Four-time All-Star catcher Russell Martin officially announced his retirement on his Instagram page today. Martin thanked many people who helped support him throughout his career, and is now stepping away from the game after 14 MLB seasons’ worth of “timeless memories that I will cherish forever.”
A 17th-round pick for the Dodgers in the 2002 draft, Martin spent his first five Major League seasons and his final season (2019) in Dodger blue. In between his two stints in Los Angeles, Martin played two seasons apiece with the Yankees and Pirates, and four seasons playing the Blue Jays in his home country of Canada.
It didn’t take Martin long to make an impression, as he was a ninth-place finisher in NL Rookie of The Year voting in his 2006 debut season, and he then crushed the “sophomore slump” by winning a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger Award in 2007. Martin also earned the first of his four All-Star nods that year, later returning to the Midsummer Classic in 2008, as a Yankee in 2011, and as a Blue Jay in 2015.
One of the sport’s better defenders and pitch-framers during his career, Martin would likely have captured more than one Gold Glove had he not spent so many of his prime years in the same league as Yadier Molina. Bringing some extra athleticism to the catcher position, Martin also saw some action elsewhere around the diamond during his career, appearing in 57 games at third base and making a handful of appearances at second base, shortstop, and both corner outfield slots.
Martin complemented his defense with some solid and occasionally excellent hitting, including his Silver Slugger year and a 2014 season with Pittsburgh that saw him hit .290/.402/.430 over 460 PA. That latter season was particularly timely for Martin since it came just before a trip into free agency, and the result was a five-year, $82MM deal that at the time was the second-biggest contract in Blue Jays history. It was the long-term payday that Martin had been seeking after a few underwhelming years, including an injury-marred 2010 season that led the Dodgers to non-tender him that fall.
Winning was a common element for Martin no matter where he went, as he appeared in the postseason in 10 of his 14 seasons. While none of Martin’s teams reached the World Series, he had his share of memorable playoff moments — perhaps most notably a (crowd-assisted) home run off Johnny Cueto as part of a two-homer game for Martin in the Pirates’ Wild Card game victory over the Reds in 2013.
As his career wound down, Martin did plan to play in 2020 and received a few offers from teams, but the pandemic seemed to scuttle any chances of the catcher returning for one final season. He’ll now hang up his cleats after hitting .248/.349/.397 (104 wRC+) with 191 home runs and 1416 hits over 1693 games and 6648 PA in the Show. Martin retires as an icon in Canadian baseball, as only Ferguson Jenkins, Larry Walker, and Joey Votto recorded more career bWAR amongst players born north of the border.
We at MLB Trade Rumors congratulate Martin on a terrific career, and we also congratulate his family on the impending arrival of a third child (as Martin announced in his Instagram post).