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Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors
The Pirates have claimed infielder Pedro Florimon off waivers from the Nationals, Washington announced today.
Florimon, 28 next month, is a switch-hitting shortstop with a questionable bat and outstanding glove. He saw the lion’s share of playing time at shortstop for a last-place Twins club in 2013 and batted .221/.281/.330, hitting a somewhat surprising nine homers and swiping 15 bases. That offense certainly isn’t much to look at, but combined with his glove, he generated 1.8 rWAR and 1.3 fWAR. Defensive Runs Saved pegs Florimon as 21 runs above average over the course of 1700 big league innings at short.
Free agent lefty Francisco Liriano, most recently of the Pirates, is looking to land a three or four-year deal with a $12MM+ average annual value, according to a report from Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (via Twitter). That seems like a plenty reasonable starting point given Liriano’s excellent numbers over the past two seasons. While draft compensation will no doubt play a role in his free agency, MLBTR’s Steve Adams still predicts that he will land $40MM over three years.
Here are some notes out of the National League:
- Cardinals GM John Mozeliak is “increasingly aggressive and unpredictable,” says Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. That lends some credence to the notion that St. Louis could pursue a top free agent starter, says Miklasz, who documents the reasons that adding Jon Lester or even Max Scherzer could make sense. In the final analysis, though, the veteran sportswriter says he would still be shocked if the team beats the market for an ace.
- Not only senior VP of baseball operations De Jon Watson but also GM Dave Stewart have been making the rounds internationally, tweets Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, who notes that the Diamondbacks are hoping to “make waves” in the international market. On the domestic front, Didi Gregorius is drawing the most interest on the trade market among the team’s middle infielders, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets.
- The Padres appear to be leaning toward keeping starters Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross, reports MLB.com’s Corey Brock. San Diego can and should avoid marking down the price on that pair, in my view, as it ought to provide a cheap source of solid rotation production over the next several years.
- Even if the Dodgers are not internally discussing a deal to bring back Hanley Ramirez at shortstop, as was recently reported, that does not mean that the club is closing the door completely to a reunion, per a tweet from Chris Cotillo of SB Nation.
With the Blue Jays set to introduce new catcher Russell Martin and his five-year, $82MM deal tomorrow, let’s take a look at some of the reactions and reporting from around the game:
- Regarding other teams that were in the mix for Martin, the Cubs were “close” runners-up, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). Chicago was pushing past the four-year, $65MM mark and was willing to go to five years under some scenarios, Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago tweets. The Pirates, meanwhile, were willing to go to four years, as Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports, and were involved deep into the process. And we noted earlier today that the Mariners also made a run, per MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince.
- The Blue Jays have drawn interest in backstop Dioner Navarro, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. But the club does not feel obligated to move him, as he can still function as a backup and part-time DH. Navarro is owed $5MM this season in the second and final year of his contract.
- ESPN.com’s Keith Law is among the fans of the deal, via Insider link, writing that Martin is probably good enough by traditional measures to justify the deal, but also shines in areas like pitch framing, staff handling, and leadership. Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca likewise highlighted Martin’s multi-faceted value. Navarro is likely more useful to Toronto as a trade piece than a part-timer, Law suggests.
- Adding Martin likely takes the Jays out of the running for Melky Cabrera, tweets ESPN.com’s Buster Olney. It does bear noting that Martin’s backloaded deal structure still seems to leave the team space to add payroll this year, and Toronto still has plenty of open spending capacity after 2015.
Here are today’s minor moves from around the league…
- The Cardinals have outrighted right-hander Keith Butler off the team’s 40-man roster, according to the MLB.com transactions page. St. Louis has also released center fielder Shane Robinson. The 25-year-old Butler has yet to establish himself in the bigs, but has been quite good in the upper minors. Robinson, 30, has seen his role reduced and was no longer a valuable piece for a Cardinals club that just picked up Jason Heyward.
- The Nationals have released catcher Jhonatan Solano, also per MLB.com. Solano, the older brother of Marlins second baseman Donovan Solano, has seen minimal big league time over the past two years and did not have a clear role in the organization moving forward.
