A bidding war for a backstop

Yanks offer Lee seventh year
Yanks inquire on Francisco Liriano
Russell Martin in his younger and more valuable days. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

As the arms race between New York and Boston has been kicked up a notch over the last 12 hours, the two rivals are reportedly engaged in a bidding war. According to Yahoo! Sports’ Tim Brown, both the Yanks and Red Sox are “going very hard on Russell Martin.” The recently non-tendered 27-year-old is an appealing target for two teams who are soft at the catching position, and a Martin deal could be a key low-cost signing for 2011.

For both teams, Martin is a very obvious target. Right now, the Red Sox’s starting catcher is Jarrod Saltalamacchia who played just 12 games in 2010. Saltalamacchia, 25, was a heralded prospect with the Braves, but he’s never caught more than 83 games in a season and has a career OPS+ of 82. A 38-year-old Jason Varitek is the back-up.

The Yanks are in a similar boat. They’re apparently entrusting the starting job to Jesus Montero, questionable defense and all, and the team has clearly soured on Francisco Cervelli as a back-up. Jorge Posada will be the primary DH as his body can’t withstand the impact of catching. If anything, the constant rumors connecting the Yanks to Martin suggest that the team isn’t sold on Montero’s defense right now.

So Martin has emerged as a pawn. He’ll turn 28 before Opening Day, and he’s coming off of two bad injury-plagued years. During his ages 23-25 season, he hit .285/.373/.433 but turned in a Cervellian .249/.350/.330 slash line during his past two seasons. For the right price and with the right expectations, Martin would be a fine addition both for depth and for potential behind the plate.

email
Yanks offer Lee seventh year
Yanks inquire on Francisco Liriano
  • Doug

    “and a Martin deal could be a key low-cost signing for 2011″

    may not end up being so true if the 2 heavyweights are going hard after him

  • mike

    sadly, it sounded like we wont pull the trigger on the bench players until the Lee situation is resolved

    • Pat Livingston

      I have to agree with you. Already with Crawford gone to the Red Sox and now Scott Downs signing with the Angels, players that could put the Yankees back on top are disappearing. As much as we need Lee, we are being set up for a big disappointment. We need a strong catching core and heaven forbid a strong bench and in my 56 years as a Yankee fan short of the CBS years I am starting to worry about what is starting to unfold.

  • The Evil Umpire

    I predict that the Martin family will have a Merry Christmas this year regardless of where he ends up. Let’s see… does he get a big sack of money…. or a big sack of money?

  • Dick Whitman

    I’m not sure why, maybe it’s the distrust in Montero’s catching ability or the suffering that is watching Cervelli bat against a RHP, but I really want Martin.

  • CBean

    I just want to win him because I don’t want the Sox getting what we wants. I know that’s irrational.

  • zs190

    He reported turned down a 4 million base salary with 1+ million incentives from the Dodgers. I know he supposedly wants to be closer to east coast because he’s from Ontario, Canada but he likely wouldn’t take a huge paycut at his age with considerable demand. I like Martin if it’s a 2.5 million/yr kind of deal, not so much if it costs 4-5 million.

  • j

    I’d like to see what Kevin Long can do for him

    • mbonzo

      Maybe Kevin Long can do surgery too?

      • http://twitter.com/astrophunq Dax J.

        Kevin Long is the jack of all trades.

  • Andrew

    Shoulda dealt Cervelli for him when we had the chance.

    • Teh Comp Pick

      For real, WTF is going on?

    • zs190

      What’s the point? Boston traded for Andrew Miller and had to let him hit FA anyways because they couldn’t get a deal done, same goes for Martin. You still end up paying him whatever he would get in FA anyways, there is very little value to an exclusive negotiation window and that’s all trading for him gets you.

      • Andrew

        Couldn’t they have offered him arbitration?

