In the second year of a 5-year, $82 million contract, Russell Martin helped the Blue Jays advance to their second consecutive ALCS
The Blue Jays signed Russell Martin to a 5 year contract during the 2014 offseason, with hopes that he could help return them to the playoffs for the first time since 1993. Having a reputation as an elite receiver and leader, Martin also came with the reputation as a “winner”. He’s done just that during his time in Toronto, and it’s been a welcome change north of the border.
The 4 time All-Star finished the 2016 with a slash line of .231/.335/.398 with 20 home runs and 74 RBI. Other than a slight dip in his slugging percentage, his stats were very similar to what he put up in 2015. He enters his 3rd year of the contract in 2017, and will look to help the Blue Jays earn their 3rd World Series appearance in franchise history.
The Canadian catcher had a solid season overall, breaking the 20 home run mark and driving in 74 runs in 137 games. He once again provided elite defence and pitch-framing, helping lead the American League’s best starting staff. While it’s difficult to determine exactly how much influence a catcher can have on a pitching staff, there’s no denying the improvements from the rotation since Martin’s arrival.
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In August, he was red hot and lead the team to a 17-11 record for the month. He finished with a line of .286/.356/.626 with 9 home runs and 22 RBI in 24 games, looking completely locked in at the plate. With key injuries to guys like Jose Bautista, Martin’s ability to hit for power from the clean-up spot was a much needed boost during the dog days of summer.
For as hot as Martin got in August, he was equally cold in September, and also in April. To start the season Martin was ice-cold, hitting just .150/.224/.167 with no home runs and 4 RBIs through his first 20 games. He started to snap out of the junk by the end of May before heating up a bit in June.
The Blue Jays nearly blew their postseason appearance with their struggles in September, and Martin was among the offensive woes. He dipped to .161/.310/.315 in the season’s final month, and continued to flounder in the playoffs, hitting just .091/.167/.182 with just 1 home run and 1 RBI over 33 at bats.
The veteran backstop will be 34 on opening day, and has 3 years remaining on his contract with the Blue Jays. The club backloaded his deal, so he’s actually just starting to get expensive, as he’s due 20 million per season over the remainder of the contract.
With the expected departure of Bautista and fellow free agent, Edwin Encarnacion, Martin’s leadership will be even more important going forward. Alongside veterans Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki, the Blue Jays core will be going through a transition as they try to remain competitive in the AL East.
As he gets older the Blue Jays will have to try not to rely so heavily on their star catcher. 137 games played is a huge workload for any catcher, let alone one who is 33 and has over 1400 games logged behind the plate. It will be important for the Blue Jays to bring in a capable backup and allow Martin to rest more than he has in his first two seasons. His September swoon could certainly be attributed to fatigue and it would be hard to place the blame on Martin.
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