Mailbag: An Extension For Martin

Video & Musings: Rafael DePaula
Open Thread: 2/25 Camp Notes
(REUTERS/Steve Nesius)

Paul asks: Word that the Yankees were exploring an extension for Russell Martin seems to go against their standard procedure. I can only remember Robinson Cano getting an extension. I think we can all agree that Martin, while a great guy and above average, is not in the same arena as Robbie. So are the Yankees changing their stance on extensions or do they really see Martin as worthy of an exception to the rule?

Brian Cashman put an end to all this Martin extension stuff yesterday, saying the two sides would not talk about a new deal until the end of the season. Rather than drag this out and answer and outdated question on Friday, I figured I’d get this one out of the way today so we can all move on.

The team’s policy is to wait until contracts expire to negotiate new deals, and that applies to players as well as management like Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman. Cano is the lone exception, signing a four year, $30M deal with two club options prior to the 2008 season. He was four years away from free agency at the time, but the Yankees ended up saving some serious dough because Robbie was a Super Two and would have been eligible for arbitration four times instead of three.

Martin is obviously not the player Cano is, plus he’s only one season away from free agency, not four. I think the team’s willingness to lock him up for the next few years has more to do with the state of catching that an particular affection for Martin. Quality catching is very hard to find, and although he’s no Johnny Bench, Russ is an above average hitter for the position and a very good defender. Above average catchers almost never hit the free agent market, especially on the right side of 30. Prior to Martin last winter — who was damaged goods because of the hip surgery — you have to go all the way back to Ramon Hernandez during the 2005-2006 offseason to find another free catcher that meets the criteria.

Mike Napoli, Miguel Montero, and Yadier Molina are all scheduled to become free agents after the season as well, so next winter has a chance to be the epiphany free agent class in terms of backstops. That said, I fully expect Molina to sign a contract extension before hitting the open market, and chances are Montero will as well. The Rangers have spoken openly about signing their core players long-term and have had extension talks with Napoli. All three guys would be upgrades over Martin, but none of the three are guaranteed to be available.

The Yankees have the option of sticking with what they have for the foreseeable future, or rolling the dice and hoping they could get someone better after the season. It’s risky, because they could be left either empty-handed or paying too much for someone and impacting that 2014 austerity budget. That three-year, $25-30M deal I keep throwing out there could turn into four guaranteed years in a hurry on the open market, especially if Jarrod Saltalamacchia posts another sub-.300 OBP up in Boston this year.

In my perfect world, they’d tear up Martin’s one-year deal for 2012 and hammer out a new three-year pact. Austin Romine would then spend this season playing regularly in Triple-A before easing into big league duty over the next two years with Martin as his caddy. Romine takes over full-time in 2015 and Martin heads elsewhere. Of course it’s not that simple, but like I said, that’s in my perfect world. Tabling talks until after the season is perfectly fine, but if they do intend to keep Martin beyond 2012, it would behoove them to avoid a bidding war on the open market. I think they realize this, which is why they hoped to sign him this offseason.

Video & Musings: Rafael DePaula
Open Thread: 2/25 Camp Notes
  • Howard Cosell

    I say if Romine is tearing it up in AAA and they don’t think they can afford( can you believe that’s even mentioned with the Yankees)or better stated in the budget, my suggestion is to trade him before the deadline.

    Love to see the Yankees do this once – without being out of a playoff race.

    Imagine getting a couple of quality minor leaguers for Martin? Cervelli and Romine can hold down the fort going into the playoffs…


    • Sweet Dick Willie

      Has a play-off bound team ever traded a starting player for prospects at the deadline?

      Doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, especially if they’re not getting a starter in return.

  • fin

    That has to be among the worst ideas I’ve heard. The reason they dont trade good players at the deadline is becasue they actually want to win in the playoffs. Lol, if you really want Cervelli and Romaine as your catchers in the playoffs. Man, its strange how prospect crazzy people are. I think some people would rather have the best minor league system than the best MLB team. I hope to never see the Yankees trading good players at the deadline for prospects as it will mean they are out of contention in July.
    I cant blame the Yankees for waiting until the season is over to sign Martin, especially if its for 3 additional years. Seeing him play another full/healthy season before committing to him is probably a good idea.

    •!/StumpWoodley Mick

      It depends. If Detroit makes the playoffs again, you’ll need Cervelli’s “fist pumps” to counter Valverde’s “lawnmower crank” celebration dance.