        • zs190

          Arbitration costs would be more than you would offer him in FA, so no, they would not offer arbitration (It would be something like 1 yr, 5.5 million deal in arbitration, he wouldn’t get that much in FA most likely)

          • Andrew

            In this market, I wouldn’t be surprised if Martin gets more than that. In any event, even assuming arguendo that Martin gets 4 million in free agency (I would anticipate him getting more), a one and a half million dollar premium in order to definitely secure a player on a one year deal (and options for future arbitration years) seems like a pittance to the Yankees.

            • zs190

              I guess I just don’t like Russell Martin enough to want him at that price but obviously you don’t agree.

              He’s been a league average catcher the last couple years and I’m just not willing to pay 5-6 million to him to see if he can get better.

              • Andrew

                Fair enough. Best case scenario anyway, is that I look foolish when Montero blows up next year.

        • http://twitter.com/dpatrickg Dirty Pena

          Yes.

          • zs190

            He made 5+ million last year, offering arbitration would be madness. You almost never see arbitration result in paycuts so it would be like offering 5-6 million to him. If we were willing to pay that much, he would be a Yankee already.

    • mbonzo

      Would you rather have Martin or would you rather have Martin and Cervelli?

      • Mike Pop

        Martin, so Girardi doesn’t live vicariously through Frankie.

        • Ted Nelson

          I don’t really understand these charges… I know a lot of people make them, but it was often a choice of Cervelli or Chad Moeller… How is playing Cervelli over Moeller living vicariously?

  • Teh Comp Pick

    Of course the Sox are going to get him, and Downs. Theo’s callin the shots this year, not Cash. Sucks, yes, but Cash’s hands are tied and continue to be. He should have made a play on Crawford. The Stein’s could have afforded a 220-30 mil payroll and will go there in the next few years anyway, as they’ll have no choice.

    • pat

      Why should Cashman have made a play on Crawford?

      • Jorge

        Because some people think the Yankees must sign everybody in order to keep them away from other teams. Too bad. He’s in Boston now. $200 million payroll means you go strike him out.

        • Mister Delaware

          “$20MM for a career .337 OBP???” some people would have shouted had Cashman been the one to trump the Werth deal.

    • Mike HC

      I wanted Crawford a lot from the get go, but knowing the Yanks would have probably had to offer like 7 for 150+ to get him, I understand backing down. There will be other free agents next year and the year after, although I do believe our outfield will not be as good next year as it was last year. Jeter, ARod and Tex really need to have better years than last year and hopefully Montero is a beast from the get go.

      As for Martin, the Yanks might be more willing to go the extra million or two over Boston, but Martin might still be swayed by more opportunity in Boston for playing time and a future.

    • Pasqua

      I wouldn’t call a $210 million payroll having ” your hands tied.” The Sox simply have money coming off the books and they have now added their A-Rod and Tex equivalents in A-Gonz and Crawford. If / when the Yanks land Lee, the dynamic will shift again. Budgets do exist. They really do. All you have to do is believe.

  • Mike HC

    The one thing in Boston’s favor would seem to be playing time. Martin would have far tougher competition for playing time in New York.

    • Andrew

      not so sure about that – Salty and Varitek are admittedly bad, but Martin is competing against an unproven rookie (as great as he MAY become) and Cervelli. If the Yanks sign Martin and keep Montero down for a few months, Martin may get more abs with the Yanks. Especially if he can play some 3b on the days A-Rod DH’s.

      • Mike HC

        That is one way to look at it. I guess I just see Montero as a far superior player to Salty and Tek, plus, he is the Yanks future at the position and would probably get the benefit of the doubt in any spring training competition. It also seems to me like Martin would have a better chance to have a future in Boston than New York. But who knows?

        • http://www.twitter.com/deanezag Zack

          Even if Montero is sent down, if he’s crushing the ball in April/May then they’re going to make room for him. Salty has a split contract, so if he goes down to AAA he’s a 26 year old with 900 ML PAs who hasn’t hit, and didn’t hit in AAA this year either.

          • Monteroisdinero

            he will crush the ball in AAA-been there done that. I saw it and it was a thing of beauty.

