Martin agrees to 5-year, $82 million deal with Blue Jays
Even before Russell Martin became a free agent, Pirates owner Bob Nutting and general manager Neal Huntington insisted they were willing to “stretch” to re-sign their starting catcher.
However, the deal Martin accepted Monday — five years and $82 million from the Toronto Blue Jays — was beyond the Pirates’ reach.
When finalized, Martin’s contract will be the second-largest ever for a free-agent catcher.
One year ago, Brian McCann, age 30 at that time, got a five-year, $85 million package from the New York Yankees.
Martin who was born in Toronto and lives in Montreal, will get the second-biggest contract in Blue Jays history.
Because Martin turned down a $15.3 million qualifying offer, the Blue Jays must forfeit their first-round draft pick (17th overall). The Pirates will receive a pick after the first round as compensation.
Martin batted .256 with a .362 on-base percentage and a .401 slugging percentage over the past two seasons with the Pirates. He also is rated one of the best defensive catchers in the game.
The average annual value of Martin’s contract is $16.4 million. If Nutting and Huntington were able to make a qualifying offer for Martin, they probably would have been willing and extend similar dollars in a multi-year deal.
However, it is unlikely the Pirates were willing to make anything longer than a three-year offer to Martin, who will turn 32 in February.
If the Pirates had gone beyond three years to Martin, he would have automatically triggered a no-trade clause after the 2017 season by having spent 10 years in the majors and five straight with the same team.
When Martin begins the downside of his career, the Pirates did not want him to block prospects Elias Diaz and Reese McGuire. Diaz will start this season at Triple-A Indianapolis, and McGuire probably will be at Double-A Altoona.
Martin joined the Pirates before the 2013 season on a two-year, $17 million contract and quickly became a fan favorite.
After his final at-bat of the NL wild-card game, Martin got a standing ovation amid cheers of “Re-sign Russ!”
Last week, the Pirates traded for catcher Francisco Cervelli, sending reliever Justin Wilson to the Yankees.
Barring another arrival, Cervelli, 28, and Chris Stewart will go into the season as the team’s top two catchers.
Pirates fans won’t have to wait long to see Martin in a Blue Jays uniform. The teams will face each other in their first two spring training games on March 3 and 4.