What Signing Russell Martin Means for New York Yankees

Bronx Baseball DailySenior Analyst IDecember 14, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 27:  Curtis Granderson #14 of the New York Yankees slides safely into home past the tag of catcher Russell Martin #55 of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the ninth inning during an interleague at Dodger Stadium on June 27, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

The Yankees reportedly reached an agreement with free agent catcher Russell Martin, and with so many possible backstops already in their system, this raises some questions.

They have plenty of experienced and some not so experienced catchers available in Martin, Jorge Posada, Francisco Cervelli, Jesus Montero and even Austin Romine. So who starts?

Well, Posada is out. Early this offseason Yankees general manager Brian Cashman made that clear by announcing that Montero would be given a shot and that Posada was their full-time DH. Signing Martin only cements this idea.

Posada is 39 years old this year and really hasn’t been a capable starting catcher in two or three years. The DH role is right for him.

So Posada is out, and Montero was all but handed the role of starting catcher, but Martin does change things. What do the Yankees do with Montero now? They aren’t exactly going to shop him around, but if the right deal comes along, they would be willing to consider it.

If a great deal doesn’t come along, though, and it would have to be a great deal, the Yankees will hold on to Montero.

Going into the season with both Montero and Martin, two things could happen. They could just let them battle it out in spring training and the best one will win, while the other one becomes the backup.

Or more likely, Martin will be handed the role but will essentially share time with Montero, and Montero’s playing time will essentially be dictated by how well he adjusts to the majors. If he hits well, we could see Martin start about 80 to 100 games with Montero handling the rest. But if it takes some time for Montero to adjust, Martin could start more like 100 to 120 games. That would allow the Yankees to break him in slowly.

A lot will depend on how Martin plays as well. From 2006 through 2008 Martin was one of the better all-around catchers in the game, playing great defense and putting up a 109 OPS+. Over the last two years it has been a different story. His OPS+ is down to 86, and a hip injury last year could hinder his defense behind the plate.

Martin could potentially rebound though. He’s played in a ton of games for a catcher over the years and may come back rested after missing half of last season. He could get worse; hip injuries are not exactly great things to happen to players. He will likely remain the same though, and if he can provide good defense, his patience at the plate could mean he’ll easily have a .350 OBP going forward.

Two good things this does for the Yankees though is that it frees them up to trade Cervelli. Cervelli is not a great starting catcher for the Yankees by any stretch, but some teams could view him as one, and he would make a great backup for a lot more teams too. He doesn’t have amazing trade value, but he certainly does have a decent amount.

It also allows the Yankees to not rush Romine. He can play a full season in Triple-A, and even if Montero doesn’t succeed in the bigs right away, they don’t have to call Romine up. Montero and Martin should be able to handle the job, and as long as there aren’t major injuries, if they have to, Posada could catch 10 to 20 games as well. There should be no reason that the Yankees have to call up Romine.


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