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Yankees sign catcher Russell Martin to one-year contract

Dec 14, 2010, 11:11 AM EDT

Russell Martin mask

Moving on quickly after Cliff Lee turned them down, the Yankees “have agreed to terms on a contract with Russell Martin,” according to Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. It’s believed to be a one-year deal, although the Yankees would also have Martin under team control in 2012 as an arbitration-eligible player.

Because of his fractured hip Martin passing a pre-signing physical exam is probably no sure thing, but assuming he does the Yankees beat out the Red Sox and Blue Jays to nab the two-time All-Star after he was non-tendered by the Dodgers.

If healthy Martin will be given every opportunity to serve as the Yankees’ primary catcher, with Jorge Posada spending the bulk of his time at designated hitter. Francisco Cervelli is in line to be the backup after starting often in place of Posada this year and the Yankees’ top prospect, Jesus Montero, is for now at least a catcher even if many people believe he’ll eventually move out from behind the plate.

Not so long ago Martin was one of the best all-around catchers in baseball, hitting .285 with a .373 on-base percentage and .433 slugging percentage in 427 games through age 25, but he’s batted just .249 with a .350 OBP and .330 SLG in the past two seasons while missing half of 2010 with the fractured hip that remains a question mark. Bouncing back is hardly guaranteed considering how hard the Dodgers rode Martin prior to the hip injury, but he’s still just 28 years old and would bring plenty of value to the table with his defense and on-base skills even if the rest of his game lags behind.

  1. Brian - Dec 14, 2010 at 11:17 AM

    whew, that really takes the sting out of losing Cliff Lee.

  2. cktai - Dec 14, 2010 at 11:29 AM

    Russell Martin signs for the Yankees: Average Yankee game time reduced by 30 minutes.

  3. homelanddefense - Dec 14, 2010 at 12:14 PM

    why join a sinking ship?

  4. pisano - Dec 14, 2010 at 12:18 PM

    Good move by the Yankees. Providing the hip is sound this will help them on defense and whatever offense he adds will be a plus.You can bet the Rays and Sox were licking their chops with what the Yankees showed behind the plate last year. Saving all that money on being beat out on Cliff Lee will help for a no. 4 and no.5 starter. If they get lucky maybe they can trade Joba, Cervelli, and if someone up there likes them A J Burnett, but I won’t hold my breath on the last one. Ok Yanks start the moves that will get the ball rolling for the assault on the AL east. The Sox had to know the Yankees had a Plan B and C if they didn’t get Lee. I still say not getting Lee will be a blessing in disguise.

    • uyf1950 - Dec 14, 2010 at 3:32 PM

      I like the move as well my friend. His defense can’t help but be better then Cervelli and Posada’s and offensively he has to be better then Cervelli. The Yankees can have Posada concentrate on DH’ing. They can also bring Montero along a lot more slowly and allow him to get most of his ML at bats in Sept. when the team rosters are expanded. This way he will be ready to rock and roll come 2012 if he’s everything most people believe he is. Priorities now are get Pettitte to return, resign Wood and make a deal for a #2 or #3 pitcher at a lot lower cost then Lee. A lot of work ahead for Cashman and Company. But there is no reason to think that the Yankees who won 95 games last year with exactly the same players coming back (assuming Pettitte returns) shouldn’t win at least that many this year. Tex and ARod numbers should improve over last years. Any pitcher they pick up to replace Vazquez has to be better then he was last season. The biggest question mark as we all know is AJ but at 10-15 last year with a 5.26 ERA and 1.51 WHIP almost any numbers he puts up in 2011 have to be better then that. So while Lee would have been nice, all is not lost. In fact an optimist could actually contend that the Yankees probably pick of 2 wins next year by Lee moving to the NL and the Yankees not having to face him. After all he has put a hurting on the Yankees lately when he’s faced them.

  5. Adam - Dec 14, 2010 at 1:01 PM

    PLAN B IN ACTION!!!

  6. yankees1996 - Dec 14, 2010 at 4:31 PM

    To uyf1950 & Pisano – Do not kid yourselves guys signing Russell Martin was a bad idea, the Yankees go out and sign a guy that we have plenty of in the minors. If worse comes to worse a middle of the road oft injured catcher would be available at mid-season trading. The Yankees should have already pulled Montero aside and told the kid o.k. here is the chance you have been waiting for get your game in gear. Cervelli should be most certainly trade bait and if the other trading team insists on another catcher then throw in Romine. I saw the Martin signing the same way as you guys until my brother made me look at it another way and it seems to me that even though he is a Mets fan he is right. The signing of Martin affects Posada exactly zero as the Yanks had already told him to expect big time at DH, this tells me that Montero and Cervelli were probably going to be and will still be the main guys which makes Martin a broken down insurance policy and that is money poorly spent. If Cervelli is traded then he might see limited playing time as Montero catches and Posada works with the kid to bring him along but either way your not getting much from Martin and I expect he will be on the disabled list at the latest 2 weeks into the season. You would have thought the Yankees would have learned their lesson about signings of this type from the Nick Johnson debacle but I guess not.

    • uyf1950 - Dec 14, 2010 at 4:51 PM

      I have to disagree with you. By all accounts Montero is not the defensive solution to the Yankees catching issues (at least not yet). I think the Martin signing is a low risk high reward signing. If he doesn’t work out it’s not like Montero won’t be available, and if Martin does work out it’s no great expense.

      • yankees1996 - Dec 14, 2010 at 5:13 PM

        Montero has never been touted as a great defensive catcher the Yankees are hgh on him because of his hitting ability. Russell Martin also is no defensive wiz as a matter of fact I would say that Cervelli is as good or maybe better than Martin defensively, so again why was Martin signed?

    • uyf1950 - Dec 14, 2010 at 6:27 PM

      yankees1996 – I never said Martin was a defensive wiz. I said he was a better defensive catcher then either Cervelli or Posada. Assuming he’s healthy. Did you see the way this past season runners just teed off on the bases on the Yankee catchers. But even if Martin breaks down during the season what’s the downside for the Yankees. As far as I can see there is none. Montero will still be available if necessary. It’s not like Martin is signed long term. It’s not like it probably cost a lot to sign him. And if Martin performs well it may allow the Yankees to potentially dangle Cervelli along with another player or 2 as trade bait at some point.
      I understand and respect your opinion I just don’t happen to agree with it.

  7. jh0088 - Dec 14, 2010 at 5:03 PM

    oh.

    yay.

  8. jfk69 - Dec 14, 2010 at 7:12 PM

    With just one season in triple a the Yankees didn’t want to end up with another Joba, albeit as a catcher. Smart move as they can call up Montero based on performance rather than a need.
    Boston and the rest of the league can hardly wait to run on Posada and Cervelli. If Martin can stay healthy he is an upgrade over those two.

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