Friday, August 29, 2014

Why Re-Signing Russ Martin Is Important

Russ Martin has built a time machine.  Or, to be trite, has discovered the Fountain of Youth.  Either way, Martin is in the midst of his finest season since his 2007 season with the Dodgers.  That year, Martin triple slashed .293/.374/.469 with 19 HR and 21 SB.  As a catcher, mind you.

This year, he's put up a .295/.417/.416 line with 7 HR and 4 SB.  But if you're a stathead (like me) then you may be interested to know that Russ's 2007 line resulted in a 122 Weighted Runs Created Plus (22% than league average), while his 2014 line is a 142 wRC+.  How can that be?  Because back in 2007, offense was greater around the league than it is today.  So by this metric, this is Martin's career season.

Martin is a free agent after the season and it is imperative that the Pirates re-sign him.  At the start of next season, Martin will be in his age-32 season and he will have 1000+ games as a catcher under his belt.  He will start to wear down eventually, so the Pirates have to be cautious with the number of years.

2 years, I would be ecstatic, but Martin is looking for his final big payday.  3 years would be great.  4 years would make me nervous.  5 years -- good luck with your new team, Russ.

During his time with the Yankees and into his first year with the Pirates, Martin was trying to sell out for home run power.  This year, he's made a conscious effort for contact and it has resulted in the fine line you see above.  If Martin, over the course of a 3 year deal, could even bat .270/.350/400, that would be fantastic for a catcher.

Martin is a good athlete, too, so perhaps he could get a break from squatting behind the plate by playing 3B or 1B periodically.  This would keep his bat (and his on-base prowess) in the lineup.

It's also important that the Pirates re-sign him as a show of good faith to the fans.  The Pirates are in the middle of a contention window right now.  Martin's on-base skills and pitch framing are things that are not sexy, but they age better than other skills like speed and power.

With record PNC attendances and the new national TV deals, there is plenty of money floating around Federal Street.  Yes, the Pirates have a big arbitration class coming up, but even if you take their $23M of commitments and estimate $28M for arbitration, the Pirates should still be able to afford $12-13M/year for Martin.

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