Pirates agree to terms with Russell Martin

According to various sources, the Pittsburgh Pirates have agreed to terms with free agent catcher Russell Martin. Ken Rosenthal was the first to break the news on Thursday night:

It appears that the contract will be for two years and worth $17 million. The deal should be finalized on Friday.

Here’s a look at Martin’s career offensive numbers:

Year Age Tm G H HR RBI BA OBP SLG OPS Awards
2006 23 LAD 121 117 10 65 .282 .355 .436 .792 RoY-9
2007 24 LAD 151 158 19 87 .293 .374 .469 .843 AS,GG,SS
2008 25 LAD 155 155 13 69 .280 .385 .396 .781 AS
2009 26 LAD 143 126 7 53 .250 .352 .329 .680
2010 27 LAD 97 82 5 26 .248 .347 .332 .679
2011 28 NYY 125 99 18 65 .237 .324 .408 .732 AS
2012 29 NYY 133 89 21 53 .211 .311 .403 .713
7 Yrs 925 826 93 418 .260 .352 .399 .751
162 Game Avg. 162 145 16 73 .260 .352 .399 .751

Bill James projects him to hit .242 with 16 home runs next season.

He’s been to the All-Star Game three times, and has also won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger. He brings experience and leadership to Pittsburgh as well.

While the price tag was a little high, Martin is definitely an upgrade over Barajas. We were skeptical at first, but this excited us a little bit:

This is where each of Martin’s 2012 home runs would have landed at PNC Park. The large left field would be expected to take away some of Martin’s power, but it looks like about 18 of his 21 bombs would have cleared the fences.

He also had an extremely low batting average on balls in play last season, which means that his average might climb a bit. Still, a .211 batting average is concerning and certainly not what the Pirates need.

It was refreshing to hear that Martin was intrigued by Bucs (enough so that he wanted to sign here). Neil Walker mentioned at the end of the year that they needed more veteran leadership, and Martin, who already has seven years under his belt, seems to be a good addition for the clubhouse.

This speaks volumes to the development of Tony Sanchez; is he really that far off? He’s certainly had a disappointing minor league career to date, but he was definitely a candidate to back up Michael McKenry. Plus it’s a two-year deal, so they must not have much faith in him at all. Here’s what Sanchez had to say:

Dejan Kovacevic of the Trib brings up a reasonable point: Russell Martin’s deal could easily turn out to be similar to Matt Morris‘. He says, “It’s far clearer now than it was with Littlefield in 2007 that they’re in huge trouble, hanging by a thread. And right along with it comes a monster deal — by Pittsburgh standards — for a light-hitting catcher on the decline… But let’s not pretend this transaction was anything other than what it was: A desperation move.”

Finally, Neal Huntington has been here in Pittsburgh since 2007. He’s honestly done nothing but lose; plenty of fans want him gone. Has he improved the state of the franchise a bit? Sure – flocks of people went through the turnstiles at PNC last season, season ticket sales are up, and some money is definitely flying in (we’re sure Nutting loves that). NH is fighting for his job… but he’s playing with fire. This signing could be a domino effect for the Bucs – how much more cash do they have to spend? Could Joel Hanrahan‘s career as a Pirate be over? We’ll know soon enough, as the Winter Meetings take place next week. Can’t wait to see how everything unfolds.

Go Bucs

Photo: Keith Allison/Creative Commons

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#FTFTrivia Answer 11/29/12

Tonight we asked…

and the answer to tonight’s #FTFTrivia is…

Eight catchers

Those eight catchers were Michael McKenry, Ryan Doumit, Chris Snyder, Dusty Brown, Jason Jaramillo, Eric Fryer, Matt Pagnozzi, and Wyatt Toregas. This is significant because the Pirates have just reached an agreement with catcher Russell Martin.

Congratulations to tonight’s winners: @freezoid400, @mjportash, @BMVenslosky, @_DrewBrown, @Irate_Fan7, @TSchusyy, @bmur13, @NuttingHostage, and @s7pinney.

Thanks to all who participated, and tune in next time for another edition of #FTFTrivia.

Go Bucs

Photo: WEBN-TV/Creative Commons

Bill James 2013 Projections: Pirates Hitters

Bill James’ first batch of projections for the 2013 season were recently released and can be found on the player pages at FanGraphs. Here’s a look at some of the Pirates hitters are projected to perform next year:

G PA HR R RBI SB AVG OBP SLG
Alex Presley
96
326 8 43 32 11 .288 .343 .447
Andrew McCutchen
159
675 24 101 81 22 .286 .372 .483
Clint Barmes
133
441 9 42 43 2 .233 .286 .353
Gaby Sanchez
115
394 11 44 49 3 .263 .343 .418
Garrett Jones
140
484 20 57 69 4 .254 .315 .454
Jose Tabata
102
353 3 47 26 12 .278 .345 .377
Michael McKenry
108
363 11 35 41 1 .239 .316 .404
Neil Walker
154
647 17 77 88 9 .275 .337 .435
Pedro Alvarez
147
597 29 70 91 2 .257 .336 .481
Starling Marte
148
551 15 82 64 31 .297 .336 .479
Travis Snider
89
312 11 43 45 5 .278 .345 .468

A few quick notes:

- James has Alex Presley bouncing back with a .288 average after a sophomore slump campaign in which he hit just .237 and traveled to Triple-A Indianapolis a couple of times.

- Andrew McCutchen is projected to regress a bit after his MVP-caliber year. A .286 average with 24 homers would be nice, but not as stellar as his .327 avg/31 homers in 2012.

