New York Yankees Made Good Call By Not Extending Russell Martin

By Craig Williams

Even though New York Yankess fans are divided on how much value Russell Martin provided to the squad, many statistics – particularly defensive metrics – will reveal that he was a strong performer in 2011.  The main purpose of this post isn’t to discuss Russell Martin’s defense in detail so I’m not going to burden you with complicated algorithms to determine how many runs he saved the New York Yankees with his framing ability.  There is also the fact that I don’t quite remember where they are.  Anyway, the main point that I want to make here is that the New York Yankees are better off having NOT signed Russell Martin to a long-term extension this offseason.

Prior to Martin and the Yankees coming to an agreement on his one-year arbitration offer, the two parties had initial discussions regarding a three-year deal according to Daniel Barbarisi.  I am a fan of  Martin.  I like what I saw from his defense (although I’m far from a scout) – and I like the pop he supplied from the catcher position (18 homers).  I am not against the the idea of extending Martin for the next few seasons, but at this point doesn’t it make sense to wait and see if Yadier Molina or Miguel Montero hit the open market?

Montero (28) and Molina (29) would almost certainly be more expensive than Martin (29) – and maybe even significantly so.  However, I like the chances of them being able to justify the price tag and outperform Martin over the next few years.  Based on WAR (“Wins Above Replacement” for the more traditional fans) figures compiled by Baseball Reference and Fangraphs, respectively, Martin was worth 1.3 and 3.1 wins while Montero (4.5/4.3) and Molina (3.9/4.1) outpaced him.  Considering their ages are similar, I don’t see any reason(s) to expect this trend to stop.

I’m not going to spend too much time discussing Montero and Molina because the idea that one or both hit the market is still very hypothetical at this point.  Though I will say that in the event that the Yankees have a choice between those two, I would prefer Montero.  I love his power from the left side and I think he’d be a fun guy to watch as he launched an  assault on the right-field stands and bleachers in Yankee Stadium.  Even if they had to “settle” on pursuing Molina, you’d still be talking about the best defensive catcher in the game.  Nothing at all against Martin, but either one would represent on upgrade on paper.

I don’t want to get ahead of myself here.  I try not to spend too much time speculating on which players will hit free agency.  With that said though, there is enough of a chance that Yadier Molina or Miguel Montero make it to free agency for me to commend the New York Yankees on not signing Russell Martin to an extension.  At the very least, the New York Yankees will have the first crack at re-signing Russell Martin after the conclusion of the 2012 World Series.  There is no real need to jump the gun.

For more hypothetical speculation regarding the  New York Yankees, follow me on twitter@craigmwilliams.

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