The Dodgers Need To Bring Back Russell Martin


The Dodgers got little to no production from the catcher position on both sides of the ball in 2014. I love A.J. Ellis, but he had a terrible year. A.J. batted just .191 (54 for 283) with a .323 OBP, and produced just 14 extra-base hits. A.J. Posted a .577 OPS and a 68 OPS + during the regular season. Now A.J. did draw 53 walks this season showing us he still had his uncanny ability to work counts and get on base. But he hit just three home runs and drove in 25 runs all season.

His defensive abilities dropped off the map as well. The defensive metrics showed him as being merely average defensively, and he threw out just 25% of base stealers. That’s a huge regression from the 44% caught stealing he put up in 2013.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

He also missed over a month with a torn meniscus in his left knee. The Dodgers simply cannot go an entire season again with an A.J./Drew Butera catching duo for next year.

So the Dodgers need to find a catcher to pair with A.J. The best way for the Dodgers to improve their offensive unit is by making an upgrade behind the plate. The problem is they have nobody in the farm system to bring up. Tim Federowicz isn’t much better than Butera, and there are slim pickens on the free agent market.

There was one name on the list of available free agent catchers that caught my attention. I’m sure it’s caught everyone’s attention as he is the only decent catcher option on the open market. The Dodgers need to bring back Russell Martin.

Martin played for the Dodgers from 2006-2010 as their primary backstop, and was a two-time all-star while averaging about 145 games caught per year. After suffering a strange hip tear injury in his last season with the Dodgers, he was not tendered a contract and left for free agency. Martin eventually signed with the Yankees, playing two seasons in New York before hitting the free agent market again, and signing with the Pirates in 2013.

Martin just finished his second season of a two-year 17 million dollar contract with Pittsburgh. The right handed hitting catcher had a bounce back season in 2014, improving his average by nearly 70 points. Martin batted .290 (110 for 379) with a .402 OBP, and posted a .832 OPS with the Bucs. Martin can still work counts, (walking 59 times), and hit 11 home runs with 67 runs batted in. That allowed him to finish with a 136 OPS+ in 460 plate appearances. Despite his injury history he still played in 111 games this year. Not to mention that Martin batted .360 (36 for 100) with runners in scoring position.

A.J. had a rough year and he could use a little help in 2015-Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

His defensive skills are still top of the line as well. He posted a +5 total zone fielding runs above average, and had 12 defensive runs saved. He still has a strong throwing arm too, gunning down 39% of would be base stealers.

Martin is not a spring chicken anymore, but he’s not that old. He’s only 31 years old, and he has caught over 110 games in each of his last four seasons. He wouldn’t cost that much either, compared to the Guggenheim spending threshold. Martin made 8.5 million dollars in the final year of his contract.

You can probably bet that Martin won’t return to Pittsburgh in 2015 if the Pirates fail to make him a qualifying offer. Seeing as though he declined the Pirate’s mid-season extension offer, I don’t see him returning to Pittsburgh. This doesn’t mean he necessarily won’t return to the Pirates, but it seems likely he’s going to test his value on the free agent market once again. He’s probably going to have quite a few suitors this winter.

Martin could play in 100 games, and A.J. play in the other 62 if the club can bring him back into the fold. Martin is still a good catcher with a strong throwing arm, and a decent bat. A.J. can’t play every day anymore, and the Dodger’s internal catching options are non-existent. He’s even got a nice scruffy beard that would make Van Slyke proud.

I am sure the Dodgers could reach agreement with him on a reasonable contract based on his age and worth. I see no reason why the Dodgers shouldn’t make him an offer.