- Clint Barmes is expected to do pretty much the same thing at the plate as he did last season.

- Gaby Sanchez is pretty “meh” at .263 batting average with 11 home runs and 44 runs batted in. Another player the Bucs picked up at July’s deadline, Travis Snider, is in the same boat – .278 average with 11 HR and 43 RBI.

- James still projects Garrett Jones to put up decent power, but expects a 20 point drop off in batting average (.274 to .254).

- Jose Tabata will look to continue his disappointing career. Another 3 homer year with just 12 stolen bases; at least his average is projected to jump up to .278.

- Michael McKenry is expected to have a pretty similar season. It’ll be interesting to see how he adjusts to a larger role in 2013.

- Neil Walker is projected to have a nice season. We’ll take a .275 average and 17 homers any day from a starting second baseman.

- James projects Pedro Alvarez to keep improving upon his solid season in 2012. Another season with about 30 homers and somewhere around 90 RBI would be great from Pedro.

- Last but not least, Starling Marte is expected to have a big time season. A .297 average with 15 home runs and 31 stolen bases would be tremendous for Starling. It’s hard to predict his performance since he’s unproven and appeared in just 47 games, but it still gets us excited to think about the potential he has.

Sometime within the next week or so, we’ll take a look Bill James’ predictions for the Pirates pitchers.

Go Bucs

2012 in Review: Catching

“Barge” and “The Fort” held down the catching duties for the Bucs.

A catching tandem that struggled to throw out baserunners hurt the team in the long run.

Games AVG HR RBI OPS
Rod Barajas 104 .206 11 31 .625
Michael McKenry 88 .233 12 39 .762

Pretty rough year behind the plate for the Bucs.  Rod, thought to be an offensive upgrade but defensive downgrade compared to Ryan Doumit, disappointed greatly.  His offense was terrible at best.  His defense was almost impossible to watch as the opposing teams ran wild on the bases.  The one upside to Rod’s season was how much he and A.J. Burnett connected, which probably added to A.J.’s success all season.  McKenry was thought of mostly as a backup, but he played almost as many games as Rod.  “The Fort” captivated Bucco fans with his clutch home runs, but that was about it.  His defense wasn’t much better than Rod, and he couldn’t really be relied on as an every-day catcher.  Serious upgrades need to be made behind the plate this offseason.

Help Wanted: Pirates Catcher

Since they declined Rod Barajas’ $3.5 million option for 2013, the Pirates are now in need of a catcher to go along with Michael McKenry. Rob Biertempfel of the Trib wrote about how the Bucs are in the market for both a catcher and starting pitcher. The five catchers listed as possible targets are Gerald Laird, A.J. Pierzynski, Yorvit Torrealba, Kelly Shoppach, and Humberto Quintero; here are their resumes:

A few of these players are listed on Yahoo’s Ultimate Free-Agent Tracker. It notes that “Pierzynski is not going to hit 27 home runs again, and he’ll go back to what he was: a low-on-base guy whose propensity not to walk borders on historic. In Pierzynski’s 12 seasons with at least 400 plate appearances, not once has he exceeded 30 walks.Shoppachcalls a decent game” and “can hit home runs.” All it says for Laird is “this is where it starts to get bad” which signals a significant drop off in talented catchers.

Pierzynski’s inability to get on base is a red flag, and he certainly isn’t getting any younger. He’ll probably get a pretty decent salary despite his age. MLB Trade Rumors predicted that A.J. will go to the Texas Rangers.

Shoppach is an interesting case. He only hit .233 in 2012 but can put up some decent power. A major problem for the Pirates last season was throwing out runners; Shoppach threw out 33% in 2012 (compared to Barajas’ 6%). Plus he’s never made more than $3 million in his career and could come on the cheap at age 33. Mets blog Rising Apple points out that Shoppach is “the one free-agent that has a good chance at returning to Flushing in 2013.” Mets GM Sandy Alderson will seek outside help at catcher but could re-sign Shoppach if he can’t find an upgrade.

According to Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski, Gerald Laird is looking for more playing time and more salary than the Tigers can offer. Laird wasn’t tremendous at throwing out runners, as he caught just 10 of 52 (19%). For comparison, Michael McKenry threw out 13 of 74 (18%). He doesn’t hit for much power and is a career .244 hitter.

Torrealba’s 2012 season seems very similar to Barajas’ 2011 before he came to the Pirates:
Barajas 2011 – age 35, $3.25 million salary, .230 avg, .717 OPS, 25% CS
Torrealba 2012 – age 33, $3.25 million salary, .227 avg, .623 OPS, 22% CS
…so he seems like Rod Barajas 2.0

Quintero is pretty much the same deal at .232 avg and an abysmal .523 OPS, along with 35% CS (17 out of 49), so he’s not a very attractive candidate either.

It seems that Neal Huntington may be open to dealing Joel Hanrahan for a major league-ready catcher. Hammer may not be affordable at this point, and the market for closers is ridiculous. Many believe that closer is an overrated position and that they can be easily replaced. With that logic, it makes sense to deal Hanrahan, as long as the Pirates can get a solid return.

The market for catchers, both free agency and trade, is really slim, but the Bucs are in need of an upgrade. Tony Sanchez doesn’t seem quite ready at Triple-A and the rest of the farm system is lacking. These free agent targets aren’t intriguing, but Neal Huntington & Co. need to make something happen. It will be interesting to see how they approach the catching situation this offseason.