The Yankees’ offseason signing of catcher Russell Martin didn’t draw a ton of media attention.
It wasn’t picked apart nor was it widely praised because … well … it seemed like a reasonable enough move. Martin would start behind the plate for a couple of months in New York while top prospect Jesus Montero could fit in a bit more marinating at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. It all made sense.
Then the season began. And Martin is flat-out raking.
The 28-year-old former Dodger slugged his sixth home run of the young season in Saturday’s 15-3 defeat of the Orioles and collected his 15th RBI. He is now sporting a .333/.410/.722 batting line through 61 plate appearances and has even swiped two stolen bases in two chances. Only Matt Kemp, Lance Berkman, Joey Votto, Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Braun, Jose Bautista and Alex Rodriguez have swung the bat better.
Dabbling in small sample sizes is always problematic, but it’s not like Martin has been a dud at the plate his whole career. He was one of the game’s best offensive catchers before hip problems derailed him in 2009.
If Martin continues to make noise, perhaps the Yankees will postpone the Montero Era until 2012.
Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?
Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.
It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.
Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.