Russell Martin-mania is in full swing, and everyone expects the Dodgers to make a run at him, no matter whether or not Martin actually wants to return to a team that once non-tendered him. The fit makes enough sense, anyway; Martin is the only decent catcher on the market, and the Dodgers have room to improve behind the plate after a disappointing season from A.J. Ellis, Drew Butera, Tim Federowicz, and Miguel Olivo. There’s also huge risks as well, because Martin isn’t exactly young, and his 2014 offensive stats were completely unsustainable. We’ve already lived through a few years of what looked like Martin’s decline once. Do we want to do it again?
Anyway, Brim already laid out a ton of info on Martin last month, and I don’t intend to repeat it. What I want to do today is something a little simpler, which is to answer the following question: How many other teams might also want Martin? Which teams, and how many, will certainly impact the potential market Martin can expect to find. So to do that, let’s play a game of process of elimination. There’s three main reasons a team might not be after Martin, in my view. They could 1) already have a catcher, 2) not be likely to want to spend what Martin will get, or 3) not be a fit for competitive or win cycle reasons.
Obviously, some teams will fit in more than one of these categories, but I’ll only name them once each for simplicity.
Has a catcher
- BAL — Matt Wieters
- NYY — Brian McCann
- CLE — Yan Gomes
- KC — Salvador Perez
- MIN — Kurt Suzuki
- LAA — Chris Iannetta
- HOU — Jason Castro / Hank Conger
- SEA — Mike Zunino
- NYM — Travis d’Arnaud
- MIA — Jarrod Saltalamacchia
- PHI — Carlos Ruiz
- WAS — Wilson Ramos
- CIN — Devin Mesoraco
- STL — Yadier Molina
- MIL — Jonathan Lucroy
- ARI — Miguel Montero
- SF — Buster Posey / Andrew Susac
These guys aren’t all necessarily better, but the ones that aren’t are either long-time stalwarts still under contract (Ruiz) or young catchers who need to play (Zunino, d’Arnaud). Wieters, of course, missed most of the 2014 season due to Tommy John surgery, but is still under team control and should be ready for 2015. Iannetta isn’t irreplaceable, but he had a good year, and the Angels have bigger problems to solve with their limited funds.
Probably can’t afford Martin
You could see both of these teams wanting Martin badly, but neither is paying him what he’ll get.
Not the right fit
- BOS — They probably aren’t going to completely hand over the backstop duties to well-regarded prospects Christian Vazquez & Blake Swihart in 2015, but they may be more interested in a shorter-term veteran, and they need to focus on completely rebuilding a rotation that lost Jon Lester, John Lackey, and Jake Peavy anyway.
- ATL — Evan Gattis may or may not be traded. Either way, the Braves aren’t likely to be big spenders and they have young Christian Bethancourt ready to take on a bigger role.
- SD — Martin would be a great help for the young pitchers the Padres have collected, though with their usual payroll issues and the presence of Rene Rivera & Yasmani Grandal, this probably isn’t happening.
- COL — The Rockies would like to upgrade on Wilin Rosario, and they tried for Ruiz last year. It’s very difficult to see them finding the cash for Martin, however, especially if Michael Cuddyer accepts that hilarious qualifying offer.
So the results, in no particular order, of my completely unscientific review, comes down to seven teams who might be realistically interested in Martin, and you’ll notice that they fit a few different profiles. The Dodgers are obvious, of course; the Tigers are another big-spending team with a recent history of success that might need to add a catcher, since Alex Avila‘s never-ending concussion issues make it very difficult to rely on him.
The Rangers aren’t nearly as bad as 2014’s 95 losses would indicate, since they were completely torn apart by injuries. (They used 15 starting pitchers, and 40 overall.) But catcher is still a mess, as Geovany Soto was traded to Oakland, Chris Gimenez was dealt to Cleveland, and J.P. Arencibia was a disaster. Are Robinson Chirinos & Tomas Telis enough for a contender? Martin to Texas is probably unlikely, but it makes sense, especially if they don’t want to waste another year of the primes of Yu Darvish, Prince Fielder, and Shin-Soo Choo.
The Cubs have often been mentioned as a serious suitor, because they’re a big-market team with a replaceable catcher (Welington Castillo) that intends to contend sooner than later (as though the signing of Joe Maddon didn’t express that well enough) and could use a solid backstop to lead some young pitching. The White Sox don’t get nearly as much press about it, but they’re in a similar situation. Tyler Flowers isn’t really a starting catcher; Jose Abreu & Adam Eaton could use another bat in the lineup; a sneakily good rotation fronted by Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, and (probably) Carlos Rodon would be improved by Martin’s skill.
The Blue Jays do have Dioner Navarro, but that’s hardly a road block. Not only have the Jays already made contact with Martin, they reportedly wanted him back in 2010 when the Dodgers initially let him go; I’m sure that baseball’s only Canadian team would love to have a star Canadian player. Finally, the Pirates, who would love to have Martin back, don’t really have an alternative outside of the disappointing Tony Sanchez, and already tried to extend Martin. The guess here is that if Martin was going to stay with Pittsburgh, it would have happened already, and the longer this goes, the less likely a return is.
Obviously, the Dodgers can outspend anyone, though it’s not like the Tigers, Cubs, or Rangers are poor teams. Martin’s going to get paid, one way or another. It might just come down to where, geographically, he prefers to be — and if he harbors any ill will against the Dodgers (albeit a Dodger team with a different owner and front office) that didn’t show faith in him four years ago.