After being a rock behind the plate for the Yankees for two seasons, Russell Martin has decided to leave for the Steel City. Earlier tonight, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports broke the story that Martin and the Pittsburgh Pirates have agreed to a two-year deal worth $17 million.
In two seasons with the Yanks, Martin hit .224 with 39 homers and 118 RBIs. He also worked well with the rotation and played solid defense, putting himself near the top in caught-stealing percentage. Martin’s exit leaves an obvious hole for the Yankees behind the plate. It was speculated that ultimately the Yankees would resign Martin, as they originally had talks for an extension last spring.
A few days ago, it was reported that Martin was seeking a four-year deal, something the Yankees probably wouldn’t agree to. That is why it comes as a surprise that Martin took a two-year deal. The Yankees obviously thought that $17 million was too expensive.
Now New York must turn their attention to behind the plate, with the Winter Meetings set to begin on Monday. Currently, the Yankees will expect Austin Romine, Gary Sanchez, Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart and Eli Whiteside to be in camp in February. Could they possibly give Cervelli a shot at winning the everyday job? Is he an everyday catcher? Romine and Sanchez aren’t ready yet, however Romine does have some Major League experience with NY. He has had trouble staying healthy, though.
Joe Mauer could very well be available, as he has already been connected in trade talks with the Boston Red Sox. Mauer is owed a substantial amount of money over the next six years, so only a few teams, like the Yankees, would be able to afford him. However, Mauer has been catching less and less games over the past few seasons. Eventually, he may need to move to first-base or be a DH.
AJ Pierzynski will also likely be a target for New York. The veteran catcher is a free agent, and will likely come at a price lower than Martin. If the Yankees can sign him to a one-year deal, the contract will have no affect on the luxury tax in 2013 or 2014. The Yankees are adamant about cutting payroll to about $189 million dollars by 2014 to avoid paying a hefty fine under the new rules.
Every year it seems like GM Brian Cashman makes a big splash, whether it be a big free agent signing or unexpected trade out of nowhere. The offseason just got interesting for New York, and Yankees fans hope the catching void can be filled.
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