The 2013 free agent market projects to be one of the richest in years. A team like the Yankees can find a plethora of young starting pitchers, outfielders, and catchers who could draw Cy Young or MVP votes. Russell Martin is on his way to free agency, which means the team will have yet another position to replace. Though one of their strongest organizational positions is catching, the team’s only immediate option in 2013 appears to be Austin Romine. News of an extension proposal to Russell Martin sheds evidence that the front office doesn’t view Romine as an everyday catcher. Assuming the Yankees would like a hand in offering pitchers like Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, or Zack Greinke a contract, and considering that team is looking at a budget in 2014, the free agent market is a tough place to find a catcher on a team friendly contracts, and their best option may be to offer Martin an extension now.
Aside from resigning Martin in 2013, Miguel Montero, Yadier Molina, and Mike Napoli are projected to become free agents. While all may offer better offense and possibly better defense, the contract demands will be huge commitments in years and likely approach an average annual salary in the mid to upper teens. The current offer that Russell Martin is balking at is $20 million for 3 years, and if he receives the raise that he wants, say $26 million, he could be close to $10 million cheaper than the other three catchers. A three year contract also allows prospects J.R. Murphy and Gary Sanchez enough time to develop into major league players, while a longer contract would likely mean they become trade fodder.
Montero, Molina, and Napoli averaged 4.7 fWAR in 2011, while Martin earned 3.1 fWAR. If this is any indication of each player going forward, it is hard to justify spending $10 million more a year with a riskier length commitment for an extra 1.6 fWAR. The money saved extending Martin could go to signing another free agent like Cole Hamels, and prevent blocking catching prospects from a job in the next few years. As much as I want to see the Yankees buy the top player at every position in 2013, a team on a budget needs to cut corners in some areas, and Russell Martin is a quality player to have at an extension price. While it’s clear where I stand on this issue, it remains a controversial topic. What does TYA think of a possible extension?
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