CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman has been reporting the Pittsburgh Pirates‘ interest in free agent catcher Russell Martin for a few days now. Yesterday, he tweeted that the team may be the biggest competitor to Martin’s New York Yankees for the 29-year-old’s services. Today, Heyman reports that the Pirates may be leading the race with a three-year, $25 million offer.
I don’t have to explain why this is a bad idea for the Pirates and a bad thing for Pirates fans to see. Fellow Rant Sports writer Jeff Moore did that in this article yesterday, and I’ve only seen one Pirates blogger so far who believes bringing in Martin would actually help the team.
Sure, Martin hit 18 and 21 home runs in the last two seasons, but he’s playing in the new Yankees Stadium, a proven power number inflator. Switching his home stadium to PNC Park would surely reduce his power numbers—especially considering the fact that he hits right-handed—which is pretty much the only thing keeping him from being considered an average catcher.
He hit .211 this season with the Yankees. Rod Barajas hit .206 with 11 home runs and fans were calling for his head by the end of the season. Martin probably won’t provide much of an upgrade, but he’ll cost much more than the $4 million the Pirates just paid Barajas.
Martin did throw out 24 percent of runners last season compared to Barajas’ six percent, but that’s not all Barajas’ fault. The Pirates don’t emphasize the ability for pitchers to hold runners close to the bag, so Martin’s caught stealing rate will absolutely plummet next season if he signs in Pittsburgh and the Pirates don’t shift this organizational philosophy.
Proof: Barajas threw out 25 percent of runners with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2010 and generally sat around the 20 percent mark for his career prior to coming to Pittsburgh.
If the Pirates were a big-market team and could throw $8 million+ at an average catcher and still afford to sign a rotation arm this off-season, I wouldn’t mind this. But signing Martin could mean team doesn’t bring in any sort of effective starter this season. It could even mean the team doesn’t keep Jeff Karstens. A rotation of A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez and a bunch of question marks would almost guarantee a 21st consecutive losing season for the franchise in 2013.
Unfortunately for the Pirates, the catching market this year is extremely weak and Martin may be the best option out there. However, I would rather see this team move forward with Michael McKenry and Tony Sanchez, the fourth overall pick of the 2009 draft. Sanchez should be a decent catcher some day, and I don’t think splitting major league duties with McKenry this season would be bad for his development.
At this point, Heyman’s rumor is nothing more than that and there will surely be some bidding between the Pirates, Yankees and whatever other teams are in on Martin, though this is one bid Pirates fans may not want the team to win.
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