Bucs get their man, that Ray Liotta look-alike (Martin).
Acting quickly to shore up their biggest hole, the Pirates on Thursday reached agreement with catcher Russell Martin on a two-year, $17 million contract.
The agreement, pending a physical of the 29-year-old veteran before it can become official, was first reported by FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, and subsequently confirmed by a team source.
Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington simply told me that the two sides were “still working through the process” and that he had “nothing to report at this point.”
That’s typical pre-physical GM speak. Martin is expected in Pittsburgh on Friday for those tests. Two weeks later, look for him at PirateFest.
The Bucs, seeking a veteran to replace Rod Barajas and to pair with instrumental back-up Michael McKenry, entered what turned out to be a brief scramble for Martin a few days ago.
The Rangers, the Mariners and Martin’s club for the last two seasons, the Yankees, all were hot on his trail. Reports of Martin entering the market seeking a four-year deal for an annual $10 million may have scared off early suitor. The Pirates had emerged as frontrunners due to the perception Huntington was willing to go three years on a guaranteed contract.
His ability to secure Martin, then, with a two-year deal amounts to a coup, and may be a reflection of the belief that Martin has a positive impression of the Pirates’ future — doubtless formed with the help of another former member of the Yankees, pitcher A.J. Burnett, who considered his first season with the Pirates a good experience.
In Martin, the Pirates get a receiver with a reputation not unlike that of Barajas, who calls a solid game with a good rapport with pitchers, with occasional flashes of power at bat.
However, Martin is seven years younger, with an added defensive weapon Barajas lacked: An arm good enough to deter runners. In 2012, Martin threw out 20 of 83 runners. Between them, Barajas and McKenry nailed fewer (19) in 173 total attempts.
Offensively, Martin does not immediately come off as an upgrade over Barajas, who batted .206 with an OPS of .625 in 321 at-bats.
Martin hit .211, but had nearly twice as many extra-base hits (21 homers and 18 doubles) for an OPS of .713.
The most distressing part of Martin’s offensive resume is his steady decline since earning the only Gold Glove and Silver Slugger in his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2007, when he hit .293, with 19 homers and 87 RBIs, all still career highs.
His average has declined every subsequent season, to that low of .211 in 2012. However, Martin was a finalist for the 2012 Gold Glove that was awarded to Baltimore’s Matt Wieters.
He also is a winner: When he starts behind the plate, his teams have a record of 112 games above .500.