Pirates had best deal for best available catcher
Catcher Russell Martin is the newest addition to the Pirates, signing a two-year, $17 million, deal.
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But, in the end, one factor spoke louder than all others.
"It was the best offer that was on the table," said Martin, 29, who officially became a Pirate Friday when he signed a two-year, $17 million deal. "Whenever somebody makes the best offer, it's because they want you. They've proven that."
Martin will pick up a $2 million signing bonus by the end of the year and will earn $6.5 million in 2013 and $8.5 million in '14.
The Pirates wanted Martin to fill a need behind the plate, a position of weakness offensively and defensively last season. After declining a team option on Rod Barajas, the Pirates turned their attention to Martin, a three-time All-Star who spent the past two seasons with the New York Yankees.
"We like the player," general manager Neal Huntington said. "We like the defense, the intensity, the energy. We like the bat -- he's going to grind out at-bats. He's a threat to put balls into the seats. We think there are some indicators that he's going to continue to be a very good player."
Coincidentally, Barajas replaced Martin as the Los Angeles Dodgers starting catcher in 2010, prompting Martin's move to New York.
A career .260 hitter, Martin struggled at the plate last season, hitting .211 with 53 RBIs. But he believes last season was an anomaly.
"It's only a two-year contract, but it's exactly what I wanted because I didn't want to sign a long-term contract, especially going off a season where I feel like I can play much better," he said. "This gives me room to prove myself and have another go at it in a couple years."
With the Pirates, he is reunited with Burnett, his teammate in '11 with the Yankees. Burnett sent Martin a couple text messages before Martin signed, but the two did not have a chance to connect until Martin already had agreed to become his teammate.
Burnett's presence -- and success -- in Pittsburgh was reassuring for Martin.
"The fact that A.J. is on the team, definitely it's a big factor for me," he said. "Just knowing that he was able to turn it around, and the role that he had on this team probably helped him out, too, having more of a leadership role. ... I find myself kind of in that situation, too, over here. Hopefully, I can embrace it as well as A.J. did."
Having spent the past two seasons in the American League, Martin has a lot to learn about much of his new team. But he paid attention in spring training, where the Pirates and Yankees are frequent competitors in Florida. He described the Pirates as a "young, electric club with a lot of talent" that isn't far away from being a playoff team.
"I feel like this team has a lot of potential," he said, "and I'm excited to take on that challenge."
First Published December 1, 2012 12:00 am