Skip to content

Cast off by Yankees, Russell Martin is early postseason hero for Pirates

Oct 2, 2013, 12:50 AM EDT

Russell Martin Getty Images

Russell Martin may have hit a mere .226 for the Pirates this season, but there’s little doubt he was a difference maker. On Tuesday, he showed the Yankees what they were missing my hitting two homers and catching another gem from Francisco Liriano as the Pirates advanced to the ALDS.

After a successful first year in pinstripes in 2011, Martin and the Yankees discussed a three-year deal without ever getting anything done. He avoided arbitration for the 2012 season by signing a one-year, $7.5 million deal, but he wanted more than that annually to do the long-term pact. The Yankees were thinking something closer to $20 million for three years.

Martin’s average ended up tumbling from .237 to .211 in his second year in New York, and while there was still some talk of a multiyear contract when he hit free agency, indications are that the Yankees never submitted an offer. The Pirates made him two offers: $17 million for two years or $21 million for three. He was also reportedly offered $13 million for two years by the Rangers. He chose the two-year contract from the Pirates.

Martin went on to hit .226/.327/.377 with 15 homers and 55 RBI in his first year for the Pirates. It was the best season the Pirates got from a catcher since Jason Kendall’s heyday. Despite the modest average, Baseball-reference says he was worth 4.3 WAR. It’s actually the ninth-highest total for a sub-.230 hitter in their database.

5.2 – Gene Tenace (1978 Padres)
5.0 – Ozzie Smith (1980 Padres)
5.0 – Mark Belanger (1975 Orioles)
4.9 – Gene Tenace (1974 Athletics)
4.9 – George McBride (1910 Senators)
4.7 – Darryl Strawberry (1989 Mets)
4.6 – Ron Hansen (1963 White Sox)
4.5 – Mark Belanger (1974 Orioles)
4.3 – Russell Martin (2013 Pirates)
4.3 – Roy Cullenbine (1947 Tigers)

That’s an interesting mix of defensive whizzes (Smith, Belanger) and homers-and-walks guys (Tenace, Cullenbine). Martin is a little of both there, getting equal credit for his offense and defense in rWAR. It rated him as the NL’s 23rd best position player this year.

The Yankees, meanwhile, suffered through the season with Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli and Austin Romine doing the catching. In all, their catchers hit .213/.289/.298 with eight homers.

If not for the Yankees’ desire to get under the luxury tax in 2014, there’s a good chance they and Martin would have worked something out. The Pirates, though, are thrilled they didn’t. Expect to see Martin behind the plate for every one of their games until their postseason run is complete.

Latest Posts
  1. Settling the Scores: Thursday’s results

    Jul 3, 2015, 6:38 AM EDT

    Scott Kazmir Getty Images

    Scott Kazmir dominated the Mariners last night.

  2. Dodgers designate Brandon League for assignment

    Jul 2, 2015, 11:28 PM EDT

    LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 08:  Pitcher Brandon League #43 of the Los Angeles Dodgers looks on during the game against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium on April 8, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images) Getty Images

    League hasn’t pitched in the majors this season due to a shoulder injury.

  3. Reds GM Walt Jocketty says he’s not trading Todd Frazier

    Jul 2, 2015, 10:39 PM EDT

    PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 25:  Todd Frazier #21 of the Cincinnati Reds on deck in the seventh inning during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on June 25, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The Reds are expected to be sellers, but GM Walt Jocketty said Thursday that third baseman Todd Frazier isn’t going anywhere.

  4. Matt Boyd pulled from start after failing to record an out against the Red Sox

    Jul 2, 2015, 9:23 PM EDT

    TORONTO, CANADA - JULY 2: Matt Boyd #46 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts after giving up a three-run home run in the first inning during MLB game action to David Ortiz #34 of the Boston Red Sox on July 2, 2015 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) Getty Images

    After pitching into the seventh inning in his major league debut against the Rangers last Saturday, Blue Jays left-hander Matt Boyd failed to record an out in his start tonight against the Red Sox.

  5. Freddie Freeman won’t return from wrist injury before All-Star break

    Jul 2, 2015, 8:26 PM EDT

    NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 14:  Freddie Freeman #5 of the Atlanta Braves in action against the New York Mets at Citi Field on June 14, 2015 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Braves 10-8.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Freeman hopes to return right after the All-Star break, but he acknowledges that it’s a “best-case scenario.”

  6. Archie Bradley has no structural damage in shoulder

    Jul 2, 2015, 7:28 PM EDT

    Archie Bradley Archie Bradley

    Bradley has been out for a month with right shoulder tendinitis.

  7. Cardinals place Jon Jay on disabled list with nagging wrist injury

    Jul 2, 2015, 6:31 PM EDT

    cD05ODdlNmNhY2MwMjRlZWQzNTJhM2ViYTQ1Y2VlY2YzOCZnPTc3MGY5MjU2OTgyMDlhMTEzNjQwN2M5MDc4NTYyYTMx Getty Images

    Jay has already had one stint on the disabled list this season due to his nagging wrist injury.

  8. The Dodgers sign Trevor Cahill

    Jul 2, 2015, 5:02 PM EDT

    Trevor Cahill AP

    Cahill was designated for assignment by the Braves earlier this month after allowing 23 runs in 26 innings.

  9. Breaking: Cardinals fire their scouting director, likely due to the Astros hacking scandal

    Jul 2, 2015, 4:29 PM EDT

    ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 3:  Seats sit empty prior to a game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium on June 3, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The director, Chris Correa, has admitted to hacking into the Astros system.

  10. Orioles sign suspended reliever Chris Perez

    Jul 2, 2015, 4:16 PM EDT

    Chris Perez Getty Getty Images

    He still has to serve a 50-game suspension for a “drug of abuse.”

  11. George Springer sent to the disabled list, not expected back for six weeks

    Jul 2, 2015, 3:24 PM EDT

    George Springer Getty Images

    He fractured his wrist last night as a result of an Edinson Volquez fastball.

  12. Wanna buy Jerry Dipoto’s house?

    Jul 2, 2015, 1:12 PM EDT

    Jerry Dipoto Jerry Dipoto

    It was for sale before he even resigned.

  13. Today is International Signing Day. Here’s what you need to know.

    Jul 2, 2015, 11:29 AM EDT

    Globe

    Basically you just need to follow Jesse Sanchez and Ben Badler, so here are the links you need to do that.

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. M. Moore (3676)
  2. J. Hamilton (3428)
  3. G. Stanton (3176)
  4. M. Cain (3124)
  5. H. Ramirez (3051)
  1. J. Ellsbury (2964)
  2. B. Harper (2816)
  3. J. Fernandez (2722)
  4. M. Sano (2628)
  5. S. Matz (2593)