Skip to content

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

Oct 2, 2013, 12:50 AM EST

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. Nationals sign Tony Gwynn, Jr.

    Mar 2, 2015, 11:05 PM EST

    Tony Gwynn Jr. Getty Getty Images

    Gwynn will function as insurance with Jayson Werth and Nate McLouth each rehabbing from shoulder surgery.

  2. Diamondbacks to wear patch in spring training games in memory of Kayla Mueller

    Mar 2, 2015, 10:01 PM EST

    kayla patch

    Mueller died at the age of 26 last month while in captivity in Syria.

  3. Zack Wheeler isn’t a fan of defensive shifts

    Mar 2, 2015, 8:58 PM EST

    Zack Wheeler Getty Getty Images

    The Mets cut back on defensive shifts with Wheeler on the mound last season because of his concerns.

  4. Today was a good day for the Tigers

    Mar 2, 2015, 7:45 PM EST

    tigers logo Getty Images

    Some key players are making some encouraging strides on the health front.

  5. Alex Rodriguez to make Grapefruit League debut Wednesday

    Mar 2, 2015, 6:29 PM EST

    Alex Rodriguez AP AP

    After facing a pitching machine during an intrasquad game today, Alex Rodriguez is ready for his first real-live game action since September of 2013.

  6. The Yankees have a lot of retired numbers. Other teams should try to be more like them.

    Mar 2, 2015, 4:26 PM EST

    Retired numbers

    Trammell and Whitaker in Detroit? Carter and Hernandez with the Mets?

  7. Cubs name Jon Lester as Opening Day starter

    Mar 2, 2015, 3:45 PM EST

    jon lester getty Getty Images

    Lester joined the Cubs on a six-year, $155 million deal in December.

  8. Another weird spring training injury: Corey Hart and a hot tub

    Mar 2, 2015, 1:48 PM EST

    Corey Hart AP

    Hart is attempting to resurrect his career on a one-year deal as a part-timer in Pittsburgh.

  9. Chase Utley still not recovered from January ankle injury

    Mar 2, 2015, 11:50 AM EST

    utley getty Getty Images

    GM says “they’re not going to play him for a little while.”

  10. Glen Perkins is “strong and healthy” after late-season arm problems

    Mar 2, 2015, 10:47 AM EST

    Kansas City Royals v Minnesota Twins Getty Images

    Since shifting to the bullpen full time in 2011 the Minnesota native has a 2.74 ERA and 286/63 K/BB ratio in 256 innings.

  11. Rockies add John Axford to 40-man roster, guarantee $2.6 million salary

    Mar 2, 2015, 10:15 AM EST

    John Axford AP

    Axford had a 3.92 ERA and 63/36 K/BB ratio in 55 innings for the Indians last season.

  12. Charlie Brown: the worst manager of all time?

    Mar 2, 2015, 9:15 AM EST

    Pow

    Patrick Dubuque of The Hardball Times mounts an in-depth study of the Peanuts’ Gang’s manager.

  13. John Baker, Jeremy Brown, coal mines and class

    Mar 2, 2015, 8:17 AM EST

    Coal Miners

    The lives of a couple of “Moneyball” players serves as a jumping off point for a good Monday morning rant.

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. M. Upton (2407)
  2. A. Simmons (2362)
  3. H. Bailey (2313)
  4. C. Gonzalez (2305)
  5. F. Rodriguez (2275)