Russell will not muscle this Pirates team


Sep 27, 2012; Toronto, ON, Canada; New York Yankees catcher Russell Martin (55) bats against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre. The Blue Jays beat the Yankees 6-0. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE

The wait for a legitimate signing is over as the Pirates signed catcher Russell Martin to a two-year contract worth $17 million dollars.

While I like the Clint Robinson signing because he has some power in his bat, he likely will be the starting first baseman in Triple-A Indianapolis. Martin represents the first actual major-league signing.

It was reported that the Pirates and New York Yankees were considered the final suitors to sign Martin but it still comes as a surprise that the Yankees – who obviously had the money – opted to not match the Pirates. In all actuality, according to Buster Olney, the Yankees never made an offer and the Texas Rangers did submit a two-year contract.

It appeared that the Pirates would need to overpay for Martin as the initial three years for $25 million seemed like a stretch, but I feel as though these terms are better.

This signing shows me a couple of things:

1. The Pirates were not satisfied with Michael McKenry
2. The Pirates believe that Tony Sanchez needs more time.

Let’s be honest for a second. The Pirates threw out 8.3 percent of baserunners last year. That’s awful. While Rod Barajas shares the brunt of the blame, McKenry did not do any favors. While the average fan was excited about McKenry’s power numbers, he struck out in at least a third of his at-bats. Couple that with the fact that McKenry has not started a majority of games in a season, and the Pirates decided to check the market.

The call has been made by many fans for Tony Sanchez but between injuries two seasons ago and a down year last year it is clear that he is not ready. The two years should give him the proper time while someone such as Martin, 29, can come in and work with the pitching staff. Sanchez almost certainly will start the season in AAA.

If there is a Pirate that is pleased with this news, it is A.J. Burnett. More than 25 percent of runners were thrown out when those two were together in New York. Burnett being familiar with Martin will be huge for both of them.

Martin has a WAR of 2.2 and saved 20 runs according to defensive metrics. He also hit 21 home runs last season. His home run totals will be down as he hit 18 of the homers to left field, which is deep at PNC Park.

Also, Martin hit .211 which was 28th among the 32 MLB catchers in that statistic. The difference between Martin and Barajas was that Barajas is past his prime whereas Martin is 29 and can actually prove some use.

Again, I like the contact and the Pirates needed a catcher, especially considering their struggles at that position over the past two years. His defense last season was good enough to be a finalist for the AL Gold Glove at catcher. His power is better than Barajas but his strikeout numbers are higher than they should be and that could pose a problem.

Considering how thin the Yankees are at catcher (maybe they’re chasing Mike Napoli) it’s a bit of a head scratcher that they did not match the Pirates contract. It leaves me a bit worried that they know something we do not. The Yankees’ ballpark is much more of a hitter’s ballpark than PNC and that average scares me a bit.

The big news of this signing, at least for me, is that the Pirates are spending money now and coupled with the tender/non-tender decisions, the payroll could definitely go up, something the fans have really wanted to see.

I expect Martin to hit .240 with 15 homers and 50 RBI but that’s just me making a crazy prediction well before April 1. I am no Bill James.

This is just one signing, and the team has more needs they need to address in order to compete, but this is a definite step in the right direction.

Other thoughts:

Russell Martin [from his Twitter] – “I want to thank the @Yankees organization and fans for treating me with class and respect… I will truly miss the city and people of NY.”

Tony Sanchez [from his Twitter] – “What? You guys thought it was going to be handed to me on a silver platter? Gotta earn it. Haven’t so far.”

Chris Leroux [from his Facebook] – “Another Canadian in Pittsburgh…Welcome aboard Russ Martin.”

Neil Walker [Twitter] – “@russellmartin55 Your gonna look good in Black and Yellow!”

John Buccigross [ESPN] – “Most HR As Catcher Since 2011- Brian McCann, 43. Matt Wieters, 43. J.P. Arencibia, 40. Russell Martin, 39. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, 39”

Fans Thoughts:

Jojo Vinay- “It reeks of desperation….but the need is there, and the available talent pool is thin.”

Kayla Thompson- “Bad: a bit overpaid and has a ehh average… good: we only gave him 2 yrs, his defense is great, he knows AJ, we needed a C”

Burgh Blitz- “I like it. What else could they do? Trading for Posey and Weiters isnt feasible. 29 still young. Change of scenery = good?”

Ryan Barnes- “My Pirates just signed one of the best catchers in free agency!!!!!! About time this management team spends some $$$$$$$ on a good player! Welcome to Pittsburgh Russell Martin!!!! And job well done for once Mr. Nutting!”