When Yankees pitchers and catchers report to Tampa’s George M. Steinbrenner Field today for the beginning of spring training, the answer to the club’s significant hole behind the plate will be in Pirate City.
Russell Martin’s road from baseball’s penthouse to Pittsburgh via a two-year deal worth $17 million, and the Yankees not willing to make an offer early in the free-agent process, was puzzling to the popular catcher.
“If they had offered me a contract ... if they had matched ... you know,’’ Martin told The Post in a voice that trailed off. “I was confused a little bit. On a baseball standpoint, if I put myself in the shoes of somebody who makes the decisions to build the team, I would never overlook catching. We will see what happens. It might mean they have confidence in [Chris] Stewart and [Francisco] Cervelli and there is nothing wrong with that.’’
The Yankees’ party line was that until they addressed their pitching needs at the time, which included bringing Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Hiroki Kuroda back, they weren’t making offers to anybody else. All three hurlers returned after Martin signed elsewhere.
So, when the Pirates, who haven’t had a winning season in 20 years, offered Martin two years and $17 million, he grabbed it.
Even though losing Martin left the Yankees with Cervelli, Stewart and Austin Romine, ownership didn’t believe Martin, who will turn 30 Friday and made $7.5 million last year, was worth a sizeable increase after batting a career-low .211. As for the 21 homers, some in the organization thought many were the product of the right-handed hitting Martin taking advantage of the cozy right-field confines of Yankee Stadium.
“The Pirates were the best deal, hands down,’’ Martin said. “From what I was told the Yankees didn’t have the money yet to offer me. It’s hard to be patient when [$17 million] is available.’’
No Yankee offer ‘confused’ Pirates’ Martin
New York Post | Feb 12