Russell Martin Turned Down a Pirates Mid-Season Extension Offer

I missed this while I was on the road yesterday, but Jon Heyman reports that Russell Martin turned down an offer during the 2014 season from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Heyman says that the terms of the deal were unknown, and that there’s no indication that the sides are anywhere close on a deal right now.

This news isn’t a surprise. I wrote the other night about how Martin has been looking forward to free agency since the day he signed. His reason for signing a two-year deal, rather than the three-year deal the Pirates offered, was that it allowed him to re-enter free agency earlier.

Without knowing what the Pirates offered, I’d say there’s really no reason for Martin to take a deal when he’s so close to free agency. He’s the only starting catching option on the open market, and as Heyman notes, big spenders like the Red Sox, Rangers, Cubs, and Dodgers could be looking for a catcher. Unless the Pirates offered a ridiculous amount of money before he hit the open market, there would be no reason for him to accept an early deal.

As for the amount, Heyman throws out two comps: Miguel Montero (5 years, $60 M) and Brian McCann (5 years, $85 M). I think Martin will fall closer to the McCann deal, although my guess is that it could be closer to 5/$75, or 4/$60 if he doesn’t get that fifth year. Montero signed his deal a year before free agency, which impacts the price, and both catchers were younger than Martin, which might impact his chances of getting that fifth year. That said, if a big spending team wants to land Martin, they might have to commit to the fifth year, even though there’s a decent chance that year could be a sunk cost.

In the Pirates’ case, I think they should go up to four years, and I think $15 M a year is totally reasonable. Anything beyond that in years and dollars makes it harder to justify bringing back Martin.

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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Can the Pirates place Russell Martin, Liriano, and Volquez on waivers to gauge trade interest and then rescind if no reasonable offers come forward? Not sure what the waiver rules are for a team that has been eliminated from playoff contention.

Probably has never happened in the past, but with the draft pick compensation being a recent addition to free agency rules, would it benefit the Pirates to try that route?


I see a lot of comments about wise Gm’s, there is no such thing. That’s not saying that they are not smart it’s just how wise do you really have to be when you are spending other peoples money? That fifth year for martin looks mighty tempting to a gm in boston,new york or l.a. Or for that matter any large market. All I’m saying is how wise do you have to be to fork over someone elses cash? Start making these guys come off of some of their own money and you would start seeing some wise decisions. And yes I know a gm can be fired but how does that hurt them they are already rich and chances are someone else will hire them to spend large amounts of their money on more questionable moves. I do not see any sense being injected into this proccess until MLB puts a salary cap of some kind in place. Anyway that’s the view from sanesville, how’s it look from leftfield?


From left-field I can spot David Littlefield behind home plate, working as a scout for the Cubs, quite a tumble down the organizational pyramid.


Funny andrew, I’m quite sure littlefield laughed all the way to the bank. Thanks for the humor.


Martin hasn’t been trying to fool anyone since day one that it is anything other than strictly about the money. The Pirates have proven they can play offense with only half of their position players being marginal at best. I’m just so torn between the reality of very few players do anything to match what they did to earn these contracts and the thought of pre-Martin and watching Barrajas and the Fort trying to throw some ones grandfather out.


IMO, the Pirates will offer Martin and probably have offered Martin what he is worth, but we are dealing with owners and TV people that don’t care what someone is worth in baseball value, they are more concerned with what the player is worth in monetary value to there business. I don’t know the final numbers, but the Pirates were 2nd in local TV ratings in all of baseball in Sept, those ratings numbers might factor into how much over Martins value they want to go, they certainly will factor into the next TV contract the Pirates sign.


The part where Heyman says they were far apart confuses me. He doesn’t know what the numbers were or anything resembling an offer, yet he assumes because it’s the Pirates, they can’t possibly be close. This could be correct, based on past practice, but there’s a reason players end up in places that the experts didn’t see coming. They aren’t nearly as connected as they think. Teams and agents use these bozos to get what information they want out when they want it out. I don’t think he resigns, but they better have a strong contingency plan, because this situation could really set this contending team back both in the standings and the fans.


Is it cynical for me to assume that word of a rejected extension leaking out is the Bucs way of attempting to assuage the fans when Martin doesn’t resign?