- The Indians announced that they’ve re-signed right-handers Shaun Marcum and Dustin Molleken to minor league deals with invitations to Spring Training. Marcum, 33 next month, was of course a fixture in the Blue Jays and Brewers rotations from 2007-12, though he dealt with his share of injuries in that time. Still, he posted a 3.67 ERA in 830 1/3 innings in that span before thoracic outlet syndrome in 2013 required surgery and has kept him on the shelf since. He did make it back to a minor league mound with Cleveland last season, posting a 2.35 ERA in 15 1/3 Triple-A innings in August.
- Molleken, 30, made 54 relief appearances for Milwaukee’s Triple-A affiliate last season and posted big strikeout numbers but also struggled with his command, to an extent. In 74 1/3 innings, he pitched to a 4.84 ERA with 10.8 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9.
- The Pirates have signed a familiar name to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training in the form of Brad Lincoln, per the club’s transactions page. Lincoln was selected fourth overall by the Bucs in 2006. He struggled through the early portion of his career but got off to a good start as a reliever in 2012 and was flipped to the Blue Jays for the man who was drafted 10 picks after him in ’06 — Travis Snider. Toronto would eventually deal Lincoln to the Phillies for Erik Kratz and Rob Rasmussen. Lincoln struggled with Philly but had success in Pittsburgh and Toronto, posting a 3.76 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 119 2/3 innings from 2012-13.
- The Pirates also announced a host of other signings, including righties Collin Balester, Blake Wood, and Deolis Guerra, lefty Jeremy Bleich, and shortstop Gustavo Nunez.
- The Twins have re-signed infielder/outfielder Eric Farris to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training, reports 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson (on Twitter). The 28-year-old hit .280/.316/.356 with Minnesota’s Triple-A affiliate last season, playing primarily center field.
The Pirates had the inside track on signing A.J. Burnett, as agent Derek Braunecker told Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “It’s the only place he wanted to play in 2015. He instructed me to negotiate exclusively with the Pirates and thankfully there was mutual interest,” Braunecker said. Burnett enjoyed his previous stint in Pittsburgh and rejoined the Bucs on a one-year, $8.5MM deal. Here’s some more from around the NL Central…
- Mutual interest exists between the Cubs and free agent righty Jason Hammel, CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports. Hammel pitched well during his three months as a Cub in 2014 prior to being traded to the A’s, and Mooney points out yet another connection between the two sides — Hammel played under Joe Maddon in Tampa in 2008. At least nine teams and as many as 12 teams have reportedly shown interest in Hammel this offseason, including the Astros and Yankees.
- The Cubs‘ trade for Tommy La Stella “wasn’t a precursor to anything,” GM Jed Hoyer told reporters (including ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers). “Sometimes you have to acquire guys that can get on-base. It’s something we needed.” The La Stella deal seemed curious given how the Cubs already have a surplus of young middle infielders, though Hoyer said his team had tried to trade for La Stella “several times in the past.”
- It’s an open question as to whether or not the Reds will sign Johnny Cueto to a new contract, though an extension shouldn’t be ruled out on purely financial reasons, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer opines. Though Fay thinks extending Cueto would cost “probably north of $150MM,” the Reds will be seeing a revenue increase over the next few years thanks to a new TV deal. If Cueto will take a back-loaded deal, that would lessen the burden on the Reds’ payroll until Brandon Phillips‘ contract is off the books following the 2017 campaign.
- Fay thinks there is a “close to zero” chance that the Reds would trade Cueto this winter, since “owner Bob Castellini is not going to have a fire sale. Period. He thinks this team can win and he wants to win badly.” While Cincinnati seems likely to deal a starting pitcher this offseason, recent rumors suggest that Cueto will stay put.
- The Cardinals should jump at the chance to acquire a power-hitting outfielder and not worry about blocking their young OF prospects, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch opines. Miklasz feels the Cardinals have some long-term questions in their outfield since Jon Jay is “a year-to-year” player who almost lost his job last offseason, right field prospects Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk are unproven and veteran Matt Holliday is only under contract for two more seasons.
Teams have until December 2 at 11:59pm ET to decide which of their arbitration-eligible players they’ll tender contracts. By MLBTR’s reckoning, about 40 of those players are non-tender candidates, including two first basemen, Ike Davis and Gaby Sanchez, who platooned at the position for the Pirates in 2014.
Davis is projected to make $4.4MM in 2015 after earning $3.5MM last season. Sanchez, meanwhile, is projected to make $2.7MM, a raise from $2.3MM. Those costs wouldn’t be exorbitant for any team, even the low-payroll Pirates, but after another somewhat disappointing season from Davis and an off year for Sanchez, it’s worth asking whether the Pirates’ money might best be spent elsewhere.
