Russell Martin is arguably the best catcher in all of Major League Baseball. I don’t say that because he plays for the Pittsburgh Pirates and they are my hometown team. I don’t say that because I want to start an argument either but besides Yadier Molina, Martin is the best catcher and some will argue that Martin is a better catcher. If not the best, he’s still an extremely valuable guy to have both in the clubhouse and on the field.
Let’s take a look at what he’s done for the Pirates. Going in to the 2013 season, Martin was a career .260 hitter. Last year, Martin jacked 15 homers and had 55 RBI’s but didn’t hit with much consistency, with his average at just .226. However, he had the pop in his bat and his ability to hold runners on base is bar none. Martin was definitely one of the reasons that the Pirates made the postseason last year. The Pirates went through losing streaks but something tells me Martin held the ship together for the Pirates. He’s got the veteran leadership that any and all clubs need to compete in October.
Fast forward to this year and Martin has hit above .290 so far with 7 home runs and 51 runs batted in. Martin has had a more consistent swing this year as compared to last. Martin has gotten a hold of the ball a lot more and the average shows it. His on-base percentage is through the roof. With numbers like that from Martin and guys like Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison in the everyday lineup, it’s no wonder the Pirates are the best team in the National League in on-base percentage. Oh, and Martin still holds runners on just as good as he did last season.
Martin is in his second year of a 2-year, $17 million contract. He’s making $8.5 million a year, but he will make more than that after the past two seasons. The Pirates should re-sign him but there’s also a good chance they will not. The fear the Pirates have as a small-market team is that they may overpay for Martin whereas they could get two guys for the same price that aren’t as good as Martin but fit nicely into the everyday lineup. If I had to put a fair tag on Martin, I’d give him 4 years, $40 million. He’s the total package as a catcher and is just 31 years old.
Martin has some wear and tear on his body but he’s a great competitor. He often gets the day off after a night game for an occasional rest, but not all the time. In fact, Clint Hurdle ran Martin out in the starting lineup just last week because the Pirates needed to catch ground. Hurdle knows the value of Russell Martin and how much he’s helped this club. But he probably won’t receive Martin’s services after this year. If that’s the case, it’s going to show next season.