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. Garrett Richards underwent surgery to repair his left knee

    Aug 22, 2014, 11:55 PM EDT

    Garrett Richards Garrett Richards

    Garrett Richards had surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon in his left knee, meaning he’ll be out between six and nine months.

  2. MLB.tv’s blackout restrictions could be over in 2015

    Aug 22, 2014, 11:05 PM EDT

    old TV

    The frustrating blackout restrictions could come to an end as early as 2015, according to Maury Brown of Forbes.

  3. Felix Hernandez reaches 200 strikeouts for a sixth consecutive season

    Aug 22, 2014, 10:10 PM EDT

    Felix Hernandez Felix Hernandez

    Felix Hernandez has struck out 200-plus batters in each of the last six seasons, something no other starting pitcher will have done when the season is over.

  4. Mike Minor loses his no-hit bid with two outs in the eighth

    Aug 22, 2014, 9:17 PM EDT

    Mike Minor Mike Minor

    Mike Minor is on point in Cincinnati against the Reds on Friday night.

  5. Giants aren’t ready to take Buster Posey out from behind the plate yet

    Aug 22, 2014, 9:15 PM EDT

    Buster Posey Buster Posey

    The Giants don’t have any plans to move Buster Posey out from behind the plate just yet, even though his numbers are much better as a first baseman.

  6. Dodgers moving Triple-A affiliate from Albuquerque to Oklahoma City in 2015

    Aug 22, 2014, 8:20 PM EDT

    dodgers logo

    The Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate will reportedly move from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma for the 2015 season.

  7. Kyle Lohse to rejoin Brewers’ rotation on Monday

    Aug 22, 2014, 7:25 PM EDT

    Kyle Lohse Getty Images

    Kyle Lohse was dealing with a sore right ankle, but is expected to rejoin the Brewers’ rotation on Monday to start against the Padres.

  8. Manny Machado to undergo season-ending knee surgery

    Aug 22, 2014, 6:33 PM EDT

    manny machado o's getty Getty Images

    Manny Machado’s season is likely over, as he is expected to undergo season-ending knee surgery within a week, according to a report.

  9. The Angels may have trouble getting starting pitching on waivers

    Aug 22, 2014, 6:20 PM EDT

    Bartolo Colon Bartolo Colon

    According to Peter Gammons, the Orioles and Yankees are “claiming everyone” on waivers, which will make it difficult for the Angels to improve their starting rotation after losing Garrett Richards.

  10. Javier Baez hit the ball really far again, trails only … Mandy Brooks?

    Aug 22, 2014, 5:28 PM EDT

    Javier Baez Getty Getty Images

    His latest, a solo shot off Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman.

  11. A’s send Dan Otero back to Triple-A with 7-1 record, 2.28 ERA

    Aug 22, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT

    Dan Otero A's AP

    Sometimes the life of a player with a minor-league option remaining just isn’t fair.

  12. Albuquerque Isotopes to give away Joc Pederson’s 1994 Buick Century

    Aug 22, 2014, 3:36 PM EDT

    Buick Century

    One window doesn’t work and there is no air conditioning. It has 166,000 miles on it. Which, actually, isn’t that bad. Hmmm . . .

  13. A’s activate Craig Gentry from the disabled list

    Aug 22, 2014, 3:19 PM EDT

    Craig Gentry A's AP

    Oakland’s outfield depth just got a little stronger with Craig Gentry coming off the disabled list after missing the past month with a broken hand.

  14. HBT Daily: it’s showdown time for the Angels and A’s

    Aug 22, 2014, 2:57 PM EDT

    HBT Daily Logo

    Seven games in ten days for the AL West leaders

  15. No timetable for Manny Machado’s return to the Orioles

    Aug 22, 2014, 1:50 PM EDT

    manny machado o's getty Getty Images

    Machado suffered a sprained right knee on August 11 and the Orioles have mostly been using Chris Davis at third base in his absence.

  16. The Cubs grounds crew was short staffed because the Cubs were trying to avoid Obamacare

    Aug 22, 2014, 12:49 PM EDT

    cubs logo

    This has been such a fun story so far. So why NOT throw politics into it?

  17. Robinson Cano: “I don’t have any regrets” about leaving Yankees

    Aug 22, 2014, 11:50 AM EDT

    Robinson Cano AP

    Robinson Cano has a $240 million contract, his new team has a better record than his old team, and he’s hitting .329 with an .865 OPS that’s slightly above his career mark.

  18. Adam Loewen is a pitcher again

    Aug 22, 2014, 11:33 AM EDT

    New York Mets Photo Day Getty Images

    Can he make it to the bigs on a new path for a third time?

  19. Twins GM on manager Ron Gardenhire: “He’ll be back”

    Aug 22, 2014, 11:19 AM EDT

    ron-gardenhire-twins AP

    If any team is going to keep a manager after four straight 90-loss seasons the Twins are the one to do it.

  20. Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo to sign with the Red Sox for $72 million

    Aug 22, 2014, 11:01 AM EDT

    Rusney Castillo Getty Getty Images

    The Red Sox paid a lot of money to get this guy. Expect him in the Sox’ outfield early next season.

Featured video

Can Angels recoup loss of Richards?
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. R. Castillo (4785)
  2. M. Cuddyer (2500)
  3. K. Bryant (2308)
  4. W. Myers (1969)
  5. G. Richards (1969)
  1. H. Ramirez (1912)
  2. D. Ortiz (1885)
  3. A. Cashner (1811)
  4. J. Hamilton (1794)
  5. A. McCutchen (1766)