        • rotofan

          Martin only wants a one-year deal in the hope of a rebound year that would lead to a much better long-term contract than he could get now. So the possibility that Montero is the Yank’s future at catcher really doesn’t matter that much — what matters to Martin is playing time this year.

  • slim

    Yanks won’t have Montero on the ML team to ride the bench.
    So basically if Yanks sign Martin he is the starting catcher, not really any competition at all.
    Personally I am against it, 2 years in a row this guy has sucked and this will hinder the growth of Montero.
    Want Montero to get the shot this year not be stuck at AAA waiting to Martin to fail.

    • mbonzo

      Maybe they’re looking at making Martin more versatile. He’s got health problems and he has experience playing around the field, so maybe they want him to be their utility guy and backup catcher. He’d be a good guy to lean on if Montero fails too.

    • Chris

      Martin won’t replace Montero, he’d replace Cervelli.

  • Andrew

    I hope and think you will be right about Montero and agree he will and should be given the benefit of the doubt. Still, asking a twenty-one year old catcher to play 120 regular season games on a World Series contending team is an awful lot. I agree that Martin would have a better future in Boston, but if his goal is to sign a one year deal and cash in on a long term deal next year I am unconvinced that Boston is a superior option than the Yankees.

    • A.D.

      Agreed Posey and Soto are the catchers of recent memory that played 100+ games as rookies for contenders, but they both were older with significantly more experience

    • http://www.twitter.com/deanezag Zack

      If he wants to cash-in he wants the most ABs and the best home ballpark. He has 3 opposite field HRs total in the last 4 years, that wall in LF is much more attractive than the big LF at YS.

      • king of fruitless hypotheticals

        But isn’t he still going to be the third catcher in Boston?

  • slim

    The Yankees are not going to pay $5 million for a backup catcher / utility guy.
    They either feel he will be their Starting Catcher or will pass on him.
    If the contract was $2 million or so that is different.
    Likewise Martin won’t sign anywhere as a backup, he is going to insist on being the starter or at least first crack at the starting job.

    • Chris

      The Yankees are not going to pay $5 million for a backup catcher / utility guy.

      Why not? They paid more than that for 2+ months of a platoon DH.

  • Rockdog

    I wonder if the Yankees aren’t involved here to drive the price up for the Red Sox. It does sound like he will likely be too expensive for the backup roll; perhaps we are making sure that they really have to pay up to get him. See: Crawford, Carl.

    • Ted Nelson

      It’s not a straight back-up role, though, since the Yankees have little idea how Montero will adjust. Best case Martin plays more than an average back-up to not over-stress Jesus, worst case Jesus needs more time at AAA and the Yankees need a starting ML C…

  • Hughesus Christo

    Russell Martin sucks. Let’s not forget that.

    • Mister Delaware

      This isn’t true, but its closer to true than freaking out if we don’t get Russell Martin. Lets hope this is to punch his salary up rather than block Montero.

      • Chris

        He was a worse hitter than Cervelli over the last 2 years.

        Let me repeat that:

        He was a worse hitter than Cervelli over the last 2 years.

        • djh

          Cervelli had a inflated BABIP, which Martin did not, Martin should definetly out OBP Cervelli going foraward not to mention on defense Martin>Cervelli.

          Keep in mind Martin would of had around the 4th highest walk rate on NY last year, catchers that are solid on defense, get on base and are young with upside are nice to pick up if possible.

          • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

            This.

  • Hughesus Christo

    He has been worse than Cervelli the last two years. He has been a better name than player recently.

    • Mister Delaware

      Maybe its just J. Martin who sucks.

  • Monteroisdinero

    Cervelli CAN improve and since AJ makes any catcher look horrible, I say keep the Venezuelan catching crew we have now, with Jorge helping out occasionally and spend the money on the mound.

    • Mister Delaware

      Less than 20% of Cervelli’s PT was catching AJ.

      • Monteroisdinero

        AJ still makes any catcher look horrible.

        • Stratman9652

          Agreed to a point, but when you’ve been selected to be a guys personal catcher you should be able to catch him. The kid had a crap year behind the plate, no excuses.

