’t know what kind of guy he is and of course he’s gotta think about his family and stuff, but surely he has already earned more money than he could ever spend in his entire lifetime, presuming that he is not a flashy character with regard to spending vast amounts on fast cars, big mansions or collecting yachts.
He seems to enjoy playing for the Pirates and he makes every single pitcher on our roster look better than they probably are. And he seems to like working with our pitchers. And what a great teacher he could be for our next catchers in line (Sanchez and Diaz).

Of course other teams will offer more, maybe four or five years and even more money.
Will Russell go for the money ? Or stay in Pittsburgh with the window wide open for making the playoffs year after year for the near to medium future ?
Maybe Martin could eventually join the Pirates in a coaching or scouting capacity ?


Martin said the only reason he signed with the Pirates was that they offered the most money and he was going to sign with the team that offered the most. Since that was his motivation last time he a was a free agent I don’t see it changing this time.


I also don’t recall him saying that he signed here cause we offered the most money. Show me where he said that.

Bill Williams

I never heard that either, why would Martin want to cause a rift with his new team, offer him a fair contract and he will sign it.


Why do fans do this? Why do fans assume that just offering someone a “fair” contract means that they not only should be will sign the contract? Do these same fans do this in their daily lives? Do they take less money to stay with one company over another? These players might get paid millions and millions of dollars per year, but their shelf-lives are very small in comparison to the average working adult. The Pirates will not only have to offer him a “fair” deal but either beat or be very, very close to the team who offers him the most. $12M per year might be “fair”….but if the Dodgers offer him $15M per year the Pirates will have to come close or beat that or they’ll lose him. Simple.

Bill Williams

I never said any such thing what I did say is if offered a fair contract he will re sign. I hope the Bucs realize just how much Russ is worth too the team and act accordingly. The options behind Russell are pretty slim.


“Do they take less money to stay with one company over another?”

Actually they do. Loyalty, comfort zone, relocation, etc. etc..

Will Sanchez

hanburg is correct..the yankees were worried about THE SALARY CAP and we “out bid” them…A J also helped with the “cause” since they were good friends


I didn’t know he said that when he signed, but if the longest deal with the biggest pay package is his main focus than we can obviously forget about resigning him. Some ambitious GM will offer him four of five years with 50 or 60 million dollars and Martin will join this team, no matter if they are contenders or not.
Frustrating for us fans, but then again why should the players have a special bond with Pittsburgh or the Pirates ? Players change teams three, four, five times (or even more) during their careers these days.


Unless he simply loves playing here more than he ever imagined and includes that as a factor…but, as you mentioned, I just have to imagine the Pirates would have to be very, very close for that to even become a factor with Martin.


I hope that they make an offer before the season ends; maybe four years – $45 million? Front load the deal as they’ll have less money at the back-end with the outfield’s contracts and what Cole will eventually earn through arbitration.

David Lewis

They could make an offer before the season ends, but why would Martin even entertain it before seeing what he could get on the open market?


$13/ year for 3 years and a $1M Buyout for a 4th. year (or $13M salary if he’s still in very good shape).
Total $40M guaranteed

Scott Kliesen

I’d much rather they spend over budget on Martin and go cheap on SP to make up for it. Doubt the Pirates will be able to make the top offer even if they agree w me.


I agree to a point. If we get into the $12 mil area for 2 or 3 years and he balks, then I do the $15 mil QO for 2015 and wait to see what happens from there after he declares for Free Agency. There are always at least 2 sides in negotiations, and we can only control what we are able, and then he will be responsible for the rest.


To me, the issue with the Pirates ability to resign him is whether or not they will be comfortable giving him 4-5 years of security. This is probably his last big contract and I doubt he’s looking to give us the hometown discount. I am guessing that the Pirates can offer him competitive dollars, but they will probably balk at the length of the contract he wants. The big market teams can offer an extra 1-2 years without breaking a sweat, but the Pirates’ economic model does not afford the luxury of a 36 year old catcher who can’t play half the games anymore. If they do a long-term deal, they would be gambling that he still has trade value in year 2 or 3.


The Cardinals gave Molina a 5 year/$75 mil contract in his age 29 year with a mutual option in the 6th year with a $2 mil buyout. He hits better, averages about 10-12 games more each year than Martin, and averages above 40% in the caught stealing category. Based on those facts, $12-$13 mil is a max for the first 2 years for Martin. And, he is a guy who is a physical fitness enthusiast who I will not doubt will be just as strong and in shape at age 35 as he is today. I feel about him the same way as I do about ‘Cutch – these are driven people who spread it around to all of their teammates. This is leadership we cannot allow ourselves to lose.

Lukas Sutton

Martin has spent time on the DL this year, so the idea that he will be as fit then as now still isnt great. No amount of loving and partaking in physical fitness stops the body from naturally breaking down a bit after over 10 years of annual wear on it, particularly the knees of a catcher. No way Martin plays a full year in 3 years.


Catchers no longer play 140+ games. Molina averaged about 136 games over the past 5 years, but will be way down this year (around 110) due to his time on the DL with an injury. I think the most we can hope for out of Russ Martin is 125 games a year. Also, in the Hurdle methodology, he gives every position starter at least 5 to 10 games off during the year just for rest purposes, and Catchers even more than that. Both Molina and Martin are extremely valuable for their handling of the pitching staff, and Martin was very “puffy” when he played in NY, but is now as streamlined as any Catcher in the game today. How a player approaches the mid-30’s is the most important part of the equation, and he seems to be very comfortable in Pittsburgh.

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