Russell Martin is officially the Yankees everyday catcher. It’s a one-year deal, but Martin is still arbitration eligible next season, so he’s under team control for two years. The Yankees can bring him back in 2012, or they can let him go. The choice is theirs.
This morning, Brian Cashman called the signing a low-risk, high-reward move. It gives the Yankees flexibility with their young players, and Martin’s best-case scenario is pretty good. The Yankees are also confident that he’ll be healthy, despite past problems and a new injury that showed up during his physical.
“As long as he’s healthy, Russell Martin is going to be our everyday catcher,” Cashman said. “… He’s still one of the better catchers in the game. He hasn’t been, the last year and a half, at the premier level that he was prior, but despite the slippage in performance and the injury and stuff, he still has been at least above average. I think it gives us great depth. We did a lot of research on this guy. He plays hard. He’s tenacious. He’s a gamer. He’s got a terrific personality. I think the fans are going to appreciate the fact that, as long as he’s healthy, when they see this guy out there, they’re going to see a guy who’s really getting after it.”
Cashman did not rule out the idea of Jesus Montero making the big league roster as a backup, but he stressed that having Martin lets the Yankees take a little extra time with both Montero and Austin Romine. In their organizational meetings about Martin, the Yankees looked back at the benefit of easing Jorge Posada into the job while Joe Girardi was still the regular catcher.
“(Posada’s transition) took a number of years and some growing pains,” Cashman said. “Now we’re in a situation where, we have Russell Martin. He can take the reins as these kids take this next step at the Major League level, they can develop on their timeframe and now the timeframe is not forced on them because we need them at all costs.”
Increased potential for a Montero trade?
“Our assets this organization currently possesses is high-end pitching depth as well as high-end catching depth,” Cashman said. “If we ever choose to shoot those bullets, we’re in a better position to do so. There’s a lot of levels to this. I’m not saying I want to shoot any of these assets for trade purposes, but sometimes you have to.”
Martin’s hip injury
Before the signing became official, Martin when through what Cashman called an “extremely long physical,” a precautionary measure to ease the Yankees concerns about his injured right hip. Cashman described the injury as common in the NFL, but unusual in baseball. Because of that, the Yankees might take a little extra time.
“Doctors assessment is that he’ll be a full player in spring training,” Cashman said. “Whether we treat him that way might be a different story.”
One unexpected development from the “extremely long physical” was the discovery of a slightly torn meniscus in Martin’s right knee. It’s similar to the problem CC Sabathia and Jorge Posada played through last season, and on Monday Martin will have a similar surgery to repair it. That’s a three-week recovery. A lot of players don’t start offseason hitting until around New Years anyway. Cashman said it might have become an issue, might not.
“We just don’t want it to become a problem,” Cashman said. “If he was our player a few weeks ago, a few months ago, we would have gotten it taken care of. Just get this out of the way so it’s not a problem. Not a serious surgery at all.”