Dodgers catcher Russell Martin is in the midst of his 14th and what could be his final Major League season, as the impending free agent told Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi that he might consider hanging up his spikes if he can’t land with another contending team this offseason.
“I know I can do it physically. It’s going to be, do I have the desire? Am I going to enjoy myself doing it? I don’t know….I really like competing,” Martin said. “Being on a team like this is fun, but if I wasn’t on a winning team, I’d have to be really selective on where I would go. I’d have to have that perfect fit and who knows if that’s going to be available. There are a lot of things that are going to come into play in the decision. This could possibly be my last year. I don’t know. It could be. We’ll see.”
Martin will be 37 on Opening Day 2020, so it isn’t any surprise that he has been considering the end of his career. He has hit .211/.332/.304 over 205 plate appearances this season, continuing an offensive decline that began to sharpen in 2018. Martin has probably received more playing time than expected this season due to Austin Barnes’ struggles, though the emergence of Will Smith as the Dodgers’ regular catcher has firmly placed Martin back into his original veteran backup role. Martin is still one of the sport’s better pitch-framers, and his .227 caught stealing percentage (5-of-22) is roughly middle of the pack, though Baseball Prospectus rates him as a below-average blocker.
The five-year, $82MM contract Martin signed with the Blue Jays prior to the 2015 season is up after this year, and one would imagine the Dodgers would have some interest in re-signing Martin as an inexpensive veteran mentor to Smith. Then again, Los Angeles also has another top catching prospect in Keibert Ruiz who could be close to the big leagues, plus the club still has to figure out what to do with Barnes, who is less than two years’ removed from himself seemingly being the Dodgers’ catcher of the future.
As Davidi notes, it’s also possible Martin could decide to retire on a high note if the Dodgers were to win the World Series, thus giving the catcher the championship ring that has eluded him through multiple trips to the postseason. If Martin did decide to keep playing, he’d certainly get calls from several teams (including contenders) about a contract in 2020.
One theoretical option could be Philadelphia, as Davidi writes that the Blue Jays’ offseason trade talks about Martin “came down to the Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies.” J.T. Realmuto is obviously locked as the Phillies’ everyday starter, though Andrew Knapp’s rough season has left the club looking for further depth options.