Russell Martin Rumors

AL East Notes: Soriano, Cashman, Red Sox

With the Red Sox losing the division lead for the first time in two months, here's the latest from a hotly contested American League East …

  • The deal that brought Alfonso Soriano back to the Yankees was consummated over the objections of GM Brian Cashman, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. "I would say we are in a desperate time," said Cashman. "Ownership wants to go for it. I didn't want to give up a young arm." The club dealt young righty Corey Black (and took on salary) to add the 37-year-old Soriano. MLBTR's Steve Adams rounded up the reactions to the deal yesterday. 
  • Cashman's latest overruling continues a trend, Sherman further reports in the same piece. Most recently, Cashman reportedly preferred signing catcher Russell Martin and outfielder Nate Schierholtz this last offseason. Instead, ownership pushed a two-year, $13MM deal with Ichiro Suzuki. While the Yanks could have Martin and Schierholtz playing right now on one-year deals, says Sherman, the team instead has an aging Ichiro-Soriano combination set to earn $11.5MM next season.
  • The Red Sox must add talent, writes Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald, or risk dropping back in a tight AL East race. Silverman opines that the club should call up top prospect Xander Bogaerts to provide much-needed pop from the left side of the infield. Meanwhile, with Clay Buchholz still not on a clear timetable and with Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez choosing the Phillies over the Sox, Silverman says that Boston should also make a deal for a starter.
  • Should Boston make a move to bolster its rotation, one player who could be dealt is third baseman Will Middlebrooks. WEEI.com's Rob Bradford reports that Middlebrooks, who is trying to work his way back to the form he showed in his 2012 rookie campaign, has heard the rumors for the first time in his recollection. "I'm just trying to keep my nose out of it," Middlebrooks said. The 24-year-old indicated that he remains content in the Red Sox organization in spite of his struggles this year: "I have a good opportunity here. I don't need to get traded to have a good opportunity."
  • Looking at Boston's recent history, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal suggests that the team could look to pick up a somewhat under-the-radar player that can contribute not just this season, but in the future. MacPherson notes that the Sox added catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (2010), shortstop Mike Aviles (2011), and reliever Craig Breslow (2012) when the price proved right and the deal met the club's multi-year needs. This season, with Saltalamacchia nearing free agency and backup David Ross injured, the team could look to deal for a backstop with future control even as it gives playing time to prospect Ryan Lavarnway. MacPherson suggests the Padres' Nick Hundley as a possibility, while noting that San Diego could be hesitant to move him.

Quick Hits: Rodriguez, Nolasco, Davis, Martin, Astros

Tonight's Brewers vs. Marlins matchup surely was of interest to teams that might pursue starting pitching in the trade market, Danny Knobler of CBS Sports tweeted at the beginning of the game. Yovani Gallardo started for the Brewers and pitched eight shutout innings, striking out four and walking one. The Marlins' Ricky Nolasco, another trade candidate, didn't fare so well, allowing four runs while striking out five and walking two over 5 1/3 innings. Here are more notes from around the league.

  • Last November, the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks expressed interest in Alex Rodriguez, Ken Belson and David Waldstein of the New York Times report. The Yankees never discussed the matter with the Japanese team, because they knew Rodriguez required hip surgery that would limit him in 2013, and because they knew Rodriguez would not consent to playing overseas.
  • Ike Davis' poor performance (and subsequent demotion) may make him a non-tender candidate in the coming offseason, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York argues. Davis will make $3.125MM this season, and will be eliglble for arbitration next season. He hit .161/.242/.258 in 207 plate appearances this year before the Mets shipped him to Triple-A Las Vegas.  Last month, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes discussed many potential non-tender candidates, including Davis, Clayton Richard, and Chris Perez.
  • The Pirates have had a number of surprisingly good pitching performances this year, and what connects them is catcher Russell Martin, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. Martin's pitch-framing is highly-regarded, and he also wins praise for his game-calling. His impact on the Pirates' pitching staff makes the two-year, $17MM contract to which the Bucs signed him this offseason look like a very good one, Sawchik argues.
  • The Astros are rebuilding the right way, says ESPN's Jim Bowden in a new video. Bowden argues that GM Jeff Luhnow, manager Bo Porter and new president Reid Ryan are the right leaders for the Astros. Bowden also says the Astros' top draft picks help set them up to the future. The Astros selected Carlos Correa first overall in 2012, then grabbed Mark Appel with this year's top pick. They'll also have a very high pick next year. Not trying to spend their way out of last place is the right strategy for the Astros, Bowden says, because of the top picks they get as a result.
  • The Orioles are not interested in Jon Garland, MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko tweets. The Rockies released Garland this afternoon after he posted a 5.82 ERA with 4.2 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 for them.

