My Assessment of the Russell Martin Signing

By Jason Shetler

There seems to be a mixed reaction as it relates to the signing of new Pirates catcher Russell Martin. So here’s my assessment of the signing.

Compared to Rod Barajas, Martin gives the Pirates an upgrade in a number of areas. Both hit for a low average this past season, but Martin’s OBP of .311 was much higher than Barajas’ .283 OBP, thanks in part to an above average 10.9 BB% by Martin. Martin’s oWAR made him a two-win player this year at 2.2, while Barajas was at replacement level at 0.2. Defensively, Martin had a 0.1 dWAR, but when compared to Barajas’ – 0.6 dWAR, it doesn’t seem that bad. The biggest obviously is the CS% between the two. Martin threw out 24% of opposing basestealers (league average 25% for AL catchers), while Barajas managed to throw out just 6% (league average 27% for NL catchers). 

In terms of the contract, the money is pretty high, but Martin was the top free agent catcher, so he was going to get paid top dollar at that position, regardless of the catching market being weak. Martin was looking for a four-year deal, but the Pirates were able to get him short term on a two-year deal instead. 

Looking at the numbers, as well as the deal he received, It doesn’t seem all that bad actually. The Pirates were looking not only to bring in a catcher, but someone who can be a significant upgrade over Rod Barajas, which Martin gives them. Some people may look at this as an overpay, but once again, he was the top catcher on the market, and the Pirates were able to get him short term and not long term. 







Pirates Agree to Sign Russell Martin

By Jason Shetler

According to Ken Rosenthal, the Pirates have agreed to terms with Russell Martin, pending a physical. It’s a two-year deal worth $17M, this according to David Waldstein of the New York Times. Earlier this week, Rosenthal was the first to report that the Pirates had interest in the top free agent catcher. Martin spent two seasons with the Yankees, where he posted a batting line of .224/.317/.405 in 258 games played. Once the deal is official, it’ll surpass Clint Barmes’ two-year $10.5M contract from last offseason as the biggest given out by Neal Huntington. The contract also becomes the largest amount that the Pirates have ever given to a free agent backstop. The signing of Martin would mark the second catcher to reunite with A.J. Burnett, with of course Rod Barajas this past season. 

Pirates Acquire Vin Mazzaro and Clint Robinson

By Jason Shetler

In addition to the Zack Stewart acquisition, the Pirates have announced that they have acquired pitcher Vin Mazzaro and first baseman Clint Robinson from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for minor leaguers Luis Rico and Luis Santos. Unlike Stewart, Mazzaro and Robinson have been added to the 40-man roster. The Pirates have designated Matt Hague and Yamaico Navarro for assignment as corresponding moves, this according to Kristy Robinson. Mazzaro pitched in 18 games for the Royals this past season, where he posted a 5.73 ERA and a 1.68 WHIP. Meanwhile, Robinson had a solid year for AAA Omaha, as he put up a batting line of .292/.393/.452 in 131 games before being called up to the Royals as a September call up. Mazzaro is likely to compete for a bullpen spot, but may start the year in AAA. Robinson is also likely to start the season in AAA, but he does provide solid depth if nothing else. 

Pirates Acquire Zack Stewart

By Jason Shetler

The Pirates have announced that they have acquired pitcher Zack Stewart from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for a player to be named later. Stewart began the 2012 season pitching for the Chicago White Sox before being dealt to the Red Sox as part of the Kevin Youkilis deal this past summer. Between the two teams, he posted an 8.58 ERA with a 1.74 WHIP in 20 games pitched. The long ball certainly inflated his ERA, as his HR/9 was a very alarming 3.5. The one plus for Stewart was a 1.0 BB/9, so he did show good control, but perhaps the control was too good. I imagine the Pirates will give him a Spring Training invite with a chance to pitch out of the bullpen. But based on this year’s numbers, he’s more likely to begin 2013 in AAA. 

Catcher Breakdown: Russell Martin vs J.P. Arencibia

By Jason Shetler    

It’s no secret that the Pirates are looking for a catcher this offseason, and the latest rumor has them interested in Russell Martin. The free agent backstop has come out and said that he wants a four-year deal with an annual salary of $10M. Despite being the top catcher on the open market, the offer is ridiculous to say the least. Martin will enter the 2013 season as a 30-year-old, an age in which a catcher could easily start to decline. I tried to think of some catchers who are similar to Martin and one that I came up with is Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia. I’m going to compare Martin and Arencibia’s 2012 seasons and see where the numbers are.


Russell Martin (2012): .211 avg, .714 OPS, 92 OPS+, 2.2 oWAR, 0.1 dWAR, 1.5 WAR, 24% CS

J.P. Arencibia (2012): .233 avg, .710 OPS, 89 OPS+ 1.2 oWAR, 0.9 dWAR, 1.4 WAR, 29% CS


Arencibia’s 2012 figures seem to stack up pretty decent compared to Martin’s. As you can see, Arencibia hit for a higher average, and his defensive numbers were better as he posted a higher caught stealing percentage and a much better defensive WAR. Martin does lead in some other categories, but not by much. Martin’s OPS and OPS+ are slightly better than Arencibia’s. Martin’s Offensive WAR was a win more, but because of the significantly lower Defensive WAR, Martin’s overall WAR is about the same as Arencibia’s. 

So looking at the big picture, the Pirates could overpay for a catcher who is likely on a decline, or trade for one who’s salary for next season is not only literally 10 times more club friendly, but also has years of team control. In regards to what they would have to trade to get Arencibia, I don’t see it being that big of a package. I could see a couple “B” level prospects and possibly even Alex Presley or Jose Tabata. I’m not saying it’s a must for the Pirates to get a catcher like J.P. Arencibia, but I’m just showing how comparing a top free agent catcher to a minimum wage catcher can be just as good an alternative. 










Pirates Sign Philippe Valiquette to Minor League Deal

By Jason Shetler

According to Tim Williams, the Pirates have signed left-handed reliever Philippe Valiquette to a minor league deal. The native of Montreal, made just 16 appearances this year for the Brewers’ High A and AA affiliates. He missed all of 2011 with a torn pectoral muscle and was recovering from the injury this past season. There’s been conflicting reports about his fastball as several publications, such as Baseball America, has him sitting in the mid-90’s, while Tim has received reports about his fastball being in the mid-upper 90’s and can reach triple digits. Regardless which report is more accurate, it’s still impressive velocity for a lefty reliever to have. Valiquette has had control issues as his BB/9 is at 4.4 during his seven minor league seasons. The signing is a definite “low risk/high reward” as it’s obviously a minor league deal and if his control improves, he’s got the makings of a legitimate back end reliever.