As the free agent catching market continues to develop it’s looking like the Blue Jays will have to eat nearly all of Russell Martin’s contract if they want to trade him this winter.
The Blue Jays have slowly but surely started to address their roster needs for next season, most recently signing free agent starter Matt Shoemaker earlier this week, and utility infielder Eric Sogard before Christmas. They’ve also moved on from several veteran pieces like Troy Tulowitzki, Yangervis Solarte, and the trade of Aledmys Diaz, looking to get younger and more athletic in their rebuild.
There are a few veteran pieces that are still on the roster, and chances are that most of them will remain in 2019. The one exception could be Russell Martin, who will have a tough time finding regular playing time with the presence of young catchers like Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire on the roster and ready for the highest level. Martin could still have plenty of value, but in the interest of keeping the young guys on the field, and allowing the veteran to go elsewhere and receive regular playing time, the best resolution would be for an amiable split.
That’s obviously not going to be easy, what with Martin turning 36 before next season, coming off a difficult season, and still being owed 20 million in 2019, the last of a five year, 82 million dollar contract signed before the 2015 season. That said, the Blue Jays could get creative in a number of different ways, perhaps taking on another expensive contract for the team acquiring Martin, or maybe just sending a pile of cash along with the Canadian receiver in order to get the deal done.
That was always going to be the case to make it easier to trade Martin and his expensive contract, but the way that the free agent market is playing out, things aren’t getting any easier for the Blue Jays’ front office. For example, the Angels were a team in need of some catching depth, but they signed former All-Star Jonathan Lucroy to a one year, 3.35 million dollar deal. He’s not what he used to be, but that’s a pretty significant bargain.
Lucroy isn’t the only catcher that’s been signed to a relative bargain, as Brian McCann signed for a one year, two million dollar pact to return to Atlanta, James McCann got 2.5 million from the White Sox, Robinson Chirinos got 5.750 from the Astros, and Kurt Suzuki got a two year deal for ten million from the Nationals. The only catcher to get a relatively “big” payday would be Wilson Ramos, who signed with the Mets for two years and 19 million.
Still on the market are some playable options like Martin Maldonado, Nick Hundley, Evan Gattis, and the cream of the catching crop, Yasmani Grandal. Grantal is an obvious starter, but the full-time options are getting pretty thin, so at least that much works in the favour of the Blue Jays.
What really isn’t though is the price of catching, which makes Martin’s contract that much more undesirable. The Blue Jays were always going to have to eat some significant money in order to get things done, but if they were hoping to get away with only paying 10-12 million, the free agent has probably squashed that idea.
More likely, if the Blue Jays are able to find an interested party in Martin’s services, they may have to be prepared to eat the entire thing (if they want any kind of assets in return), or at least 15-18 million. It remains to be seen if ownership will be willing to do that after having released Troy Tulowitzki earlier this offseason, but it’s already a sunk cost as things currently stand.