This is quite annoying. According to Ken Rosenthal, Russell Martin informed the Yankees he was willing to sign a one-year contract worth $9-10M this past offseason. A one-year deal, of course, would have worked well with the team’s plan to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold in 2014 and not left them with the Chris Stewart/Frankie Cervelli tandem for 2013. The Yankees balked and Martin instead took a two-year pact from the Pirates. I love the Yankees, but I hate the way they do pretty much everything these days.
Baseball news is going to start to slow down in a day or two because of the holidays, and it won’t be until after the new year that things pick back up. Sure, there will be a move or three between Christmas and New Year’s, but GMs and agents and players tend to take it easy that week. Can’t really blame them, it’s a 24/7/365 profession and everyone needs a break at some point.
1. Now that R.A. Dickey has officially been traded to the Blue Jays, I sorta hate that I’m going to have to root against him. He was a blast to watch on the other side of town this season, and I don’t think he’ll have a ton of trouble switching leagues. Yes, the parks aren’t as friendly in the AL East, but he’ll still be well-above-average if not ace-caliber. Someone (I believe Bill Petti) has done recent research showing that the knuckleball removes some of the hitter’s skill from the equation in the pitcher-batter matchup, which would obviously serve Dickey well in the tougher league. The one real criticism I have of the Rays over the last few seasons is their unwillingness to make the big move to go for it, but we certainly can’t accuse the Blue Jays of that. The see an opening in the division and are going for it like hell.
2. So what changed about the Yankees’ evaluation of Russell Martin over the last 12 months? They offered him that three-year, $20M-something extension last offseason after the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (and incentives to get under the luxury tax) were in place, yet they wouldn’t go near the two-year, $17M deal he took from the Pirates a few weeks ago. Do they think his offense will continue to decline? That he’s not a safe bet to stay healthy the next two years given his big career workload? Is his defense not as good as advertised? The Yankees have passed on a ton of free agents over the years and for the most part you can understand why. With Martin, given the dearth of quality catching, it just makes no sense to pass on that price even with the 2014 payroll plan looming, especially since they were so willing to give Ichiro Suzuki two years. So weird.
3. This is worthy of a larger post later in the offseason, but is there a more important Yankees position player right now than Mark Teixeira? Given the offensive hits the team will take in right field and behind the plate (Derek Jeter is unlikely to hit .316/.362/.429 again as well), the Yankees badly need to Tex to halt his decline and get back to his 30+ homers, 125+ wRC+ ways. I’m not asking him to hit like he did from 2005-2009 (141 wRC+), but he needs to do better than a .332 OBP. Hopefully good health — remember, he had the cough and wrist issues in addition to the calf problem this past year — will help Teixeira improve his offense next season. The Yankees need him to be a middle of the lineup force again. It’s imperative.
4. Here’s the list of unsigned free agents; anyone in particular you want to see the Yankees sign before Spring Training? The big names are Michael Bourn and Scott Hairston and Shaun Marcum and A.J. Pierzynski and blah blah blah. I’m talking about someone off the beaten path, like infielder Ronny Cedeno (110 wRC+ vs. LHP in 2012) for the bench or right-hander Matt Lindstrom (2.85 ERA and 3.24 ERA from 2011-2012) for the bullpen. I’d love to see right-hander Tim Stauffer (3.15 ERA and 3.72 FIP from 2010-2011 before elbow surgery in 2012) on a minor league deal to stash in Triple-A for rotation depth. Any irrational favorites?
All 30 managers meet with the media for 30-ish minutes during the Winter Meetings, and Joe Girardi held his Q&A session late this afternoon. It’s pretty typical of Yankees people to speak a lot of words but not actually say much, and this was no different. I don’t have the audio to share because the quality is awful, but here’s a recap…
- Girardi confirmed what Brian Cashman said yesterday, that A-Rod didn’t say anything about his hip until being pinch-hit for in Game Three of the ALCS. “His hips weren’t firing right. It wasn’t pain but he felt it was not the explosiveness … I was somewhat worried because he’d been through it on his right hip and you’d think he’d know what the feeling was like. It wasn’t firing the way he thought.”
- A-Rod went for an MRI on his right hip after the game, and when it came back clean Girardi kept playing him. He did acknowledge Alex “did look different than he did before he got hurt.” The team doesn’t know exactly when the injury happened.
- On losing A-Rod for the first half of next year: “It’s big. You go into an offseason and you feel you have to address certain areas and all of a sudden you get a little bit of a surprise. It’s a pretty big hole to fill, and it may not necessarily be (filled) with one person.”
- “I’m not sure,” said the skipper when asked about any tension in his relationship with A-Rod. “It probably answers a lot of questions — he wasn’t the Alex we saw before the injury. Now we have a reason, possibly why.”
9:54pm: The Yankees told Martin they didn’t have the cash to match Pittsburgh’s offer according to Waldstein. That’s rich.
9:07pm: Buster Olney says the Yankees never did make an offer, so I guess they just discussed a two-year deal worth $12-14M. The team hasn’t made any offers to any free agent position players this winter.
8:29pm: The Yankees will have a new starting catcher next season. Ken Rosenthal reports that Russell Martin has agreed to sign with the Pirates, though the contract terms are unknown. The Pittsburgh Pirates outbid the New York Yankees for a free agent. Ain’t that something.
Via Andrew Marchand: Russell Martin is seeking a four-year contract worth $9-10M annually. There’s zero chance the Yankees would go that far, but Ken Rosenthal says the Rangers, Pirates, and Mariners are also involved.
Of course, Martin wanting a four-year, $40M deal is akin to Nick Swisher wanting a Jayson Werth-like contract. They’re not going to get it if they don’t ask, so might as well start with that and negotiate down. I think it’s more likely that someone will offer Martin four years than Swisher finding seven years, but again, there’s no way the Yankees would do that. I like Russ, but not that much.
Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees are “back in discussions” with free agent catcher Russell Martin, and talks are said to be “heating up.” The two sides were far apart on dollars a few days ago, but Heyman says they made progress over the weekend.
Martin, 29, is apparently waiting to hear New York’s pitch before getting involved with other teams according to George King, which Ichiro Suzuki is doing as well. Agent Matt Colleran confirmed to Dan Martin that his client has received multiple offers though, including one from the Yankees. As one of the few legitimate starting backstops on the free agent market, Martin figures to draw plenty of interest from other catching-starved clubs like the Rangers, White Sox, and maybe even the Rays. Oh, and in case you hadn’t heard, he might play shortstop for Team Canada in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.
Via George King: The Yankees have yet to make an offer to Russell Martin, and they’re likely to focus on re-signing Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera first. Ken Rosenthal notes that the free agent catching market has stalled because the Blue Jays and Red Sox are shopping J.P. Arencibia and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, respectively.
Martin, 29, hit .211/.311/.403 (95 wRC+) with a career-high 21 homers this year. The free agent catching market is very weak, with Martin and A.J. Pierzynski representing the only true everyday catchers. The Yankees reportedly have interest in Mike Napoli, but a) calling him an everyday catcher is a stretch, and b) I think that’s just an example of the team trying to drive up the price for the Red Sox. He doesn’t really fit with New York as a half-time first baseman/half-time DH. Given the general wackiness of the market so far, it’s very likely Martin will get three years in the $24-30M range.