    • Howard Cosell

      If the market for Martin is not good – or he is having an incredible year than yea – not a whole lot of sense – but if the Yankees feel their backups can match him going into the playoffs – and they can get someone to over trade for him combined with the fact they dont think they can sign him – then I say let it rip. I didnt see him last year being that important going into the playoffs…

      but again, my point is its an option “under the right circumstances” to be explored…

  • Joe B.

    Wouldn’t signing Martin through 2014 have some really negative austerity budget implications? I remember the post here a little while ago projecting the 2014 payroll, and with Hamels and Cano it was difficult to fit in another OF assuming Romine was catching for the league minimum. I don’t know if locking up Martin through 2014 is worth the upgrade over Romine/whoever given that the Yankees would potentially be missing out on a Granderson or Swisher because of it.

    Now, if the Yankees were to get cute and offer a heavily front-loaded deal with a cheap team option for 2014, that would avoid the austerity issue… the question is whether or not Martin would be willing to do that.

    •!/StumpWoodley Mick

      Hamels is a big assumption. Even if he doesn’t re-sign with the Pillies, I think obtaining Pineda quite possible keeps NY out of play.

      • DM

        Agreed. I don’t think any big fish FAs are going to be on the Yankees radar for the next couple of years. They have their own to worry about paying (Cano — with Boras trying to make him the first blah-blah-blah ever).

  • MikedJones

    Don’t they use average annual value in those calculations?

    • Needed Pitching

      yes, but if 2014 were a club option, it wouldn’t be included in the AAV, just the option buyout would be included for 2012-2013. For 2014, he would count just for the option price ( and the Yankees would have the option of deducting the amount of the buyout from their luxury tax payroll in 2014)

      • RetroRob

        …but, of course, Martin would never sign a three-year deal with the last year of the deal being a club option.

        • Needed Pitching

          depends on the terms, I would think
          For example, if they agreed on 3/25, it could be structured as maybe 8M 2012, 9M 2013, and maybe 10M option with 8M buyout for 2014, that way the option will almost definitely get picked up, but if it wasn’t, Russ would still get a big payday, and the net luxury tax payroll hit for the Yankees in 2014 would only be 2M (with 12.5 per year in 2012-2013)

          I suspect the commish may challenge a contract like this as an obvious attempt to circumnavigate the luxury tax in 2014, though

  • Monterowasdinero

    Nice for Martin to have followed a 38/39 year old defensive liability in Posada and get off to a good start….. money in his pocket. I do like him but….not sure he is worth big bucks out of the budget.

    Cervelli will always be a capable backup-but nothing more.

    Losing AJ and adding Pineda and Kuroda makes both catchers better.

    Have Cervelli catch Pineda so we can get an abundance of fist pump this year.

  • RetroRob

    Many Yankees fans of who came of age since the mid-90s when Posada came up are in for a rude awakening.

    • Monterowasdinero

      There are other rude awakenings on the left side of the infield awaiting too. We are solid everywhere else.

    • nsalem

      True for the fan that only pays attention to offense.

      • Manny’s Banwagon

        Posada is a borderline HOFer and the only Yankee catchers in their history that were clearly better were Berra ad Dickey.

        Even Yankee fans who pay attention to more than just defense will miss him if they have half a brain.

        • Needed Pitching

          I like the name

          • Manny’s BanWagon

            Thank you.

            It was either that or some spin on my new 2nd favorite Yankee minor leaguer, Burt Reynolds.

        • nsalem

          I loved Posada. He was a great offensive force for his postiion and I will miss him also. In his prime I never thought of him anymore than an average defensive catcher and in the end he was becoming a severe liability on the defensive end. To many defense is the most ctitical aspect of the catching position. This is why the Yankees acquired Joe Girardi in 1996 to replaced Mike Stanley (whose offensive numbers were simlar to that of Posada) a move which by all measures was a success.
          I would also argue that both Thurman Musnon and Elston Howard were better all around catchers. They were both offensive forces who were multiple GG winners and both were amng an elite group of 10 catchers in the history of baseball who ever won MVP awards. Thisa is in no disrespect to Posasda I just thought the other two were better at there position.

        • Tags

          Guess you never heard about Thurman Munson or Elston Howard.

  • CJ

    “in a perfect world” there is no austerity budget in 2014. But really I believe it will take a near perfect world to consider 189 in 2014. By that I mean a championship in 2012 or 2013 and a playoff team in the other with strong development/performance of young players/prospects without a long term injury to a significant player. If anything goes wrong, like missing the playoffs in 2013 or a 1 game WC elimination austerity will not happen.