Olney On Puig, Wells, Martin, Teixeira, Hanley

The latest from ESPN's Buster Olney (Insider subscription required)…

  • Cuban slugger Yasiel Puig is forcing the Dodgers' hand with his monster performance in Spring Training, Olney writes. While the team clearly has no place for him to play given the presence of Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, the buzz he's generating and intrigue from scouts could force the team to consider him for a quick promotion to complement Ethier and/or Crawford against left-handed pitching.
  • Olney wonders why the Yankees appear willing to take on $13MM of Vernon Wells' salary in the trade that has reportedly been agreed to, but wouldn't spend that money on Russell Martin earlier in the offseason: "Instead of having a good defender at a premium defensive position, they have now invested that money in a corner outfielder who has been in decline the last couple of seasons and wasn't even used as a regular player for much of 2012."
  • One possible explanation, as Olney notes, is the salary relief the Yankees will get from Mark Teixeira's injury. The World Baseball Classic is paying the team $7-8MM to cover the injury sustained by Teixeira as he prepared for the event.
  • Similarly, the WBC is picking up the tab for the Dodgers on the injury sustained by Hanley Ramirez in the Championship game.


Quick Hits: Martin, Yankees, Tigers, Dodgers

Pirates catcher Russell Martin thought he would be returning to the Yankees this offseason, Chad Jennings of the Journal News reports. "I thought I was going to be in pinstripes. I thought I was going to be penciled in there, but shows how much I know," Martin says. "There’s really no hard feelings or anything like that. I see it as a business move, and that’s it, really." After catching for the Yankees in 2011 and 2012, Martin agreed to a two-year deal with Pittsburgh in late November. Here are more notes from around the majors.

  • Martin also says the Yankees' current catchers, Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart, are well-equipped to replace him, particularly on defense. "Both those guys can catch," Martin says. "I learned some stuff from Stewart last year just on how quick he is, first of all. Just throwing the ball to second base, and how quick his hands are. His game calling is really good. His receiving’s really good. So defensively, both those guys have got a lot of upside."
  • Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski has to figure out what to do with the team's two players from the Rule 5 Draft, pitcher Kyle Lobstein and second baseman Jeff Kobernus, MLB.com's Jason Beck writes. It might be possible for Dombrowski to work out a trade with the Rays to keep Lobstein and send him to the minor leagues, Beck suggests, but swinging a deal with the Nationals to keep Kobernus will be more difficult.
  • The Dodgers have signed four international players, Ken Gurnick of MLB.com reports. Three of those players, shortstop Dennis Santana, shortstop Carlos Aquino and left-handed pitcher Cesar Romero, are from the Dominican Republic. The fourth, Dashenko Ricardo, is from Curacao and played catcher for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic. Ricardo had previously played in the Orioles and Giants organizations. The Giants released him in January.

East Notes: Rays, Russell Martin, Mets

On this day in 1937, the city of Cincinnati was devastated by a torrential downpour that left Crosley Field, home of the Reds, completely flooded. Two Reds pitchers took a boat out onto the field and navigated the vessel out toward centerfield as the water reached as deep as 21 feet by home plate. Allegedly, one of the pitchers, Lee Grissom, intended to use the boat to reach the front office to collect his paycheck.

Here's the latest news and headlines out of the AL and NL East…

  • The Rays may still be in the market for a bat and bullpen help even after what has been a busy offseason thus far, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Tampa will look to find someone to give James Loney days off at first base or another outfielder to provide depth. 
  • The Yankees will miss Russell Martin's presence behind the plate this season as Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com lists the reasons why. The veteran signed with the Pirates this offseason after New York failed to make Martin a priority.
  • The moves made this offseason by the Braves and Nationals shouldn't affect the Mets' long-term rebuilding plans by speeding up the process, writes Michael Baron of MetsBlog.com. General Manager Sandy Alderson prefers to let his top prospects to continue to develop rather than trade them for a proven big league entity. 

Heyman & Knobler On Hanrahan, Rangers, Bourn

The latest from Jon Heyman and Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com…

Mike Axisa contributed to this post.