Perhaps just as important for Davis is the fact that Pedro Alvarez now appears to be a first baseman. The former No. 2 overall pick struggled with throws from third base in 2014, while utilityman Josh Harrison had an unexpectedly outstanding season and staked a claim on a starting job, which will likely end up being at third. GM Neal Huntington has said that Alvarez will likely get the bulk of the playing time at first base, and he called keeping Davis “probably a challenge.” Alvarez and Davis both bat left-handed, so they can’t share a position. Davis has been working out in the outfield this offseason, but there’s probably no space on the Pirates’ roster there, either, since the Pirates already have a top young lefty outfielder in Gregory Polanco and another reasonably strong one in Travis Snider.
It’s still possible that the Pirates could trade Davis, who could theoretically have a bit of value for a team in need of a lefty first base option. But Davis will be more expensive through arbitration than he was in 2014, when he had a .233/.343/.378 season that qualified as a modest disappointment. The trade that brought Davis to Pittsburgh early in the 2014 season didn’t cost the Pirates much (a minor league reliever in Zack Thornton and a young pitching prospect in Blake Taylor), and it’s unlikely the Bucs could get more than that if they traded Davis now. It’s also obvious that, unless they trade Alvarez, the Pirates don’t have space for Davis on their roster. So there’s little incentive for interested teams to do anything but wait until the deadline for the Pirates to cut him loose.
Sanchez is right-handed and has had a reputation as a strong hitter against lefties, so Alvarez’s move to first base doesn’t impact Sanchez the way it impacts Davis. Given Sanchez’s declining performance, however, the Pirates could decide to allocate resources elsewhere. Sanchez hit .229/.293/.385 last season. He was better against lefties, at .256/.318/.429, but perhaps not so well as to justify the expense and the roster spot, especially given that the NL Central is thin on left-handed pitching. Sanchez is a career .291/.382/.481 hitter against southpaws, but at 31, his 2014 performance might be closer to his expected level going forward.
Like Davis, Sanchez has little or no trade value. So the Pirates’ best option might be to non-tender him and save money to spend elsewhere. The Bucs could then look for a cheaper Triple-A slugger to platoon with Alvarez (who, like Davis, can certainly use a good platoon partner). They could also employ some more creative arrangement like having Tony Sanchez, who dabbled as a first baseman late last season at Triple-A Indianapolis, break camp as a righty first base option and third catcher. They could also attempt to bring Gaby Sanchez back for less than $2.7MM.
Davis, who is represented by Octagon, should still be able to land a big-league deal somewhere — his 10 homers last season weren’t anything to write home about, but .343 on-base percentages don’t grow on trees, and Davis is still just 27 (28 in March). The Marlins already have a lefty first baseman in Garrett Jones, but they reportedly like Davis and could have interest if he becomes a free agent. The Padres could also be a possibility, although it’s questionable whether they’ll see Davis as an upgrade over incumbent lefty first baseman Yonder Alonso.
Sanchez, who is represented by Beverly Hills Sports Council, would be a good fit (on a cheap Major League deal or minor league deal with an out clause) for a team looking for a partner for their lefty first baseman. St. Louis, where Matt Adams has a career .197/.227/.326 line against lefties, could be one possibility. A reunion with the Marlins, and with either Davis or Jones (who platooned with Sanchez in Pittsburgh in 2013) could make sense also.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Tigers are a team built to win in the present, but that doesn’t mean their future has to be bleak, Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs writes. The team’s recent four-year deal for Victor Martinez is one of many Tigers contracts that could turn ugly, and the team already has $75MM on the books in 2018 for Martinez, Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander. But that doesn’t mean they won’t have any flexibility. Considering the likelihood of modest payroll increases in the coming seasons, they could have a payroll north of $180MM in 2018. That would give them enough leeway to have a shot even with their current commitments and thin farm system. Sullivan suggests that one future-oriented move the Tigers could make would be to sign J.D. Martinez to a long-term deal. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- Yankees first baseman Greg Bird has been named the MVP of the Arizona Fall League. Bird, a fifth-round pick out of high school in 2011, hit .271/.376/.472 in a 2014 season split between Class A+ Tampa and Double-A Trenton. Bird then hit .313/.391/.556 in 26 games with the Scottsdale Scorpions. The 22-year-old Bird isn’t on the same level as the previous winner, Cubs super-prospect Kris Bryant, but he could still potentially play his way onto the Yankees roster at some point in 2015.
