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Pirates and Russell Martin agree to two-year, $17 million contract

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UPDATE: ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that the Yankees never made Martin an offer. In fact, they haven’t made an offer to any position players so far this offseason.

8:44 PM: David Waldstein of the New York Times reports that Martin agreed to a two-year, $17 million deal with the Pirates. You could understand if the Yankees balked at a three-year deal at $8.5 million AAV, but it’s surprising that they weren’t willing to match the Pirates for two years.

8:29 PM: Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the Pirates have reached an agreement with catcher Russell Martin, pending a physical. No word yet on the exact terms, but there was a report earlier this week that they could be willing to give him a three-year deal.

The Yankees were said to be reluctant to go beyond two years for Martin, who batted .211/.311/.403 with 21 homers, 53 RBI and a .713 OPS this past season. The Mariners and Rangers were also mentioned as potential suitors, but it appears the Pirates had the best offer on the table.

Pirates’ catchers combined to hit .218/.300/.392 with 23 home runs and a .692 OPS this past season, most of that from Rod Barajas and Michael McKenry. With his pop and patience, Martin should be able to equal or exceed that level of production. He also figures to be a nice upgrade from a group who threw out a major-league worst eight percent of attempted basestealers in 2012. Martin checked in at 24 percent, which was just around the league average. He also has the reputation as a solid receiver.

If the season started today, the Yankees would have to rely on a combination of Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart behind the plate. Of course, it’s very unlikely they’ll end up going that route. The Yankees haven’t been involved for Mike Napoli, but A.J. Pierzynski has been mentioned as a possible fallback to Martin.

What’s on Tap: Previewing Wednesday evening’s action

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 22: Masahiro Tanaka #19 of the New York Yankees pitches in the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at Yankee Stadium on July 22, 2016 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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Wednesday gives us six afternoon games, leaving nine games for the evening. Masahiro Tanaka will start one of those games as the Yankees take on the Astros’ Lance McCullers in an 8:10 PM EDT start.

The Yankees went into the All-Star break an even 44-44, 7.5 games out of first place and looking like sellers. They have come into the second half winning 8 of 12 games, including their last three. The club has only managed to make up one game against the first-place Orioles in the AL East, but they are also only four games out of the second AL Wild Card slot.

Aroldis Chapman has already been shipped out, but the Yankees are also drawing trade interest in Andrew Miller, who has assumed the closer’s role. If the Yankees win tonight and perform well against the Rays in a three-game series in Tampa, the Bronx Bombers may enter the August 1 non-waiver trade deadline deciding to be competitive after all.

The rest of Wednesday evening’s action…

Colorado Rockies (Jon Gray) @ Baltimore Orioles (Dylan Bundy), 7:05 PM EDT

Seattle Mariners (James Paxton) @ Pittsburgh Pirates (Gerrit Cole), 7:05 PM EDT

St. Louis Cardinals (Adam Wainwright) @ New York Mets (Logan Verrett), 7:10 PM EDT

Chicago White Sox (Anthony Ranaudo) @ Chicago Cubs (Jason Hammel), 8:05 PM EDT

Oakland Athletics (Sean Manaea) @ Texas Rangers (Yu Darvish), 8:05 PM EDT

Arizona Diamondbacks (Archie Bradley) @ Milwaukee Brewers (Jimmy Nelson), 8:10 PM EDT

Atlanta Braves (Mike Foltynewicz) @ Minnesota Twins (Tyler Duffey), 8:10 PM EDT

Los Angeles Angels (Matt Shoemaker) @ Kansas City Royals (Danny Duffy), 8:15 PM EDT

Report: Phillies want a top-five prospect for Jeremy Hellickson

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 20: Starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson #58 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws a pitch in the second inning during a game against the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park on July 20, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
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Starter Jeremy Hellickson has become the Phillies’ most enticing trade chip as he’s put together a solid month of July. After shutting out the Marlins on one hit and one walk over six innings on Monday, the right-hander lowered his July ERA to 1.97 and his overall ERA to 3.65. As a result, the Phillies are telling teams they want a top-five prospect to part with Hellickson, per ESPN’s Jayson Stark.

Obviously, a top-five prospect means something different if you’re the Marlins as opposed to the Rangers. And the Phillies’ price point for Hellickson isn’t likely to stay that high, but GM Matt Klentak is setting a lofty starting point so that the return might end up being higher than market value.

ESPN’s Buster Olney speculates that the Phillies could end up holding onto Hellickson and giving him a qualifying offer after the season. He notes that the Phillies have only $25 million tied up for the 2017 season, so they could afford to pay Hellickson in excess of $16 million if he were to accept.