Russell Martin is the most expensive and arguably the biggest free agent signing of the Neal Huntington Era.
This offseason the Pirates signed catcher Russell Martin to a two-year, $17 million dollar contract. The $17 million dollar signing made Russell Martin the most expensive free agent signing by Pirates GM Neal Huntington to date. Other suitors trying to nab Martin were the Rangers, Mariners, and of course his former club the Yankees. For once, the Pirates outbid the Bronx Bombers who were only offering Martin a deal in the area of $12-14 million dollars. Ultimately, Martin chose to take the Pirates deal and he will return to the National League after two years in New York. As a Yankee, Martin put up average numbers for his career batting .224/.317/.405 with 39 HR. Without question Russell Martin will be the number one catcher for the Bucs, backed by Michael McKenry, the only thing people are wondering is if he will be worth the $17 million the Pirates spent to get him.
One thing that Russell Martin brings to the club is his a sense of establishment, he's a player that's been there before. He's been to the playoffs four times in his career, twice with the Dodgers ('08,'09) and twice with the Yanks ('11,'12). The post season experience is something that the rest of the Bucs lineup wish that they had, only 3 current Pirate players have ever been to the post season. Martin also has the accolades to back up his play behind the dish. He is a three time All Star, a Gold Glove winner in '07 and the Silver Slugger award winner as a catcher the same year. Rod Barajas has never made an All Star game, or won a Gold Glove and it's safe to say Michael McKenry will probably never get the chance to achieve either of the two.
If you pay attention to baseball, it's no secret that Rusell Martin comes to the Pirates during a decline as far as numbers go in his career. The 2013 season will be Martin's seventh after making his debut in '06 with the Dodgers. So he's not the catcher he was in '07 but a major upgrade from Barajas and a catcher that McKenry should strive to imitate.
Let's take a look at a quick side by side comparison of Barajas and Martin...
Barajas Career Numbers:
SLG %: .407
Ranks 18th among active catchers in Runners Caught Stealing with 187
Martin Career Numbers:
Assists: 515 (in much less time than Barajas)
Ranks 6th among active catchers in Runners Caught Stealing with 216
The question of whether or not Martin will ultimately be worth the $17 million the Pirates spent on him can't be answered until the season gets under way. $17 million dollars the Bucs could have spent on solidifying our bullpen, a much more prevalent issue or obtaining a real shortstop that doesn't just field. So, all we can do is wait, and hope that Russell Martin is the missing piece to the Pirates puzzle, to stop another mid season collapse. If the Pirates can get even an average year out of Martin, they should expect to win more games and fans will get to see runners kept at bay for the first time since Jason Kendall. Russell Martin, welcome to the 'Burgh!