- Re-signing David Robertson is the Yankees’ highest priority this offseason, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News writes. The Royals’ success shows how important a good bullpen can be, and how much a good ‘pen can do to help starters who don’t rack up high innings totals. With Robertson, Dellin Betances, Adam Warren, Jacob Lindgren, Shawn Kelley and new acquisition Justin Wilson, the Yankees could have one of the stronger bullpens in the Majors in 2015, Madden writes. On the flip side, the Yankees would like to re-sign starter Brandon McCarthy, but they think they’ll be able to replace him if another team outbids them.
- A.J. Burnett is a back-end starter at this point, but his new discount contract is still a good one for the Pirates, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs writes. The deal is only for one year, and it’s likely to produce about 1.5 WAR in value, which is a solid rate for an $8.5MM contract. Meanwhile, the Pirates’ homer-suppressing ballpark, defensive shifting and emphasis on pitch framing make Pittsburgh a great destination for pitchers.
- Dave Stewart of the Diamondbacks sees Jeremy Hellickson as “a number two or number three starter,” Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes. The prospects the Diamondbacks sent to the Rays, Justin Williams and Andrew Velazquez, both have potential. (Williams hit .351/.403/.437 in 320 plate appearances in rookie ball and at Class A South Bend this season, impressive numbers for an 18-year-old at any level.) But for Stewart, Hellickson’s talent was more important, and he can help the Diamondbacks now. “They could both be All-Stars, but from our standpoint they’re three or four years away from being major league players,” says Stewart. “We have an opportunity to get a good starter to put in our rotation now and go along with our plans for our team with the 2015 season.”
The Pirates announced that they have signed right-hander A.J. Burnett to a one-year deal. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Frontline Athlete Management client will receive an $8.5MM guarantee (Twitter link).
Burnett, who turns 38 in January, spent the 2012-13 seasons with the Pirates and revitalized his career in black and gold while helping the Bucs to end a historic playoff drought. However, the Pirates declined to make him a qualifying offer following that season and didn’t feel they were able to offer him a salary commensurate with his market value, which proved to be true, as he signed a one-year, $16MM contract with the Phillies. That contract contained a mutual option that vested as a player option, but Burnett turned down a guaranteed $12.75MM from the Phils to take $4.25MM less and return to Pittsburgh — a team and environment of which he spoke fondly even after his departure.
After posting a combined 3.41 ERA with 8.9 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 393 1/3 innings as a Pirate, Burnett struggled in Philadelphia, posting a 4.59 ERA in 213 2/3 innings. Burnett’s walk rate spiked while his ground-ball and strikeout rates dipped, resulting in the inflated ERA and an NL-worst 18 losses (though the Phillies’ poor team performance obviously impacted that last number). Burnett pitched the entire season with a hernia that required offseason surgery — another likely factor in his 2014 struggles.
Burnett will return to a Pittsburgh rotation that faces the potential losses of both Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez, who are now free agents. He’ll slot in behind Gerrit Cole and perhaps Vance Worley and Jeff Locke, though the Pirates figure to be active in seeking to add other experienced arms to the 2015 rotation. A return to the Pirates could boost Burnett’s performance, as the move will again pair him with pitching coach Ray Searage and an infield that is known to be above the most aggressive in baseball, in terms of shifting (a welcome sight for Burnett’s ground-ball generating arsenal).
One question for Burnett is whether or not he will again be throwing to the talented Russell Martin, who is a free agent as well and is expected to be too expensive for the Pirates to retain. The Bucs recently acquired Francisco Cervelli from the Yankees, who could pair with Chris Stewart to form this year’s catching tandem for manager Clint Hurdle if Martin is not retained.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Both the Yankees and Mets are interested in free agent shortstop Stephen Drew, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The possibility of Drew going to either New York squad as a free agent was a prolonged saga that never came to fruition last offseason (though Drew did eventually end up a Yankee via trade). However, as Sherman points out, it could be different this time around, as Drew may have to settle for a one-year deal. (I’d personally wager that Drew can top the $4MM guarantee suggested by Sherman, but I agree with his point in a general sense.) Both teams are in the process of trying to determine whether his 2014 swoon was due to a late start to the season or if it was the beginning of a stark decline in his offensive skills.
