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Paying down Russell Martin’s contract makes sense vs. others

Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports the Blue Jays might be willing to pay down some of Russell Martin’s contract. Here’s why that makes a lot of sense, especially compared to the contracts for Kendrys Morales or Troy Tulowitzki.

The Blue Jays have already moved several veteran faces over the last couple of years, and that trend will continue as they embark on a roster rebuild.

While guys like Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and now Josh Donaldson are playing in other jerseys, there are a few veterans that remain on the roster. Some of them figure to factor into the plans going forward like a Marcus Stroman or maybe an Aaron Sanchez, but there are others who will be gone once their current contract has expired. In some cases, the Blue Jays may move to make that happen even sooner.

The description I’m talking about could fit for 36 year old catcher Russell Martin, who has one year remaining on the five year, 82 million dollar deal he signed before the 2015 season. He’s been worth every penny if you ask me, even if he’s awfully expensive these days for a catcher that is a little past his prime.

With 20 million remaining on the final year of the deal, the Blue Jays are paying now for the bargain they got on him earlier in the life of the contract, and that’s okay. They knew that this day would likely come before the end of the contract, and signed him knowing that his salary would eventually outweigh his on-field value. However, that doesn’t mean he can’t still contribute to a MLB club.

In fact, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo, the Blue Jays are interested in dealing the Canadian backstop this winter, and are willing to eat some money on his contract in order to do so. The biggest motivation for this of course would be the emergence of both Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire as big league options. If Martin sticks around next year, his playing time will either come at the cost of their development, or he’ll sit on the bench far more than he’d care for. He might not get regular playing time in Toronto in a rebuild, or fetch 20 million on the free agent market anymore, but that doesn’t mean he’s not wanted at the right price.

Dealing him in this scenario makes a great deal of sense, but it requires the cooperation of ownership when it comes to eating some of his salary. The more that Rogers is willing to pay for, the more that the front office will be able to bring back in a trade return. That much is pretty standard. However, in Martin’s case it’s going to require ownership eating some money in order to move him at all, regardless of if they hope to bring back an asset in return. Fans like to call for this sort of decision on the regular, but it’s not that simple.

Looking at the Blue Jays roster, there are a couple other veterans who have had calls from the fans to pay their salaries out and cut them from the roster. That was a very regular request from Blue Jays fans when it came to Kendrys Morales in the first couple months of last season, but fortunately he turned things around as the year progressed. There is a section of the fan base that would still like to see that happen, especially to take his at bats and give them to a younger, developing player. However, with 12 million remaining and just one year of commitment, Morales will bring value as a mentor to the youngsters in addition to a veteran presence in the lineup. He brings more value than cutting him and eating 12 million would provide for ownership. And for as much as he turned things around last year, I still don’t think there’s a market for his services in a trade, as DH-only guys are a tough sell.

The second candidate would be Troy Tulowitzki, who hasn’t been on the diamond since July of 2017. He’s been in a perpetual state of rehab, and you can’t blame fans if they have a hard time ever seeing him make it back on the field, especially on a regular basis. The problem in Tulo’s case though is that he’s still owed a minimum of 38 million dollars over the next two years, assuming his 2021 contract option is bought out.

Like Martin, he’s due 20 million in 2019, the same total he received last year. While he’s got a great reputation for the accomplishments he had earlier in his career, nobody is going to take him on for that kind of money, especially with the injury troubles he’s faced throughout his career and especially recently. However, if by chance he finds a way to get back on the field and contribute in the upcoming season, maybe, just maybe the Blue Jays could find a taker a year from now when he’ll be due just 14 million, with a four million dollar buyout for 2021. They would likely still have to send money in that case too, but it’s not an impossible way for things to play out.

In that scenario the Blue Jays might be able to get something back for him, even if it seems like a long shot. However, given the fact that they would probably have to pay his entire salary now and still wouldn’t get anything in return, they may as well hang on to him and let him rehab in Toronto. With all due respect, I’m not sure that anyone should count on a return or a useful contribution from Tulowitzki, but if you’re going to have to pay him in full anyway, you may as well see if he can pull it off. That’s the situation that he and the Blue Jays are facing right now, and cutting him loose now would merely give him the chance to see if he can get healthy elsewhere on a minimum contract. And again with all due respect, Tulowitzki isn’t blocking any of the young players as long as he’s on the disabled list, and he has to prove that he can get, and stay healthy before it’s an immediate concern.

Next: Watching Donaldson’s health away from the turf

So while I’ve heard fans call for the front office to pay out all the veterans and “let the kids play” in full, some cases make more sense than others. In Martin’s the Blue Jays really don’t have a use for him next year, and he’s still a potentially valuable player to another team in need of a catching upgrade. As his career dwindles down, it makes sense for the Blue Jays to grant him that opportunity, and if they eat enough money they might even get a small return as well.



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