Blue Jays year in review: Russell Martin

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The Toronto Blue Jays 2015 season is now fading in the rear view, so part of the offseason strategy will be taking a critical look at the year that was. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be taking an individual look at any prominent member of the Blue Jays in 2015, using this time as a final debrief on the year that was, and what we can expect going forward.

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Adding Russell Martin in free agency was the first big addition in a year filled with headlines, signing a five year, $82 million contract on November 18th of 2014. While the Jays didn’t necessarily need the upgrade with Dioner Navarro already in the fold, Martin fully represented the organizational shift in philosophy towards high-character players and clubhouse chemistry. So far, so good.

The Good

The Rogers Centre was very kind to Russell Martin, and lost behind the thunderous trio of Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion is the fact that Martin hit 23 home runs of his own. These propelled him to 77 RBI and a .458 OPS. Both marks were the second-highest in his career behind his fantastic 2007 with the Dodgers.

Defensively, Russell Martin came as advertised. He played a starring role in the Blue Jays pitching staff being among the league’s best against the opposing run game, often shutting teams down with the threat of his arm alone. Martin threw out 32 of 72 would-be base stealers, good for a career-high 44% success rate. He’s also invaluable to the young core of pitchers that Toronto still has.

The Bad

Health will continue to be a worry with Martin, who is getting no younger. While he still appeared in a whopping 129 games, he was far from 100% for a stretch later in the year and it clearly impacted his offensive game. That dented his AVG and OBP numbers, which at .240 / .330 were below his career averages. Martin’s BB% dropped from 12.8% in 2014 to 10.5% this season, so he could benefit from a more patient approach in 2016. But again, we’re nitpicking here.

The Future

Martin’s contract is about to jump to $15 million for 2016 before paying him $20 million annually over the final three seasons (2017, 2018, 2019). That’s a lot of coin, so the Blue Jays need to ensure that his body allows him to produce throughout the entirety of the deal.

Dioner Navarro is the lone positional player headed out the door, but the Jays have wisely expressed their desire to welcome the 2014 starter back onto the roster. That would take a slow market and some above-average money for a backup, however. Regardless, the Blue Jays need to keep Martin fresh through the middle stages of 2016, as hopefully, he’ll have another playoff run to participate in.

Next: Blue Jays year in review: Jose Bautista

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