Here’s more on the Mets and Yankees…
- Also within Sherman’s piece, he notes that neither team is currently interested in Japanese shortstop Takashi Toritani. The 33-year-old Toritani recently hired Scott Boras as his agent and is said to be weighing a jump to the Major Leagues, but only if it means regular playing time. An absolute iron man in 11 seasons with Japan’s Hanshin Tigers, Toritani hasn’t missed a single inning at shortstop over the past 10 seasons (1,444 games), hitting .285/.372/.412 in that time.
- Mets prospect Matt Reynolds spoke with Adam Rubin of ESPN New York about the strides he’s made on both ends of the game in the past year. The shortstop said he felt playing at Triple-A Las Vegas helped improve his defense immensely, because the infield is so fast there. “Vegas’ infield is one of the fastest infields I’ve ever played on,” said Reynolds. “…You’re playing in the middle of the summer with 115-degree weather and the infield is rock solid. …it taught me to get ready early and to use my hands.” GM Sandy Alderson said Reynolds will return to Vegas to open next season.
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman said that his top priority is finding a starting shortstop, writes NJ.com’s Brendan Kuty. Cashman adds that he feels the Yankees’ payroll will be “high” and “impressive” this year, stating that ownership has always had an “impressive commitment” to the fanbase and he hopes to use that support to improve the roster.
- In a second piece from Kuty, Cashman talks about the trade of Francisco Cervelli for Justin Wilson. Surprisingly, Cashman notes that he discussed this exact swap with Pirates GM Neal Huntington two years ago, but the sides didn’t follow through on the deal at that time. Cashman wouldn’t commit to John Ryan Murphy as the backup to Brian McCann just yet, mentioning Austin Romine‘s name as well.
Russell Martin‘s last venture into the free agent market resulted in a two-year, $17MM contract with the Pirates — though Pittsburgh reportedly also offered a three-year, $21MM pact — that proved to be one of the best signings in recent history. Martin’s free agent stock has soared, and he now has a case to more than triple the total commitment on his last contract.
Martin is coming off of arguably the strongest season of his career, having batted .290/.402/.430 with 11 home runs. His on-base percentage is the result of an excellent walk rate, 12.8 percent, that he has sustained throughout his entire career as a Major Leaguer (11.6 percent). Martin exhausts opposing pitchers, as evidenced by the fact that among players with 450+ plate appearances this season, Martin ranked ninth in pitches per PA at 4.21.
Martin’s .402 OBP would look solid next to any player, but it’s particularly impressive for a catcher. And even in 2013 when he batted .226/.327/.377, his park-adjusted numbers were better than the typical catcher. Martin has spent the past two seasons playing in PNC Park, which among baseball’s worst parks for right-handed hitters, perhaps deflating his rate stats. Yet he posted a park-adjusted OPS+ of 100 (league average) and 136 (36 percent above average) in 2013 and 2014, respectively. His wRC+ marks, also park-adjusted and on the same 100-point scale, were 102 and 140. For context, the league-average catcher has posted a 92 wRC+ over the past two seasons.
Catcher defense has become better quantified in recent seasons, and Martin’s among the best defensive backstops in baseball. He threw out 39 percent of potential base-stealers in 2014 and 40 percent in 2013, and his career average is 32 percent. This past season, the average MLB catcher caught 28 percent of runners. Pitch framing has also become an oft-cited component of a catcher’s worth (though it isn’t included in WAR), and Martin was among the league leaders in that category. StatCorner.com’s Matthew Carruth rated him 11.7 runs above average in framing, while Baseball Prospectus estimates that Martin netted his pitchers and extra 155 strikes despite not playing a full season.
In addition to his work both at and behind the plate, Martin is somewhat surprisingly fleet of foot for a catcher. That’s not to say he’s a burner, but he’s graded out as an average baserunner for his career and has dipped to only slightly below average on the bases in recent seasons (Fangraphs pegged him 1.1 runs below average in 2014). He’s also highly durable, having been on the DL just twice in his career (he did also undergo offseason knee surgery in 2011).