Pirates Sign Russell Martin

The Pirates announced that they have signed free agent catcher Russell Martin to a two-year contract.  It is a two-year, $17MM contract, according to David Waldstein of the New York Times (Twitter link).  Martin obtains a $2MM signing bonus, a $6.5MM salary in 2013 and an $8.5MM salary in 2014, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter).  Martin, 30, is represented by agent Matt Colleran.

Martin returns to the NL after spending his last two years in New York, hitting .224/.317/.405 with 39 homers during his two years as a Yankee.  Those numbers represent an upgrade over the numbers posted by Pirates catchers last season — Rod Barajas has already had his option declined by the Bucs and Michael McKenry now becomes Martin's backup.

The deal represents the most expensive free agent signing of Neal Huntington's tenure as Pittsbugh's general manager, easily topping Clint Barmes' two-year, $10.5MM deal from last winter.  It's not often that the Pirates make a big move on the free agent market, let alone outbid the Yankees on a notable player.  Heyman tweets that the Yankees' last known offer for Martin was for two years and between $12-$14MM.  Heyman reported yesterday that the Bucs and Bronx Bombers were the final two suitors for Martin, with the Mariners and Rangers also showing interest in Martin earlier this winter.

FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal first reported the agreement (via Twitter).  Ben Nicholson-Smith contributed to this post.


Quick Hits: Greinke, Twins, Martin, Napoli, Royals

Several player agents tell Larry Stone of the Seattle Times that the Mariners' chances of attracting free agent hitters have improved now that Safeco Field's fences are being moved in.  That said, while the shorter fences will help, "players look at all of those factors, but in the end, it still comes down to where they can get the best contract. And it always will," one agent says.

Here are some items from a very busy day in baseball….


Rangers Links: Hamilton, Greinke, Outfielders, Martin

Happy birthday to Rangers outfielder Craig Gentry, who celebrates his 29th birthday today.  Gentry is a threat against left-handed pitching (an .859 OPS against southpaws in 2012) and has emerged as one of baseball's best defensive outfielders, posting a 27.5 UZR/150 over his four-year career.  Here's the latest from Arlington…

  • Not much has changed between the Rangers and Josh Hamilton, GM Jon Daniels told reporters (including MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan) during a conference call.  Daniels says that he has stayed in touch with Michael Moye, Hamilton's agent, and they will talk again once Moye and Hamilton have fully tested the free agent market.
  • If Hamilton left, finding a new outfielder is "not necessarily our first priority," Daniels said, noting that he is happy with Texas' internal outfield options.
  • Daniels didn't comment on Zack Greinke, but noted that while he's happy with his rotation, "you're always looking out for starting pitching…always looking to upgrade  Do we have to? Not necessarily. It's something we're looking at."  We've heard that the Rangers, Angels, Dodgers and Nationals seem to be Greinke's most fervent suitors.
  • Two rival executives tell CBS Sports' Scott Miller that they think Hamilton will re-sign with Texas.  “As long as Hamilton is willing to take a shorter contract, and I think he’s going to be forced into that," said one NL executive.  Miller also looks back at the original trade that brought Hamilton to the Rangers from the Reds, discussing the deal with then-Cincinnati GM Wayne Krivsky.
  • The Rangers made Russell Martin a two-year contract offer, tweets ESPN's Buster Olney.  Martin agreed to a two-year, $17MM deal with the Pirates earlier today.

Pirates, Yankees Pursuing Russell Martin

9:14pm: The Pirates originally offered Martin a two-year contract according to George A. King III of The New York Post, but they've since increased the offer to three years and upwards of $22MM. Meanwhile, Rob Biertempfel of The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports the Pirates never made an offer as high as $25MM.

3:08pm: Martin sees potential in the Pirates and has a favorable opinion of manager Clint Hurdle, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (all Twitter links). One executive believes the dynamic between the Pirates and Yankees would get interesting if the Pirates offered Martin a three-year, $24MM contract. Other teams remain in the mix on Martin.

8:15am: The Pirates appear to be making a serious attempt to sign free agent catcher Russell Martin, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. Though the Rangers and Mariners are also suitors for Martin, he will likely choose between the Yankees and Pirates. The decision could occur before next week’s Winter Meetings, as Martin is expected to choose within several days.

The Pirates might out-bid the Yankees for Martin, Heyman reports. Pittsburgh could offer $25MM over three years, but the Yankees don’t appear to be in that range. It appears that the Yankees are offering a two-year deal, though if they sweeten their offer in terms of years or salary, that could be enough to bring Martin back to New York.

Andrew Marchand reported yesterday that Martin seeks a four-year deal worth $9-10MM per season.

Mike Axisa contributed to this post.