    • fin

      yea, I have never bought into to the Austerity plan. I think they might, possibly see if they can do it, but if anything goes wrong they will toss the plan out the window. While there is significant money to be saved by getting under the 189 figure, there is a big gamble too. With the strength of the american league and the ALE in paticular loosing players to get there, could very well cost them a play off spot for a year or two. Missing the playoffs for a year or 2 could very well cost them more in revenues, via fans at the stadium and YES ratings.
      From what I understand they pretty much need to fill that stadium every night to keep them making money. If they miss the playoffs that wont happen. Not to mention every fan knows the Yankees virtually print money and going to the game costs a shit load of money. Fans will not be sympathic to begin with when cutting payroll, especially if they start to loose, and drop to an 85-90 win team.

      • CJ

        It feels like they are going to be foolish enough to wait for something bad to happen, then respond like 2008-2009.

        • fin

          I’m not so sure that is the case. We havent seen them make any moves yet that would indicate they will do that. This year is going to be the most expenisve Yankee team yet. While they havent made any long term committments this year, there really werent any clear cut examples of where the Yankees decided not to make a committment based on an austerity plan. If next year we have Romaine at catcher, and Maxwell in right, then you would be correct. Lets hope we dont watch the Yankees become a significanly diminished team. I can see a case where they do this Austerity plan, Hank and Hal pocket a shit ton of money and sell the team.

  • cranky

    The Yankees don’t need to sign Martin to a big bucks 3/4 year deal. They’ve got a truckload of +catching prospects. Over the next couple of years, a few of them are going to be knocking on the big league door, if not breaking it down.
    By the 2014 season, Martin should be expendable. They’d do well to keep him in the fold for 2012 and 2013, but the Yanks shouldn’t handcuff themselves by having Martin signed to a $10m deal for 2014 when they’re not going to need him to be a full-time catcher anymore.

    • Needed Pitching

      no chance he would agree to that though
      I agree 2 years would be much better than 3, but that’s unrealistic

      And realistically, Romine is probably the only C prospect that would be ready/sufficiently able to be the primary C before 2015, and he’s certainly no guarantee to develop into a starting C for a contender

      • fin

        Yea, their best bet, if they wanted to keep him was over pay him for a 3 yr deal that starts this year. The Yankees dont seemt to want to do that. I’m guessing they will see how the market develops for the other FA catchers, if they all hit the market there could be a deal to be had.

        • fin

          Also, by the end of the year they will have a better idea of just what type of prospect Romaine is, after he has a full season in AAA. I’m thinking guys like Murphy and Sanchez are too far away to be making plans for the Yankees, based on them. You never though, maybe one takes a big step forward this year, and changes that.

  • Gonzo

    Do the Yankees offer Russ arbitration after this year? I’d think Russ would turn down a one year deal worth $12mm. Assuming a decent year.


    • Needed Pitching

      depends how the rest of the market shapes up
      If there are options they would prefer on the open market, they may not want to take the risk of being locked into Martin at an above market rate. If they definitely want Martin back, I think they might take the risk.

  • Tyrone Sharpton

    I read an article somewhere that said Romine is looking more and more like a backup catcher though…think he can replace Russell’s mussell?

  • fin

    Sure, its very possible Romaine could replace Russel. Romaine has worked hard to become good behind the plate, possibly at the expense of his hitting. From articles I read yesterday he is very motivated by the oportunity he now has with the departure of Montero. He has done alot of work with K. Long and built a batting cage in his garage. Giradi loves him behind the plate, time will tell if he can hit at an average to above average level for a catcher.

  • josh

    What if Yanks signed him for 3 years, with $ front loaded, so his contract called for $5-6mm in 2014? If Romine were ready at that point, think Martin would be a pretty attractive trade chip at that price for one year.

    • AAV Police


      • fin

        I think he was reffering to making him an attractive trade target for 2014 by keeping the last year of the deal inexpensive.

  • Mister D(elaware)

    I love me some Yadi.

  • cranky

    By 2015, health permitting, Gary Sanchez WILL be a major leaguer. So will Murphy. So will Greg Bird.
    (And the Yankees have another 1 or 2 guys you could put on that list.)

  • http://yesnet tendollarcard

    if this is about not giving martin a contract extension until the end of the season, then why is axisa writing about it now? must be nothing else in baseball to write about?