Was it Wise to Table the Martin Negotiations Until After the Season?

Our friends at NoMaas hit the nail on the head about how I feel about Russell Martin:

Baseball Prospectus has published another article quantifying the effects catchers have on their pitching staffs, and once again, Russell Martin ranks among the top in the game.

The money shot: Martin has added 1.7 wins in catcher defense per year. Overall, this means he’s been between an all-star and an elite level player pretty much every year of his career.

According to Fangraphs, Martin’s 2011 performance is worth $13.8 million dollars. Brian Cashman has compared him to Thurman Munson. The pitchers have lauded his defense and game-calling.

Reports indicate the Yankees offered Martin 3 years/$20 million, which, as NoMaas points out, would be a pay cut from his ’12 salary of $7.5 million.

Loyal followers know that I am a huge proponent of defense behind the plate.  Unless it’s Piazza, Bench or Berra, give me defense over offense. Martin is certainly not the offensive player that any of those Hall of Famer’s were, however he will pop you 20 homers and drive in 70 runs. He isn’t the elite offensive catcher he was in 2006-2007, but certainly not anemic.

I believe the Yankees unlikely starting pitching success last year was largely due to the presence of Martin. I doubt Jorge Posada would have had a similar impact.

Perhaps it’s the hip injury that has the Yankees’ concerned. Maybe it’s an example of being penny-wise and pound-foolish. Where is Randy Levine with the overpay on a player that actually is useful?

Look at this objectively. Is Martin any worse than Pudge Rodriguez circa 2004-2007? Pudge had a huge name at the time, but his performance on both sides of the ball looks pretty much like what you would expect from Martin. Pudge was paid $10 million dollars AAV for his services.

It appears the Yankees are shorting their starting catcher’s value.  It’s no sure thing that Austin Romine can hit at the big league level. Gary Sanchez needs tons of work before he is ready (maybe by the end of a Martin 3-year deal), and we all know the Francisco Cervelli is not a starting catcher. Is it wise to not lock up Martin for what is a very reasonable cost for the team with the highest payroll in baseball?

The Red Sox might need a catcher. The Mets have young pitchers that might require a solid receiver. Tons of teams could use Russell Martin (including his former employer in LA) as a valuable component piece on a championship club. Ten million dollars a year for his services is not a wild figure.

It might be a mistake to get into a bidding war for Martin. You might be able to save money now if you up the offer to around $8 million a year.

Remember, we have seen teams get crazy (see Washington Nationals).

By Mike Silva
Monday, 27 Feb 2012


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