We heard about the possibility earlier this winter, but now it looks like it’s actually gonna happen. Or so Russell Martin tells FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi, anyway.
Martin, 30, has played nearly 1,000 games in the major leagues — not one as a shortstop. But that’s probably going to be his position when he suits up for Canada at next month’s World Baseball Classic.
“It’s hilarious, the reactions I get,” Martin said Monday at the Pirates’ spring complex. “It’s like, ‘This guy’s a catcher. He wants to play shortstop.’ ”
Martin has never played shortstop in the major leagues, but he was a shortstop and third baseman in high school and college. He has logged 75 1/3 at third base in the major leagues and two innings at second, though he hasn’t started a game in the infield since 2008 as a member of the Dodgers. Still, he wants to give it a whirl since Canada doesn’t have a shortstop with extensive major league experience. While it would be cool to see, it could leave Canada vulnerable behind the plate, as Orioles’ minor leaguer Chris Robinson is the only other catcher on the team’s provisional roster.
While Martin notes that “everybody” in Pirates’ camp is “surprised” about his intention to play shortstop, the team supports his choice to participate in the WBC and make the temporary position switch. The 30-year-old signed a two-year, $17 million contract with Pittsburgh over the winter.
Barring physicals and roster reshuffling, the Yankees and Reds are all but ready to finalize a deal involving right-hander Sonny Gray, Fancred’s Jon Heyman reported Saturday. The exact return has not been confirmed, but Heyman hears that the Yankees will receive top infield prospect Shed Long and a draft pick in exchange for Gray, with an as-yet unnamed third player possibly involved as well.
According to several reports earlier in the day, negotiations came down to the wire as the Yankees first had their eye on the Reds’ no. 6 prospect, 22-year-old catcher Tyler Stephenson. The Reds ultimately elected to hang on to Stephenson and send Long to New York, as they currently have a greater need for catching depth and weren’t expected to be able to provide a full-time role for the infielder in 2019. Long, 23, is ranked seventh in the Reds’ system and appears to be nearing his MLB debut after batting .261/.353/.412 with 12 homers and a .765 OPS across 522 PA at Double-A Pensacola last year.
Gray figures to step into a prominent role within the Reds’ rotation, which is likely to be a mix of recently-acquired left-hander Alex Wood and right-handers Tanner Roark, Luis Castillo, Anthony DeSclafani, and Tyler Mahle, among several others. Despite Gray’s struggle to remain productive on the mound — he’s three years removed from his only All-Star campaign and turned in a disappointing 4.90 ERA and 2.16 SO/BB rate in 2018 — he might yet help stabilize a team that trotted out the fifth-worst rotation in the majors last season. If, on the other hand, the veteran righty finds the hitter-friendly confines of Great American Ball Park a little too unforgiving this year, the Reds can take some comfort in the fact that he’s due to enter free agency in 2020.