There hasn’t been much excitement around the Pittsburgh Pirates offseason thus far other than a few minor trades and some minor-league free agent signings.
However in the past couple of days, the Bucs have been linked to New York Yankees catcher Russell Martin as a potential free agent.
According to George A. King III of The New York Post, the Pirates initially offered Martin a two-year contract, but they’ve since increased the offer to three years and upwards of $22 million.
In addition, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that Martin sees potential in the Pirates and has a favorable opinion of manager Clint Hurdle.
What intrigues Russell Martin about #Pirates? Hurdle made impression on him at 2008 ASG. And, no lie, Martin also sees potential in team.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 28, 2012
The Pirates need a catcher in the worst way. Currently they don’t have one in the organization capable of being a No. 1 backstop. But is Martin that guy? Or an even better question would be is Martin worth roughly $8 million per season?
Martin, 30, made $7.5 million last year when he hit a career-high 21 homers but batted a career-worst .211 and had to get hot to get there.
He’s clearly not the same guy who was an All-Star with the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he played from 2006-10 before spending the past two seasons with the Yankees. However while he won’t be a .300 hitter in a Pirates’ uniform, he’s a leader and the type of guy Hurdle can count on behind the plate.
In addition the Pirates know that because of 20 consecutive years of losing, to compete for any free agents, they have to offer longer deals and shell out more money.
Would they be overpaying for Martin? Absolutely.
Is it something they have to do? Absolutely.
With the market so thin at catcher, landing a guy that can be the primary catcher is a must, even if it means slightly overpaying for him.
However I do have concerns, not so much with what the Pirates would be paying for Martin, but what type of ripple effect – or lack of effect to be exact – it will have on the Bucs’ payroll.
There are a lot of holes I would like to see this team address in the offseason, most notably at first base, shortstop, quality bench pieces and a couple of arms. Does paying Martin $8 million per season mean that the Pirates won’t be spending much more money in an effort to improve the 2013 club?
Judging by past history, that answer will be yes.
Martin plus a couple band-aid fixes in other areas doesn’t make this team any better than it was a season ago. However Martin and a couple legitimate upgrades would. This team could already be without Jason Grilli and possibly Joel Hanrahan going into next season, so that is just another area that will need addressed.
Martin would be an upgrade over the Bucs current situation behind the plate, but could his signing ultimately mean the Pirates will be weaker in other areas?
There’s a more than realistic chance that if they give Martin close to $24 million that will be pretty much it for the offseason. If that’s the case, signing Martin doesn’t accomplish a lot.
But that’s looking down the road a bit as the Yankees and Rangers, two teams with much deeper pockets than the Pirates, are still in the mix for his services.
Reports say a decision could come as soon as the next few days.