Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Russell Martin Extension

"Would you extend me? I'd extend me."

Yesterday we saw reports that the Yankees had spoken to Russell Martin about signing an extension (you can read the one from River Ave Blues here). Which got me thinking... should they? Personally, I don't think so.

One reason is that Martin just turned 29, and would be 30 years old when the extension starts. I'm sure you've heard many people talk about a player's prime, which usually comes between the ages of 27-29. That would mean that the Yankees would have signed Russell to an extension starting the year after his prime. That doesn't seem like a great idea. What could make it worse is that Martin has started 735 games behind the plate, and it's no secret the the game is harder on catchers than any other position. It may not be as bad as signing somebody at that age to a contract of 5+ years, but that reason does make me think it's something the Yankees should not jump at.

Also, keep in mind that Russell Martin did only hit .237/.324/.408 last season (although the 18 HR were pretty sweet). I'm expecting a boost in those numbers to occur in 2012 (Bill James predicts a line of .256/.355/.400 with 14 HR), but it's not as if he's blowing people away with his bat, and therefore should be locked up for 2-3 more years. I may eat those words if Martin is able to replicate his 2007 season (.293/.374/.469, with 19 HR), but again... I see no reason for the Yankees to jump the gun here.

As for an option, Austin Romine could at least turn into a serviceable catcher. He's pretty much on the same level as Martin defensively, as Austin was ranked by Baseball America as the team's best defensive catching prospect. And remember that Joe Girardi values defense in his catchers above offense. However, due to Romine's offense (he's struggled above AA), I don't expect him to be a long-term solution. But I believe Austin could be a stop-gap to Gary Sanchez.

And of course there's the austerity budget looming. I don't believe the Yankees would sacrifice their on-field product to get there, but it's something for the team to keep in mind. And every little bit counts when it comes to the team's payroll, and getting to $189 million for 2014. Especially if the team wants to sign a Cole Hamels after this season.

So my hope is the team has put off an extension for good, and will wait to see how 2012 plays out. If Austin Romine improves with the bat, and keeps up his defense, then I'd like to see them let Russell Martin walk. But if Romine takes a step back, while Martin improves or at least maintains solid numbers, then bring Russell back. But no need to jump on anything right now.

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)