November 29, 2012
Thursday, November 29
The first top-tier outfield domino fell on Wednesday, when the Braves inked B.J. Upton to a five-year, $75.25 million contract to supplant Michael Bourn as their center fielder. For more on that deal, see R.J. Anderson’s Transaction Analysis.
While we await the fallout from the Upton signing, here are three non-outfield-related stories that lit the Hot Stove on Wednesday:
Pirates among suitors giving Yankees a run for Russell Martin
Martin ducked his final year of arbitration eligibility by meeting the Yankees halfway ($7.5 million), and he turned in a .255 TAv to go with 21 home runs over 133 games, while also being named a Gold Glove finalist*. The 29-year-old endured his share of bumps and bruises, as all backstops do—missing a couple of days at a time with elbow, groin, neck, foot, and lower back nicks—but he avoided the disabled list and showed few ill effects from his past hip and knee woes. From a health standpoint, Martin is a safer bet than Mike Napoli and not far off from A.J. Pierzynski, who has required only one DL stint in a dozen major-league seasons.
And that’s why, after providing between 1.4 and 1.6 WARP* in each of the past three seasons, Martin is drawing interest from at least four teams, with the Pirates and Yankees leading the pack, and the Mariners and Rangers lurking on the periphery. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports initially heard that Pittsburgh could pace the bidding at three years and $25 million, but Rob Biertempfel, a beat writer for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, nixed that rumor, and Heyman acknowledged that the true proposal from general manager Neal Huntington is probably closer to $21 million. Either figure would be a far cry from the price tag Marchand reported, but the offers could pick up if Martin chooses to wait out the market instead of signing first and the teams in play miss out on his fellow free agents.
Now, you probably noticed asterisks in each of the first three paragraphs of this segment; here is where they come in. According to WARP, the salaries currently on the table for Martin are roughly commensurate with his measured performance in recent seasons. The operative word in the previous sentence is “measured,” because WARP does not account for one potentially crucial factor when it comes to catcher defense: namely, pitch framing. And, while Martin is light-years from Jose Molina’s 50-run wizardry, he did rank near the top of the league in both total runs saved (second) and runs saved per 120 games (fourth) during the five-year timeframe of Mike Fast’s study.