It took by far the largest free-agent offering from Alex Anthopoulos in his 5 years as General Manager, but the Blue Jays have signed Russell Martin.
Possibly feeling the pressure of his job this off-season, Anthopoulos has been relatively active in addressing needs of his ball club. Many fans of the team felt that the Blue Jays inaction at the trade deadline was the reason for their team missing the postseason.
Russell Martin joins a catching corp that includes Dioner Navarro, Josh Thole,
Erik Kratz, Jeff Mathis, J.P. Arencibia, Travis d'Arnaud, and Yan Gomes. In other words, Martin joins a team that is overdue for some luck behind the dish. Though luck is not measurable, it is clear that Anthopoulos is trying to correct some mistakes that he has made at the catching position.
The 31-year old catcher will be signed into his 37-year old season for an average annual salary of $16.4 million. Only $1.1 million over his qualifying offer, Martin, due for some regression, was wont of a long-term deal. For an excellent article on Russell Martin's regression, check out Randy Holt's article here.
It is true, Russell Martin will excite a lot of Blue Jays fans, but I would urge, like many others, to temper expectations. Getting "the best catcher on the free agent market" is definitely a good thing, but Martin is certainly not a superstar. While we shouldn't expect a Martin wOBA of .370 again, we can remain confident that his career average of .334 and his Steamer projected .328 for 2015 is still above average. However, what we can expect is defense. Of catchers with a minimum of 450 PA, Martin finished first in Defensive Runs Saved and third in Def with 14.9 behind only Salvador Perez and Alex Avila.
Although this does address a need of the Blue Jays, it is unclear whether their plan is to carry three catchers into Opening Day. Surely Dioner Navarro stepped in admirably for them last season, carrying a massive workload of 139 games and posting a 2.0 WAR. And with R.A. Dickey on the team, Josh Thole's reps behind the plate are basically guaranteed. Whether this tells of moves to come is unclear but Anthopoulos still has work to do.
For what it's worth and whether we like it or not, it's Jon Morosi giving us the #HotTakes today:
Russell Martin is one of the few free agents who can help change a clubhouse culture. This is a great day for the Blue Jays.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 17, 2014
Russell Martin is a great Habs fan. Under the circumstances, I believe the good people of Toronto will respect him for that.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 17, 2014
The propensity for fans to discuss whether the money is 'too much' or 'a bargain' when a free agent is signed is undeniable. I'm always somewhat reticent of these discussions because to me it's a) not my money and b) the cost of doing business. That is to say, if you wanted that player, whether you like it or not, that's what he cost. Either you want the player or you don't. The feeling in Toronto is that of excitement, that we got our guy. The feeling everywhere else -- at least according to your twitter reactions -- are "lol", "R E G R E S S I O N", "he's not worth 2 let alone 5" and "That's a lot of money for a guy whose stats are better than he actually is," which I admittedly have trouble making sense of.
That being said, here's a poll!
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All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.
Michael Bradburn is a Contributor for Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @mwbii. You can also reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org