          But you are right in the fact to Cisco can improve. Everyone seems to think that this year was as good as he will ever be. I just don’t buy that. He’s a young kid with a reputation as a very good defender coming into 2010. He has the skills and if anything this crap year shed light on what he needs to work on.

  • Graig not Craig

    Why all the excitement over Russell Martin? If all the Yanks need is an inexpensive backstop to platoon and fill in while Montero incubates there are plenty of options – Laird, Bard, B. Molina, Zaun. Might all this interest in Martin signal a Montero trade in the works? Or are they just trying to drive up the price for Boston to grossly overpay another average player?

    • Mister Delaware

      I see it as the latter(est). Had Theo met with Crawford a day before Cashman gave him $20MM per for 7 years, the narrative would be “holy shit, look what Theo tricked the Yankees into doing!!!” Somehow the Werth deal made this “clever” rather than “overpaying in reaction to someone else overpaying”.

    • http://twitter.com/astrophunq Dax J.

      Laird can’t hit a lick. I really don’t want Molina in the Yankees, and Zaun is kinda done. I won’t get into Josh Bard because the Sox dropped him like twice. Gimme Martin. Even though he had two sucky years, he can always rebound.

      • Graig not Craig

        Nah. Let the Sawx have Martin – but make sure they pay way too much. Cervelli can fill the gap until Jesus comes.

      • Monteroisdinero

        Why is it guys from other teams can always rebound but our guys can’t?

        • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com bexarama

          Whoah, I agree with Monteroisdinero.

          (Though if you’re talking about Cervelli, I think Cervelli just sucks. It’s not like he was [a younger] Posada having the year Cervelli did.)

          • Monteroisdinero

            True but Cervelli has caught in his age 23 and 24 year seasons with the Yanks. Posada never did. Not saying he will ever be the hitter Jorge was but he will get better and that “better” may be very useful to the Yanks.

  • slim

    I think/hope the interest is part of Plan B if they don’t get Lee.
    If they don’t get Lee part of the plan B would be to sign Martin as the C and trade Montero plus prospects for the best SP they can get.

    Got to hand it to the RedSox, there is doubt the Yankees, Rangers and Angels all wanted Crawford on the table as an option after Lee makes his decision. The RedSox being the only team not really interested in Lee recognized that and used it to their advantage offering him a huge contract last night that no team waiting on Lee could match.
    Crawford would have gotten more if he waiting for Lee but he couldn’t take that risk. RedSox won this one in terms of the mental game.
    The signing puts even more pressure on the Yankees to sign Lee and will likely overpay in years or dollars as a result.

    • Graig not Craig

      So – the Red Sox overpay Crawford in hopes the Yankees will overpay Lee? Logic fail.

  • kosmo

    Martin´s first 3 years were very good .Injuries have held him back the last 2 years.He´s 28 yrs old and can run a pitching staff .If he rebounds to anywhere near his 2006-08 seasons any team would be happy to have him.He´s OK defensively .
    He could hold the catching position for a couple of years while Sanchez pays his MILB dues.Sanchez is the real heirapparent not Montero who will probably become a DH after Jorge hangs them up.
    Romine would then share catching duties with Martin in 2012 .
    Cervelli is very expendable.

  • cranky

    Martin can also play a decent 3B. This is what would make him especially valuable to the Yankees. If they wre merely looking for a back-up catcher, there’s been others on the market who’d have fit that bill.

  • Yorker

    The Gammons claims that the Sox do not think Martin will be physically able to catch and are interested in him more as a utility player. He also claimed that Martin was not a very good defensive catcher. Since he usually speaks for the front office, either he got the wrong message or this more recent report of the Sox interest is not true, or is true only in a driving up the price sense.

  • http://Yesnetwork Saint Stephen

    Wow! You guys are rough! How about a little faith in Motero and a little love for Cervelli. He is good and can be better. Besides, he plays the game with such panache it’s fun to watch!