The Pittsburgh Pirates are not as deep at the other half of the battery as they are at starting pitching, but they do have a proven veteran presence in the form of Russell Martin, who appeared in 127 games during the 2013 season.
Martin will be the everyday catcher for Clint Hurdle‘s club. He’s not been a bad addition for the Pirates though he is coming off of a few down years. Offensively, he’s a career .255 hitter with decent home run expectations — averaging 17 per year. Oddly enough, he’s a formidable base stealer for being a catcher, 89-of-125 in his career. Defensively, he’s among the best in the business, boasting a career .992 fielding percentage as a catcher. His passed ball numbers are low and he throws out 31 percent of opposing base-stealers, so the Pirates have to be pleased with this acquisition.
A noticeable change from previous years will be the absence of Michael McKenry, or more affectionately known to fans as “the Fort,” who was designated for assignment in December. Replacing McKenry as Martin’s backup will most likely be the recently signed New York Yankees‘ catcher, Chris Stewart, though Tony Sanchez, who has spent most of his four-year professional career in the minors only seeing action in 22 games professionally, still has a slim chance to make the club.
Chris Stewart was acquired by the Pirates in late-2013 from the Yankees for a player to be named later. According to reports, Stewart will be paid $1 million in 2014, which is great news for a guy with a TSL of .214/.287/.288 and eight career home runs. We are near the Mendoza line here. By signing Stewart, are the Pirates trying to tell fans that there’s not a better option out there on the free agent market? Why not a guy like Humberto Quintero? At least he had some decent power numbers by comparison. At any rate, he’s probably the backup to Martin for the 2014 season. Hopefully, Martin doesn’t sustain any type of injury that will reduce his playing time substantially or the Pirates will have a modest hole in their lineup.
Perhaps the signing of Stewart can be most related to the club’s signing of Rod Barajas a couple of seasons ago. Barajas put up dismal offensive numbers, but he had to be utilized every five games because A.J Burnett claimed him as his personal catcher.
At this point it would be a bit of a stretch for the Pirates to make any further acquisitions at this position considering the money they have tied up in the starter and the backup. Look for the Pirates to spend money elsewhere, specifically first base, if the opportunity arises.
Vinny Gala is a Pittsburgh Pirates writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @VinnyGala.