Loved having him on the team, and he’ll be missed…hope the team does better with the pick for him than Connor Joe.


If anything, the leak is coming from the other side of the table.

Jon Heyman is notorious for being a conduit for agents, notably Scott Boras. Notice how his article is the first to use Miguel Montero’s contract as a floor? And that this article just happens to leak the same week as Martin does an interview with Boston media and other chirps about him playing elsewhere start coming out?

Martin’s agents know what they’re doing.

John Lease

No, because we’ve all seen it play out many, many times before.


Exactly, it is nothing more than more Nutting propaganda, the guy made his money in the newspaper business, he has contacts.


If Martin signs elsewhere for more money, regardless if the Pirates make a very aggressive offer, there is a certain contingent of the alleged “fan” base that already has a prepared statement that “Nutting only offered X/Y years because he already knew that Team Z was offering X+1/Y years.”

Those folks will never be appeased until Nutting sells. And since Nutting is never going to sell, these same folks will never fully realize the joy of a competitive team. Alcoholics use the Serenity Prayer to deal with their problem. Might be a good idea for the anti-Nuttings to consider same.


Here’s the thing with Martin. It’s been touched on by myself and others that you can replace Martin’s missing WAR elsewhere.

However, the decision isn’t quite as easy as “only a fool would give Martin a 4th year” or “we can pick up a 2 WAR catcher at the garage sale”.

IMO, what makes Martin a different case is that this team is ready to win now. So it’s not just the value of Martin’s WAR that needs to be considered – you also have to account for the value of Martin to the pitching staff. Question is, what precisely is that value? It’s some algorithm that includes blocks, controlling the opponent’s running game, pitch framing, game calling, perhaps along with the squishy “leadership” attribute as it pertains to managing the pitchers’ psyche. Some of that is included imperfectly in WAR, but not all. And I think that’s the algorithm Fox & Fitzgerald are trying to crack.

Thus, I think that if you had a very poor offensive catcher, if said catcher possessed all of the same defensive and game management attributes of Martin, you’d have to consider that guy and make your oWAR gains at other positions. Strength up the middle is still a key to winning. A guy like Rene Rivera might make a lot of sense for a year or two if Bucs couldn’t get Chooch or Castillo or Avila, IF the Bucs make moves to bump up oWAR elsewhere (and I don’t think Pedro to 1b is the answer to that).


Mauer has $92 mil for the next four years


And Mauer has primarily played first base this year. Kurt Suzuki has done most of the catching. Does $23 million a year make sense for 2.1 WAR first baseman? Brian McCann (at $15 million a year) was 1.8 WAR playing full time catcher (140 Games started).

Lee Foo Young

Is he worth $15 a year if he reverts to his career average (.259/.754) or his poor 2012/2013 years? This was his best OPS since 2007 and his first over .732 since 2008.

Sure, his defense, et al, is awesome, but $15 mil awesome if his bat reverts?


Is he worth $15 million a year in the final two years of his contract if he is splitting time between catching and playing a corner infield position? Even if Martin stays relatively healthy over the term of his contract and maintains his offensive output over those four years (no guarantees) – I think the Pirates will be bringing in a young catcher by year three. Does his offense at a corner infield position play as $15 million a year?

That is why I am in favor of the qualifying offer ($15.3 million , 1 year) but not in favor of $15 million / year over four years.


Give Russell Martin the QO & move on. He’s not coming back. Pirates should start talking trades immediately & not waiting until their over a barrel. Preferable someone with only 1 or 2 years till free agency.

Lee Foo Young

Other than the “their over a barrel” part, I totally agree. ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

They’re not gonna sign Russ…that’s for sure.


What I mean is if you QO him & negotiate on a trade before he signs elsewhere, your talking trade with Russ still being an option. Once Russ signs elsewhere teams know your options are limited somewhat.


Start with that QO and go from there. Teams may back off a little with having to give up a 1st. I guess it could end up a compensatory 1st if it’s Boston, Texas or the the Cubs. 4 for 60 is what I hope they offer. Hopefully if a team offers 5-75 Russ gives the Bucs a chance to match.


what’s the usual age of defensive decline for catchers? that should surely be the next phase of martin analysis


Fangraphs has an interesting article about it here:

The problem, as mentioned in the comments, is that it doesn’t account for survivor bias.

