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. Ruben Amaro on Andy Oliver’s decision to elect free agency: “I think it was a very foolish move on his part, but that’s OK.”

    Apr 17, 2015, 11:30 PM EDT

    Andy Oliver Andy Oliver

    Ruben Amaro seems a little upset that Andy Oliver didn’t want to start the season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

  2. Mets will bring back Rafael Montero as a starting pitcher near the end of April

    Apr 17, 2015, 10:50 PM EDT

    Rafael Montero Rafael Montero

    The Mets will be stretching out Rafael Montero as a starter at Triple-A Las Vegas before bringing him back to the majors for a spot start against the Marlins.

  3. Mike Trout hit his 100th career home run to become the youngest member of the 100 HR/100 SB club

    Apr 17, 2015, 9:58 PM EDT

    Mike Trout Mike Trout

    Mike Trout became the youngest to join the 100/100 club with a two-run home run on Friday night.

  4. Make that two: Alex Rodriguez hits second homer of the night, giving him 658 for his career

    Apr 17, 2015, 9:17 PM EDT

    Alex Rodriguez Alex Rodriguez

    Alex Rodriguez has two home runs on Friday night, leaving him two round-trippers shy of tying Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time home run leaderboard.

  5. Video: Matt Carpenter leaps over Brayan Pena to score on a sacrifice fly

    Apr 17, 2015, 9:11 PM EDT

    Matt Carpenter Matt Carpenter

    Matt Carpenter made a cool maneuver to score the tying run in the bottom of the first against the Reds on Friday night.

  6. Ubaldo Jimenez was ejected, wrongfully, for hitting Pablo Sandoval with a pitch

    Apr 17, 2015, 8:45 PM EDT

    Ubaldo Jimenez Getty Images

    Neither side was warned, but Ubaldo Jimenez was ejected for hitting Pablo Sandoval with a pitch on Friday evening.

  7. Alex Rodriguez hit his 657th career home run

    Apr 17, 2015, 7:50 PM EDT

    a-rod reuters yankees Reuters

    A-Rod is now three home runs away from tying Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time home run leaderboard.

  8. The Tigers are 9-1. Does that mean anything?

    Apr 17, 2015, 7:15 PM EDT

    Jose Iglesias, Nick Castellanos, Ian Kinsler, Andrew Romine Jose Iglesias, Nick Castellanos, Ian Kinsler, Andrew Romine

    Since 2000, how often have teams that started 9-1 went on to have playoff success?

  9. Mark Buehrle is considering retiring after the 2015 season

    Apr 17, 2015, 6:20 PM EDT

    Mark Buehrle Mark Buehrle

    Mark Buehrle, baseball’s timeless left-hander, is reportedly considering retiring after the season.

  10. Mike Scioscia is concerned that Josh Hamilton is not “getting the help he needs”

    Apr 17, 2015, 5:28 PM EDT

    josh hamilton angels getty Getty Images

    Well, he’s certainly not getting the support of the Los Angeles Angels.

  11. Twins put Brian Duensing on disabled list, call up Caleb Thielbar

    Apr 17, 2015, 4:16 PM EDT

    Brian Duensing Getty Getty Images

    Duensing had an ugly outing Thursday in which he turned a blowout into a save situation for closer Glen Perkins.

  12. Jose Reyes has a cracked rib, will try to avoid disabled list

    Apr 17, 2015, 3:41 PM EDT

    jose reyes getty Getty Images

    Ryan Goins, who was called up from Triple-A, is expected to be Reyes’ primary fill-in at shortstop.

  13. Mets demote Rafael Montero to Triple-A

    Apr 17, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT

    Rafael Montero AP

    And call up infielder Danny Muno.

  14. Pirates activate Chris Stewart, send Tony Sanchez to minors

    Apr 17, 2015, 2:17 PM EDT

    Tony Sanchez Getty Images

    Sanchez was the fourth overall pick in the 2009 draft.

  15. Justin Verlander ruled out for Tuesday start after “normal soreness”

    Apr 17, 2015, 1:42 PM EDT

    Justin Verlander AP

    Left-hander Kyle Lobstein will continue to fill in for Verlander.

  16. Bryan Stow threw out the first pitch for the San Jose Giants home opener

    Apr 17, 2015, 11:37 AM EDT

    Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 11.36.24 AM

    Stow used to work as an EMT at San Jose games. Good to see him back. 

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. D. Span (3137)
  2. B. Gardner (3108)
  3. D. Mesoraco (3068)
  4. D. Salazar (3011)
  5. C. Gomez (2958)