Though the “strength” portion of Martin’s profile is rather robust, he’s not a player without his faults. Martin probably won’t repeat his sensational offensive numbers next year, or any other year for that matter. That .290 average was supported by a career-high .336 BABIP, and that BABIP should regress toward his career mark of .289 next year. Martin showed double-digit homer pop again in 2014, but his .140 isolated power mark (slugging minus average) was his lowest since 2010.
Martin turns 32 in February, so this next contract is going to offer little in terms of prime-age seasons. The team that signs him will likely be paying for his decline phase — and more so than with a typical free agent hitter. Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review recently looked at the aging curve for catchers in the post-PED era and found that there isn’t a significant WAR drop-off from catchers’ age 32-35 seasons, and Martin is of course a fantastic athlete who keeps himself in incredible shape. While those factors may help his cause a bit, there’s no way around the fact that teams are going to have reservations about committing long-term to someone who plays the most physically demanding position on the field as he enters his mid-30s.
The Pirates made the easy call to extend a qualifying offer to Martin, who of course rejected, so he will require a team to forfeit its top unprotected pick in order to sign him.
Martin keeps himself in outstanding shape and began undergoing Muscle Activation Techniques (MAT) to help mend a balky hamstring, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote in September. Also from Brink, Martin regularly does pilates and implemented a strict weightlifting routine this season to keep his strength up through the entire year. As ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick writes, Martin can often be found kicking a soccer ball around with teammates before games. Crasnick calls him a “born supe-jock,” noting that Martin enjoys playing ice hockey and doing yoga, and also entertains his teammates by walking on his hands with ease.
Per the Pirates media guide, the Canadian-born Martin spent three years living in France from ages 8-10. His middle name, Coltrane, is a nod to famed jazz musician John Coltrane, which is no surprise considering the fact that Martin’s father is an accomplished saxophonist. In 2009, Martin announced that he would donate $600K to the One Drop foundation, which seeks to combat poverty by providing access to clean water around the world.
Martin excels at most facets of the game when compared to other catchers, but he’s even more impressive when stacked up against a weak crop of free agents this year. Simply put, he’s the prize of the catching market, and it’s not close. Geovany Soto, Nick Hundley, A.J. Pierzynski, John Buck and J.P. Arencibia are among the other options. The latter three were designated for assignment in 2014, while Hundley’s $5MM option was declined and Soto has hit .219/.291/.381 over the past three seasons. A team in need of a surefire starter behind the plate has two options: sign Martin or trade for a catcher.
And while the trade market may seem a good alternative, there aren’t many readily available regulars. The trade market for catchers is weak enough that Hank Conger, who has never served as a full-time option, got a respectable return for the Angels. The other options on the market are names like Jason Castro, Miguel Montero and Yasmani Grandal. Grandal and Castro are coming off down seasons at the plate, and Montero is owed $40MM over the next three seasons. Backup type options such as Rene Rivera and Carlos Corporan could also be had (though Rivera, coming off a surprisingly excellent season in San Diego, may be seen as more than that).
There’s been no shortage of early interest in Martin, though the four teams that appear to have been the most aggressive are the Pirates, Dodgers, Cubs and Blue Jays. The Pirates have long said they would love to retain Martin, and both owner Bob Nutting and GM Neal Huntington have said they’re willing to stretch payroll to make it happen.
Martin met with the Cubs, Blue Jays, Dodgers and Pirates this week at the GM Meetings, according to reports, and it’d be surprising if agent Matt Colleran didn’t at least explore talks with several more clubs. Those four teams appear to be the front-runners at this stage, however. If other teams are brought into the mix, I’d think that the Rockies, Astros, A’s, Rangers, Tigers and White Sox could be fits for Martin, though it’s unclear that all of those teams could actually afford him.
When it comes to the free agent market, Martin is the lone starting catcher in a sea of backups and reclamation projects coming off injuries, poor performances or both. Despite his age and lack of pop when compared to Brian McCann, I’d be surprised if Colleran isn’t citing McCann’s five-year, $85MM contract from last winter as a talking point.
I feel that four years is the absolute floor for Martin, given his interest, and it’s hard to see him taking an annual value that’s much lower than McCann’s $17MM if he has to sacrifice a full year. Ultimately, I think there will be several teams involved and willing to go four years, but the team that pushes to a fifth year will be the one to land him. That fifth year will require him to take a hit on his annual value, and I think anything in the $70-75MM range is plausible, so I’m splitting the difference and projecting a five-year, $72.5MM contract.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.