Via George King and Hardball Talk, the Yankees have made an offer to Russell Martin and apparently want him to start if the joins the Bronx Bombers. This is big news.
If true, it apparently signals a shift from the mindset that Jesus Montero was going to get the starting catching job out of Spring Training. Of course that doesn’t mean Montero won’t be on the Yankees in 2011, but we can see a path developing here.
It would seem that the Yankees are waiting on Cliff Lee, to whom they’ve apparently made a seven year contract offer. What does this have to do with Montero? Like we’ve all said all off season, if the Yankees don’t sign Lee, it’s possible that they go out and trade for a starter. If they do, Montero is likely to be part of the package. It will be very hard for the Yankees to get an impact starter like Zack Greinke or Francisco Liriano without giving up Jesus Montero.
If the Yankees don’t trade Montero–regardless of signing Lee or not–they could still give Martin the starting job, while starting Montero in AAA. This would give him more seasoning time, which never hurts, and delay his arbitration clock. I doubt the latter is the intention, though, since the Yankees will more than likely be able to afford Jesus’ arbitration raises.
I’m of the opinion that the Yankees will probably land Lee, making it unnecessary to trade Jesus Montero (unless they feel they could use the depth if Andy Pettitte retires). I think there’s a small chance they sign Martin to be the stater. If that’s the case, I hope they just stash Montero in AAA until they feel he’s ready. On another Montero note, the latest round of CAIRO Projections from Replacement Level has Montero projected as a .337 wOBA hitter in 2010. That is something I would most definitely accept.
Re-switching gears back to Martin.
There is always the possibility that what was said was not true. The starting catcher comment came from Martin’s agent, Matt Colleran. King’s article doesn’t have confirmation of that from the Yankees, so it’s possible that Colleran is doing his job and trying to get some leverage on his client’s side.
It’s also possible that the Yankees said that to Martin as an empty promise. Of course, they could give him the starting job out of Spring Training (if they sign him) then find countless reasons to take that job away from him.
Until we see a confirmation of this from the Yankees–or see it happen on Opening Day–I don’t believe Russell Martin will be the Yankees’ starting catcher. I do think, though, there’s a good chance he’ll be a Yankee anyway.
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