Blue Jays made a good deal in signing Russell Martin
After another long season, it’s time to break down some of this year’s best and worst performers. Not only that, it’s time to
overanalyze last year’s contracts to determine if so-and-so and such-and-such really did earn themselves the contract they inked last season.
A starting point, some might say, would be the largest contract for a catcher last season in Canadian Russell Martin. Last season, Martin inked himself to a $82 million deal over 5 years. Many speculated that, as a 32-year-old catcher, this was a bad move for the Blue Jays. In 2014, he played in just 111 games, the least he had since 2009 and was also coming off a near career season offensively, hitting .290/.402/.430 in the National League. Few expected him to continue that type of success.
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In reality the haters were right, sort of. Russell Martin was not the same catcher he had been in 2014 this season, but it’s not like he wasn’t serviceable either. According to Fangraphs, he was still the third best catcher in the game, behind Buster Posey and Francisco Cervelli, per WAR. Although his batting average dropped to .240, his on-base percentage still floated at a respectable .329 while he hit a career high 23 home runs. He was worth 3.5 WAR in a laudable 129 games.
These are all just offensive numbers. Looking at his defensive acumen, Martin continues to shine as a strong signing last season. Depending on the site you consult, Martin has continued to be a strong pitch framer. Per Statcorner, Martin stole 28 calls this year or approximately 0.28 calls per game. That isn’t an insane amount and not nearly what he was in 2014 where he stole 0.91 calls per game. However, if you look at Baseball Prospectus, Martin is the 8th ranked defensive catcher by pitch framing as he added 107.3 strikes over the course of the season. By their estimation, that has added 15.9 runs to the Jays this season. Sabremetrically, that’s like adding another 1.59 wins to his total WAR value this season.
Using the approximate calculation of $7 million dollars per win, multiplied by Martin’s 3.5 WAR, he was worth about $27.7 million this season according to Fangraphs. That doesn’t even account for the extra win and a half he was worth with his pitch framing. All told, including his pitch framing–which almost no one is accounting for just yet–Martin could have been worth over $40 million this season.
Instead, Alex Anthopoulos, now former general manager for the Toronto Blue Jays, backloaded the deal, giving Martin only $7 million this season. If you use the more conservative measure, Martin has only $54.3 million left to make up over the remaining four years of his contract to make this a worthwhile deal for both parties. For those still following the math train, that’s about $13.58 million per season, or just over one WAR. This is something Martin should easily be able to accomplish.
There’s no question about it, Martin’s annual take home is going to be hard to stomach towards the back half of this deal. Making $20 million for three consecutive years after the age of 34 will do that. But this contract will be measured by it’s overall value, not the structure that it was delivered.
Only serious injury could stop this from being a good deal for both sides. Martin was given the financial backing afforded to being one of baseball’s best backstops, and the Jays got it at a tolerable price.
What more could you want?