Pirates rumors: The case for Russell Martin

Rob Carr

Russell Martin might make sense to pair with Pirates catcher Michael McKenry.

It looks as though the Pirates are serious about trying to sign Russell Martin. CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports Pittsburgh is making a "spirited effort" to draw the catcher away from the Yankees and could be offering as much as three years and $25 million for his services.

Pat Lackey over at WHYGAVS compiled a compelling list of reasons why Martin might not be a good fit. To summarize, he's 30 years old, is expensive, and hit just .211/.311/.403 last season with New York. But here are a few reasons why general manager Neal Huntington might consider Martin anyway.

There aren't many (actually, any) better internal options -- The Bucs have three catchers currently on their 40-man roster: Michael McKenry and prospects Tony Sanchez and Ramon Cabrera. McKenry has proven to be a reliable reserve and hit a solid .233/.320/.442 last season, but a team needs at least two catchers who it's comfortable using for significant periods of time. Cabrera, and arguably Sanchez (who didn't stand out in Class AAA in 2012), both require more seasoning in the minor leagues. That leaves Pittsburgh without a whole lot of options in its own system.

There aren't many better options in free agency -- The list of remaining free agent catchers shows Martin as the youngest guy out there. Mike Napoli is probably the best option on the market, but he's likely out of the Pirates' price range. Everyone else is either 35 or older (Rod Barajas, Henry Blanco, A.J. Pierzynski, Brian Schneider, Matt Treanor) or posted an OPS worse than Martin's .713 last year (Miguel Olivo, Ronny Paulino, Humberto Quintero, Kelly Shoppach, Chris Snyder, Yorvit Torrealba). Martin's numbers are good enough to command a real payday, and his age by comparison makes him the reasonable long-term option the Pirates would want without a whole lot of help coming in the minors.

The Pirates don't have much left to trade -- Huntington gave up some of his better trade pieces to acquire pitcher Wandy Rodriguez and outfielder Travis Snider over the summer. The Pirates could move more guys to get a better catcher than Martin to Pittsburgh, but the options there are probably fairly limited. (Someone like Hank Conger might make sense, however.)

Martin is a good option defensively -- With just six errors and nine past balls in 2012, Martin is a steady hand behind the plate. His did throw out just 24 percent of runners last season, but nailed 30 percent in 2011 and 39 percent in 2010. If the Pirates get serious about holding runners in 2013, they could do worse than Martin. He also has a strong defensive reputation with regard to blocking and framing pitches.

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