Pirates notebook: Team offered catcher Martin 4-year contract | TribLIVE.com
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Pirates catcher Russell Martin works out Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014, at PNC Park.

The Pirates were willing to stretch, at least in years, to retain free agent catcher Russell Martin.

According to two sources, the Pirates offered Martin a four-year deal to remain in Pittsburgh. The length likely exceeded the Pirates’ comfort level for a catcher who will play next season at age 32. The dollar terms were not revealed, but Trib Total Media was told the Pirates went “deep into the process” and made a “very strong” offer to retain Martin.

Martin signed a five-year, $82 million deal with Toronto on Monday. According to CBSSports.com , the deal is backloaded as the Blue Jays will pay Martin $20 million in each of the final three years of a deal taking him through his age 36 season.

The Pirates did make Martin a one-year, $15.3 million qualifying offer, but it’s unclear if they were willing to make those dollars the annual average value of a four-year contract. Still, the Pirates certainly offered Martin the largest free agent contract in club history since his previous contract, a two-year, $17 million deal, had been the record for a free agent signed by the club.

The Chicago Cubs went to four years and $64 million with Martin, according to Fox Sports, but like the Pirates, the Cubs apparently were unwilling to offer Martin a fifth year.

Extending beyond three years would have triggered a no-trade clause for Martin.

Martin was enormously productive for the Pirates as a defensive and offensive performer in 2014. While he was the only starting-caliber catcher in a thin free agent market, the deal he signed with the Blue Jays carries significant risk.

Trib Total Media found since 1980 catchers decline dramatically from their age 31 seasons to age 36 seasons. Since 1980, age 31 catchers have combined for 14,928 games played and 140.9 Wins Above Replacement. Age 36 catchers have combined for 5,506 games played and 22.9 Wins Above Replacement.

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said last week at the general manager’s meetings if the Pirates failed to retain Martin, they would use resources set aside for him elsewhere this offseason.

The Pirates found a Plan B at catcher last week when they acquired Francisco Cervelli from the Yankees for left-handed pitcher Justin Wilson.

Lincoln returns

Right-handed pitcher Brad Lincoln was one of 10 minor-league free agent signings announced.

Lincoln was the fourth overall pick by the Pirates in the 2006 draft and later traded to Toronto in 2012 for Travis Snider. Lincoln posted a 5.11 ERA and 6-11 record for the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate last season.

Lincoln was among six players signed to minor-league contracts that include invites to major-league spring training, including right-handed pitcher Collin Balester, left-handed pitcher Jeremy Bleich, right-handed pitcher Deolis Guerra, infielder Gustavo Nunez and right-handed pitcher Blake Wood.

In addition, right-handed pitchers Felipe Gonzalez, Marek Minarik, Tyler Sample and outfielder Junior Sosa were re-signed to minor-league contracts. They all played in the Pirates farm system last season.

Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

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