Mehno: Enjoy last few months of Martin
Are you stressing out over whether Russell Martin will be back with the Pirates next year?
Relax. He’s gone.
They’re not going to re-sign him, and they really shouldn’t. There is absolutely no doubt Martin’s departure will downgrade the catcher position next season.
In a perfect world, the Pirates would sign him for one more year at a hefty raise and get another season like this one. That isn’t realistic, though.
He’s going on the open market, most likely looking for a three-year deal somewhere around $35 million. There’s an excellent chance he’ll get it from someone. But it will involve a change of address.
Martin will be 32 at the start of next season. He’s probably OK for another season, but anything after that is high risk. Most players start to decline in their 30s, and the cliff is even more steep for catchers, who have the toughest workload on the field.
Some catchers are able to last longer. Tony Pena and Jason Kendall did, but they had more flexible bodies than Martin does. Maybe Martin is an exception, but there’s a significant collection of actuary tables that says he won’t be.
It’s a physically demanding position, and Martin doesn’t take any shortcuts.
If you’re operating on the Pirates’ budget, you don’t make multi-year commitments to players who are 32. Use that money to lock up players who are 25 or 26 and get their best years instead of the twilight ones.
The Pirates did that expertly with Andrew McCutchen, and they missed badly trying to do that with Jose Tabata.
So don’t sweat it. Martin is leaving. Put that future angst aside and enjoy the rest of this season, when he’s still throwing his body in front of bad pitches, mentoring pitchers and getting timely hits.
If you’re worried about whether they’re going to sign Neil Walker, put that aside, too. He owes the Pirates two more seasons beyond this one and can’t become a free agent until after the 2016 season, when he’ll be 31.
Just so you know: They’re not going to sign him, either.
Back when Three Rivers Stadium was still standing and the battle for new sports venues was being waged, the Pirates chartered a bus and took local media types to Cleveland.
They went for a ball game during the Indians’ sellout streak that covered seven seasons and 455 games. The idea was to show the commerce and energy a new ballpark could create. The neighborhood’s bars and restaurants were hopping, a sharp contrast to Three Rivers, which was surrounded by parking lots, Kaufmann’s warehouse and the occasional “who needs two?” guy.
Naturally, most of the people on the tour took everything at face value and came back gushing about Cleveland’s renaissance.
This year the Indians are next to last in MLB attendance. The team recently announced plans to remodel its 20-year-old park. The changes will reduce seating capacity by about 5,000 to 38,000. Now the Pirates have the crowded sidewalks and the tickets that are hard to get.
Sports has always been a cyclical business, especially with 81 home dates to sell.
John Mehno can be reached at email@example.com.