Russell Martin Getty

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.

Shapiro, Murray defend Dellin Betances after arbitration feud

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 12:  Dellin Betances #68 of the New York Yankees and the American League pitches against the National League during the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game at PETCO Park on July 12, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The dust hasn’t quite settled after right-hander Dellin Betances‘ arbitration hearing with the Yankees on Saturday. The case was decided in the team’s favor, awarding Betances with a $3 million salary for the 2017 season instead of the $5 million he initially requested. Yankees’ president Randy Levine held a press conference to voice his outrage over the figure presented by Betances and his agency, saying it had “no bearings in reality” since Betances does not have the elite closer status required for a salary bump of that magnitude.

Needless to say, the comments caused some consternation within Betances’ camp. The reliever publicly addressed the outburst, telling the press that he was prepared to put his differences with the team aside until he heard what Levine had to say. Via MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch:

Players union executive Rick Shapiro and Betances’ agent, Jim Murray, also spoke out in the right-hander’s favor. Shapiro presented Betances’ case during the hearing on Saturday and called Levine’s comments “an absolute disgrace to the arbitration process and to all of Major League Baseball.” In a report from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, Shapiro added: “The only thing that has been unprecedented in the last 36 hours is that a club official, after winning a case, called a news conference to effectively gloat about his victory – that’s unprecedented.”

Murray spoke exclusively to Rosenthal, accusing the president of effectively bullying the 28-year-old during the arbitration process and claiming that Levine had both mispronounced Betances’ name throughout the hearing and blamed the reliever for “declining ticket sales and their lack of playoff history.” Like Betances, Murray said that the agency was ready to accept the arbiter’s decision and move on before Levine’s decision to air his grievances to the media. “The only person overreaching in this entire situation is Randy,” Murray told Rosenthal. “He might as well be an astronaut because nobody on earth would agree with what he is saying. Even the others in the room would disagree with him.”

Royals will experiment with Alex Gordon in all three outfield spots this year

CLEVELAND, OH -  MAY 7: Alex Gordon #4 of the Kansas City Royals reacts to a fan while on first base during the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on May 7, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Royals’ manager Ned Yost is shaking things up in 2017, starting with left fielder Alex Gordon. Yost told MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan that “every scenario is open,” and expects to utilize Gordon in right and center field this spring while he figures out where to position Jorge Soler and Brandon Moss.

Gordon, 33, hasn’t manned right field since a three-game experiment with the Royals back in 2010 and has yet to play center field during any regular season to date. The focus, however, isn’t on Gordon’s capabilities. Among the three outfielders, he carries the best defensive profile and appears to be the most versatile of the bunch.

According to Flanagan, Soler and Moss are average on defense and will continue working closely with Royals’ coach Rusty Kuntz as the season approaches. One arrangement could see Gordon in center field, flanked by Soler in right field and Moss in left, though Yost foresees Soler taking some reps at DH if his defensive chops aren’t up to snuff.

While Moss is prepared to see starts at either outfield corner, Yost appears to be set on keeping Soler in right field, at least for the time being. The club is hoping for a bounce-back season from the 24-year-old outfielder, who was acquired from the Cubs in December after batting a lackluster .238/.333/.436 and sustaining a slew of minor injuries throughout the 2016 season.