With Russell Martin entering the final year of his contract and the Blue Jays having a talented young catching duo, trading the veteran makes a lot of sense.
With the Blue Jays looking like they’re ready to hand the catching reigns to Danny Jansen, Reese McGuire, and maybe even Luke Maile, it’s hard to imagine there being enough playing time left to justify keeping Russell Martin around for 2019.
It’s not as if the veteran couldn’t bring immense value to the table even in a mentorship role, but out of respect for his great career and the fact that he likely has something left to give to a contender, the right thing to do would be to trade the 35 year old backstop and give him a chance to start somewhere else.
That’s a bit complicated of course, what with his 20 million dollar salary for next season, but considering that the Blue Jays are on the hook for the money regardless and their payroll should be reduced, hopefully ownership will be willing to look at eating some of his contract. The more they’re willing to send along with Martin, the more likely a deal could happen at all, and the better the return could potentially be.
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The good news for the Blue Jays is that there is a need for catching among contenders this offseason, and there are a few logical landing spots for the Canadian receiver. Teams like the Astros and Mets are reportedly looking to upgrade at the position, as well as one of Martin’s former teams in the L.A. Dodgers.
The last option makes a lot of sense to me, for a number of reasons. First of all, the Dodgers are set to lose Yasmani Grandal in free agency, unless they re-sign him of course. It doesn’t sound like that’s the plan, so the Dodgers have been linked to a few options like J.T. Realmuto, as have the Mets. While Realmuto would be the more impactful player, he’s also going to cost a lot more in terms of prospect capital.
The Dodgers certainly have some notable pieces they could part with in a trade, but with plenty of firepower around the lineup in other spots, is Realmuto the guy they want to spend that capital on? The answer might be yes, but even then there’s no guarantee the Marlins are going to send him their way. If the Dodgers are serious about the Marlins’ star and are unable to get him, Martin could be a nice fall back option. They were interested back in 2015 when Martin was last a free agent, and while that’s now four years ago and there are several people in the front office, he could still make sense for the back to back World Series qualifiers.
A lot has been made of their use of platoon hitters as well, which is another reason that Martin could have some appeal. For his career he has slashed .249/.341/.397 against right-handed pitching, and .252/.374/.408 against lefties. He’s slightly better against south paws, which makes sense as a right-handed hitter, but overall he doesn’t have much of a platoon split over the body of his work. He’ll need to hit closer to his career norms than the .194 batting average he had last season, but he still managed a .338 OBP. It wouldn’t hurt to compete for a contender, or to stay at one position either, I’m sure.
With a combination of veterans and young arms on their pitching staff as well, Martin would be a solid receiver to help guide the group on the mound for the Dodgers. He’s got a plethora of playoff experience as well, and for a team like the Dodgers that desperately needs to find a way to push just one more step forward, his experience could be very useful.
Whether or not the Dodgers make a serious push to sign Bryce Harper will likely factor in the decision, but the Blue Jays could get it done either way if there is mutual interest, and they’re willing to eat a significant portion of Martin’s contract. In that case they may get a useful prospect or two back, or it could be a lesser return with a bigger salary dump. Either way, it would allow Martin to play full-time for a contender, and give Jansen and McGuire the opportunity to take over for a rebuilding team in Toronto.
As Martin nears the end of his career, here’s hoping the Blue Jays can find a way to do right by him, and Los Angeles seems like as good a fit as any.