Yankees sign catcher Russell Martin to one-year contract

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Moving on quickly after Cliff Lee turned them down, the Yankees “have agreed to terms on a contract with Russell Martin,” according to Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. It’s believed to be a one-year deal, although the Yankees would also have Martin under team control in 2012 as an arbitration-eligible player.

Because of his fractured hip Martin passing a pre-signing physical exam is probably no sure thing, but assuming he does the Yankees beat out the Red Sox and Blue Jays to nab the two-time All-Star after he was non-tendered by the Dodgers.

If healthy Martin will be given every opportunity to serve as the Yankees’ primary catcher, with Jorge Posada spending the bulk of his time at designated hitter. Francisco Cervelli is in line to be the backup after starting often in place of Posada this year and the Yankees’ top prospect, Jesus Montero, is for now at least a catcher even if many people believe he’ll eventually move out from behind the plate.

Not so long ago Martin was one of the best all-around catchers in baseball, hitting .285 with a .373 on-base percentage and .433 slugging percentage in 427 games through age 25, but he’s batted just .249 with a .350 OBP and .330 SLG in the past two seasons while missing half of 2010 with the fractured hip that remains a question mark. Bouncing back is hardly guaranteed considering how hard the Dodgers rode Martin prior to the hip injury, but he’s still just 28 years old and would bring plenty of value to the table with his defense and on-base skills even if the rest of his game lags behind.

Diamondbacks return Rule 5 pick Tyler Jones to Yankees

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Diamondbacks’ right-hander Tyler Jones is headed back to the Yankees, the teams announced on Friday. The Diamondbacks had previously selected Jones in the Rule 5 draft last December, but elected to leave the 27-year-old off of their 40-man roster heading into the 2017 season. Rule 5 draft rules stipulate that when a player is not kept on the receiving team’s roster, the player must be offered back to his original team.

Jones signed a minor league contract with the Yankees prior to the 2016 season. He pitched to an impressive 2.17 ERA, 2.2 BB/9 and 13.2 SO/9 over 45 2/3 innings with Double-A Trenton, but was unable to make the leap to Triple-A or beyond during his stay with the organization.

Jones’ outlook with the Diamondbacks appeared slightly more promising. GM Mike Hazen described the righty as a power arm with a “good fastball and power curveball” after selecting him in the Rule 5 draft, and early reports indicated that Jones would be in the mix for a bullpen spot. A rough spring performance — underscored by his lack of experience at the Triple-A and major league levels — undid most of that confidence, however, and the Diamondbacks weren’t willing to keep him on the active roster throughout the entire 2017 season in order to acquire his control rights.

Jones is set to open the season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, per a report from the Yankees.

Derek Norris signing with the Rays

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Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown reports that Derek Norris is signing with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Norris was released by the Nationals nine days ago, made redundant by the Nats’ signing of Matt Wieters and by everyone sliding down a notch on the depth chart below him. Norris hit only .186/.255/.328 with 14 home runs and a .528 OPS for the Padres in 2016.

Still, there always seems to be a place for a backup catcher. For Norris that place is Tampa Bay.