The Cubs are in agreement with right-hander Chris Martin on a one-year deal, per Jon Morosi of MLB Network. The deal comes with a $2.5MM guarantee, along with $500K in performance bonuses and a $250K roster bonus. (Twitter links)
Martin, 36 in June, certainly didn’t have a textbook path to the big leagues. For the incredible full story, check out this 2019 piece from Tim Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In short, Martin thought his baseball career was ended by a 2006 shoulder surgery. Years later, while working at Lowe’s and UPS, a game of catch with a friend made him realize that his shoulder no longer caused him pain, putting Martin back on his baseball trajectory.
After getting back on the mound in indy ball, he signed a minor league deal with the Red Sox in 2013. After being traded to the Rockies, Martin made his MLB debut in 2014, just a few weeks before his 28th birthday. He didn’t especially impress with the Rockies that year or with the Yankees in 2015, but went over to Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league and excelled over the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
He came back to North America in 2018, signing a two-year deal with the Rangers. After a decent first year in Texas, 2019 was a tremendous breakout for him, as he threw 55 2/3 innings with an ERA of 3.40, strikeout rate of 30.1% and walk rate of just 2.3%.
The Braves, who had acquired Martin from the Rangers midway through that season, signed Martin to a two-year, $14MM contract prior to the 2020 season. He largely maintained his strikeout and walk rates that year, at 30.3% and 4.5%, but had his ERA plummet to an even 1.00 in the small sample of 18 innings.
Things didn’t go so smooth for Martin in 2021, however, as some injuries seemed to limit his effectiveness. In 43 1/3 innings, he still kept his walk rate incredibly low at 3.3%, but his strikeout rate plummeted all the way down to 18.2%. Despite that, he still managed to keep his ERA at a reasonable 3.95 level for the year.
He didn’t crack the club’s roster for the NLDS but was added for the NLCS and ended up throwing 4 1/3 innings in the postseason, continuing to find success without racking up strikeouts. His ERA was 2.08 in that small sample, with a strikeout rate of 17.6%, and not a single walk, helping the club win the World Series.
For the Cubs, their big fire sale at last year’s deadline involved Craig Kimbrel, Ryan Tepera and Andrew Chafin heading out of town. The bullpen took another hit recently when Codi Heuer underwent Tommy John surgery. That left Rowan Wick and Brad Wieck as the only projected members of the bullpen with more than one year of MLB service time. With the recent additions of Jesse Chavez and now Martin, they’ve bolstered their young relief corps with some veteran presence.