Though his contract looks less than fabulous at the moment, a contending team reportedly had interest in Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin before finding their match on the trade market.
If you were to sum up Russell Martin’s 2018 season in one word, it would likely be a word like “subpar” or “disappointing”. With an abysmal .194/.338/.325 slash on the year, Martin has struck out 82 times in 289 at-bats.
This poor performance, along with the rise of some younger, more athletic backstops, has led to his extreme lack of playing time in the dying days of the season.
Now, it is being reported that despite his massive $82 million contract, there was, at one point, interest in Martin as a trade candidate. According to Jeff Blair of Sportsnet, who wrote an excellent long-form column on Martin’s final season with the Jays, the Atlanta Braves had interest in Russell Martin while trying to move Matt Kemp in the winter. Kemp, 34, has an outrageous contract ($160 million over eight years) of his own, which he originally signed as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Ultimately, the Braves ended up trading him back to the Dodgers in exchange for Adrian Gonzalez, Charlie Culberson, Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy. While Kemp has put up a WAR of 2.0 this season, the aforementioned quartet has put up 1.1, with only Culberson and McCarthy still with the team. The deal went down December 16, 2017.
Although just a rumour, the fact that any team would inquire about Martin is surprising, though not unbelievable by any stretch. Before his underwhelming 2018 campaign, the native of East York, Ontario had slashed a cumulative .232/.335/.417 in 1203 at-bats as a member of the Blue Jays. With 56 home runs over that span, he also clubbed 51 doubles and drove in 186.
The fact that it was Atlanta that was interested is unimportant. Right now, it matters that, at one point, there was genuine interest in acquiring Russell Martin, even if it was simply to trade one bad contract for another. There’s been ample talk of moving Martin sometime in the offseason, but no specific names had previously been mentioned.
Recently, Jeff Blair and Dan Shulman (both of Sportsnet) noted that Martin is unlikely to play on this team next year. Granted, the Braves had reported interest in him before the season, it’s still possible that for the right price, a team with deeper pockets could take him off the hands of the front office.
Regardless, this piece of news continues to fascinate, as many Blue Jays fans and writers alike are calling for the exodus of Russell Martin. With Reese McGuire and Danny Jansen putting together increasingly solid at-bats, it makes less and less sense to keep the aging catcher on this roster going forward.