A few years ago, Russell Martin was being tabbed as a take-charge catcher with a unique skill: he could run. Martin, a converted infielder, found happiness behind the plate. Twice Martin was named an all-star and after learning how to play the catcher position, Martin won two gold gloves to go with a pair of Silver Slugger awards as well.
2009 was not a typical Russell Martin year as the lifetime .272 hitter dropped off to .250 and his homerun production dropped in half. If 2009 was bad, 2010 led Martin into fantasy baseball irrelevancy. Martin, 27, was healthy for the first half of the year, yet hit only .244 with 5 homers and 22 RBI. Then, on August 3, Martin fractured his hip and was out for the season.
The press in Los Angeles blamed some of his decline on a significant party life and spending time with some of the most beautiful women in Hollywood. Martin’s current girlfriend is French Canadian model Marvikym Hervieux who will be featured in a future article as a potential Baseball’s Hottest Wife candidate.
With the New York Mets happy with the production of rookie Josh Thole, the Mets dealt the surprising Rod Barajas to the Dodgers on August 22. Those fantasy baseball managers that picked up Barajas with a late round or supplemental pick were pleasantly surprised. Barajas played 25 games for the Dodgers and hit .297 with 5 homers. On the year, Barajas cracked 17 homers in just 99 games! Not bad production for a backup catcher.
On December 3, the Dodgers did not tender a contract to Martin. Instead, LA signed Barajas to a one-year $3.25 deal. Barajas will likely open the season as the starting catcher with A.J. Ellis as the backup. Martin and Dodgers GM Ned Coletti could not agree on a deal, but they weren’t very far apart. Reports said that the Dodgers offered $4.2 million guaranteed, but Martin’s agent Matt Colleran wanted $5 million with $1 million in additional incentives.
Until 2003, Martin was an infielder so he actually had to learn how to play the catcher position. Coletti had proposed a deal that would bring Martin back as a utility player and have a shot at some spot starts at third base and left field while he recovers from the hip injury. Martin has played 12 games in his MLB career at third base, but has never played the outfield or any other position.
“He’s more athletic than most catchers,” said Colleran who is open to Martin becoming a utility player.
But, there are other teams interested in Martin. The Yankees were reportedly close to making a deal last week that would have sent light hitting catcher Francisco Corvelli to the Dodgers in exchange for Martin. The Yankees are interested in bringing in a catcher so that they can move Jorge Posada to the designated hitter position.
Mets’ GM Sandy Aldridge has said that he believes his team is “thin at catcher” meaning that a veteran backup would make sense to help mentor Tholes.
New York certainly makes sense for Martin who is from Ontario and ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that Martin was interested in playing on the East coast. Of course, Toronto might also be a nice spot for Martin; the Jays will start the year with Jose Molina as its number one backstop. Other teams showing interest are Boston and Colorado.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: Russell Martin’s fantasy baseball projection for 2011 will depend a lot on where he ends up. We understand that Martin has had some injuries, but he’s shown a statistical decline for a player who is only 27-years-old. Martin is a talented guy with tremendous athletic ability. In a nutshell, we see him as an under-achiever with brighter days still ahead of him.
A move to the east coast would actually be good for him. The pressure of the New York media would be an incentive for Martin to play to his full potential, but any move away from Los Angeles should help his fantasy baseball stats.
If Martin signs again with the Dodgers, he could become slightly more valuable in deep fantasy baseball leagues given the potential of playing 3B or OF and if he gets to play some 2B that could add additional value. Its hard to imagine,however, that most managers wouldn’t have a better bench option for the OF or Corner IF positions than a declining part-time player in Martin.
At this point, we’ll hold off on any projections until we see where he signs and what Martin’s role will be. But, given the right situation, and the possibility of playing another position in addition to catcher, could see Martin return to his banner 2007 stats.
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