A more telling stat is here:

Of the 67 hall of fame catchers that have caught more than 1200 games, the average number of games caught by each of those catchers was 1576 games. Compare that 90 hall of fame shortstops playing an average of 1862 games.

Russell Martin through this year has caught 1121 games.

Not saying that Russell Martin is or will be a Hall of Fame catcher – that was just the data set that the writer of the article was using (Hall of Fame players).

Sean Epstein

Well the drop off usually occurs after age 30. It is a linear drop with no huge cliff. That said, Martin has sort of bucked that trend. He has had his best year after 30. He is also a student of the game and a physical fitness nut. I personally do not think Martin will approach 2014 from an offensive standpoint but there is certainly reason to believe he has at least 3-4 above average years left. Can’t seeing them go past 4-60 as Tim says. That 5th year is a lot to take on and if McGuire is ready you have an old 15+ million dollar player. Not something teams like the Pirates can swallow.

Lukas Sutton

Martin did a fabulous job playing the media into continuing to spray his “fitnesses nut” mantra everywhere. I get that he feels like he is in great shape, but the guy was able to play a whopping 110 games in that great shape. To think he and he amazing training will keep him healthy at age 35 is a risk at 15 million per year. A slight drop in healthy and its 15 million for a guy playing less than 100 games a year with average offense.


SE/LS: Just a glance at the number of games played as a Catcher over the years has to wake up even the heartiest supporters of a 5 year contact. Where he was at 150 games a year, he dropped to 125+ and the last 2 years with the Pirates he averaged Catching 113 games a year. Yes, he was in pitiful condition when he played in New York, but does good shape equate to more games played at Catcher? Evidently not. So, if money is no object, try this on – a $5 mil signing bonus ($3 mil due on signing/$2 mil deferred), $15 mil in 2015, $17 mil in 2016 ($2 mil deferred), and a base year of $10 mil for 2017, with incentives rising to $17 mil based on numbers of games played at Catcher in 2015 and 2016 (anything over $15 mil is deferred). Add a 4th year equal to the 3rd year based on number of games played at Catcher in 2016 and 2017 with anything over $15 mil deferred. Deferred monies are paid in 4 equal payments due April 1 of each year following retirement.

The Grey Ghost

Agreed. He successfully convinced people his great year was due to his physical fitness. But anybody with access to the internet can easily look up the real reason – a BABIP fueled offensive performance unlike anything he has ever done in the past. Martin’s .336 BABIP in 2014 was 70 points higher than his 2013 BABIP and 114 points higher than 2012. His 140 wRC+ in 2014 was 38 points higher than 2013 and 18 points higher than his next best year (2007).

Wise GMs will know better than to invest heavily in a 32 year old catcher coming off an artificially great season. Martin is the epitome of a regression candidate.


I’m not going to argue the merits of his conditioning, BUT, he has also talked about changing his hitting approach to use all fields and a dramatically improved two-strike approach which includes choking up on his bat and a shorter swing.

In 2013, he batted .100 on 0-2 counts, .119 on 1-2 counts and .122 on 2-2 counts. In 2014 he bumped that up to .213/.197/.232. Those are significant increases and the best he’s done by far since 2008.

So it’s not just Pilates.

The Grey Ghost

Players talk about the things they have done to improve all the time. But they still have outlier years when their BABIP spikes beyond their true abilities. I think Russell Martin had a career year inflated by an unsustainable BABIP. But perhaps others think he made adjustments at age 31 that will carry over for several more years of 140 wRC+ production. It seems foolish to me, but it’s not our decision to make so it only really matters whether Neal Huntington thinks it reasonable to think Martin can sustain a .336 BABIP.


GG – it’s a walk year and one Martin has planned for since 2012 – the final huge cash-in opportunity. I don’t think it’s as much a question of whether RM can keep this up for 2-3 more years. I would question whether he wants to continue working that hard once he’s secured his future. Hate to say that, but we’ve all seen other players excel in walk years and then take the foot off the gas. I don’t think that’s Martin, but who knows.


I’m curious what the offer was.

The Grey Ghost

According to a source whom I made up for the purpose of this comment, it was a 3 year $36 million offer.

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