Jays in the Running for Russell Martin

You have to love when an agent blurts out exactly who’s in the running in order to see if he can run up the price and get teams running to the cheque book one last time. That’s exactly what Russell Martin‘s agent, Matt Colleran, has done by reportedly stating that the Canadian catcher or 3B is deciding between the Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. So it’s down to itty, bitty, mighty mo for Russell who has a pretty tough decision to make. Let’s see what the perks and issues may be with each location.

Martin signs with New York:

  • If Martin signs on with NY, it’s because they’ve told him that they intend to trade their top prospect Jesus Montero or will be keeping him in AAA for 1-2 seasons. If not, why would he sign with them? Jorge Posada will still be around to demand he catches some games, and Jesus – if he were around – would be knocking the door down to get into The Show and into games. Martin would essentially become the best option at catcher for the Bombers, but would be left wondering exactly how he would be used and how his role would develop.
  • To add to the problems at the catching position, he also would be blocked at 3B since Alex Rodriguez is the incumbent there and Mark Texeira occupies the only other position Arod could play. That would box Russell Martin into the catching position -where he wants to be – and could be a deterrent for the Bombers to offer many years.
  • On the plus side, it’s probable that the Yankees are offering more money to Russell than any other AL East team. If the years match up to what he wants to sign for (he could be more interested in a short-term deal to provide him the option of signing a new contract after a big year, instead of a down year as he had in 2010) and therefore the per year amount could be the driving force behind the team he selects to play for.
  • Also, if he wants to win now, Martin is better off with the Yankees who usually spend whatever it takes to remain in contention.

Martin signs with the Red Sox:

  • I’m not sure why this is even a possibility. Once again, the Red Sox would have to convince the Martin camp that they would be trading Jarrod Saltalamacchia or keep him in AAA, as he and Jason Varitek currently hold the 2 catching positions on the team.
  • Kevin Youkilis and Adrian Gonzalez are also the long term options at 1B and 3B, lowering the options for Martin to go to if he can’t catch a full season. As with NY and Jorge Posada, however, Varitek is close to retirement and this could open the door for Martin to take the starting role on in Boston.
  • I wouldn’t count on the Red Sox offering Martin many years, but if they want to make sure the Yankees don’t land him, they could offer one more year than the Bombers do. That could always be the winning point when looking at someone who has had injury issues as Martin has.
  • With Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez coming on board, and the pitching staff still well above-average, Boston remains one of the favorites for a playoff spot for the foreseeable future, ensuring that Martin could play for a winner.
  • Surely the Red Sox are offering him a wealthy contract and one that could have a decent number of years included. With Martin on board, the chances of a few runs at an AL East championship would increase, a major lure for him to sign with them.

Martin signs with the Toronto Blue Jays:

  • The Blue Jays, like the Yankees and Red Sox, also have a young catcher waiting in the wings in J. P. Arencibia. He has mammoth power, but has yet to be tested as an every day catcher in The Show. Martin knows that the Blue Jays are a little ways away from being a true contender in the AL East, but he also knows that Alex Anthopolous is making significant changes that will make the Jays contend in short order.
  • Still, Martin must know that the Jays will have to beat both the Red Sox and the Yankees in order to make a playoff run happen. It has to be a daunting task that could sway his decision to one  of the top 2 budget teams instead. If he does select the Jays, Martin could also be leaving some money on the table as it isn’t known whether or not the Jays will bid as high as the other 2 contenders will.
  • Another point on the question mark side of things, if he does decide to sign with the Jays, Martin will know that he has a long list of contending catchers to fend off if he’s going to keep the job in Toronto. After J. P. Arencibia, the list continues to be strong with Travis d’Arnaud, Brian Jeroloman, A.J. Jimenez and Carlos Perez. I’m not suggesting that he’d be opposed to the competition or pressure, but I do think that he would realize that in 2012 or 2013, he would be joined or replaced by a younger and very talented alternative.
  • On the good side, he would be returning home to Canada and would only be a 45 minute flight away from his home town of Montreal and a short ways away from his birthplace of East York Ontario. Martin would also know that the Jays have an open spot at both 3B and 1B, enhancing the chances that he can slip in there if he does have issues catching during a good portion of the season. This is particularly important when looking at his long term future.
  • Finally, Martin has to know that he is more marketable in Toronto than in Boston and New York. The big dogs in those 2 cities would overwhelmingly take the spotlight away from Martin. While playing in Toronto, Martin could very well enhance his marketing income by quite a big margin, making the contract he signs with Toronto a little less important since the income from other sources may rise as well.

Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star recently wrote an article  providing the ammunition I list above, that the Jays have more alternatives for Russell Martin overall due to the flexibility they have at 1B, 3B, and C. An interesting quote from Alex Anthopoulos provided by Griffin states:

“It’s very easy to say you just go get someone, but we’re trying to manage and balance the fact that we’re still trying to develop J.P. as well. That’s something that we’d have to weigh out if there was somebody out there and they were willing to come here and it fit. How would we split up the playing time? And what would the set-up be?”

Meanwhile, Mark Feinsand of Hardball Talk wrote an article that stated Russell is:

“leaning towards accepting the Red Sox offer” and that “I assume the reason for this is that he thinks he has a better chance of getting playing time in front of Saltalamacchia and Varitek than he does beating out younger, more highly-touted prospects in Toronto and New York.”

So, there we have it. The Red Sox are currently in the lead, and the other 2 need to step up to land Martin. Nothing is decided, which leaves all 3 options open, which is a good thing for the Blue Jays.

I really can’t say where Russell Martin will land because all 3 options have great upsides and downsides. However, if I were to be forced into a corner and told “pick one”, I would have to lean towards the Toronto Blue Jays. I believe that the young staff Toronto has, the plan it has in place, the increased marketability that Martin will be able to enjoy, the vicinity to his friends and family, and the possibility of moving to 1B or 3B in the future will lure Martin to Toronto.

I’m positive that the offer Toronto has on the table is very competitive financially and that they will be willing to offer him at least 2-3 years.  With an up-and-coming team, Martin could be one of the pieces to take them to a new level and would feel great about being a major piece in the building of that team’s success. He would be cheered as a Canadian who stepped up to make that happen and would be able to ensure his legacy in Canada is a great one. If he goes to BOS or NY, he will simply be a complimentary piece that will quickly be forgotten after all is said and done.

I don’t have a prediction in terms of amount of money or dollars, as that is extremely hard to predict when we’re speculating about 2 of the top budgets in MLB and the Jays who have a ton of budget room.

I’ll finish off by re-stating that any of the 3 could land Martin. I do believe that the team that sells the catching position and his role there the best will inherit his services. Martin has said over and over again that he is a catcher – plain and simple. So, New York must sell that it would trade Montero or keep him in AAA, Boston must sell that it would trade Salty or keep him in AAA, and Toronto must sell that it would be satisfied with Arencibia in AAA or in The Show as a 1B/DH and occasional catcher. Why wouldn’t the Jays try Arencibia as a full time DH (which would allow him to concentrate on hitting MLB pitching as he learns to catch from Jose Molina) and/or allow his to split time with Adam Lind at 1B? Travis d’Arnaud is only 2 years away, so adding Martin for 2 years and waiting for d’Arnaud to develop makes perfect sense. If Arencibia becomes a good to great 1B, Adam Lind becomes more expendable and could be used as trade bait by Alex Anthopolous and the Jays.

There are so many more options with the Jays than with the Red Sox and Yankees. More question marks as well, but more options to be sure.

Those are the reasons I believe Russell will be a Blue Jay very soon. I could easily be wrong as I have no crystal ball and don’t know what the Red Sox, Jays, or Yankees offered, but my feeling says that there’s a reason the Jays are still in contention against 2 powerful and rich franchises – they are offering enough and has the best intangible assets to offer.

Tags: Adam Lind AJ Jimenez Carlos Perez JP Arencibia Travis D'Arnaud

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