The Pirates aren’t known for opening their wallets, but they’ll have to dig deep this winter to keep Russell Martin, arguably their second most important player in their last two postseason runs.
Martin is coming off the best offensive performance of his career, a .290/.402/.430 campaign in 111 games. However, it could prove to be an isolated performance. Martin had similar seasons in his first three years with the Dodgers from 2006-08, but since then his OPSs read: .680, .679, .732, .713, .703 and .832. The last mark sticks out like a sore thumb, and Martin has quite a bit of mileage on his soon-to-be 32-year-old body.
Making things more problematic for the Pirates is that not only is Martin the best catcher available in free agency, he completely laps the field. The fallbacks as potential starters are Nick Hundley, Geovany Soto and A.J. Pierzynski.
The Pirates don’t have a quality internal solution either. Former first-round pick Tony Sanchez isn’t known for his defense, and it’s not like he really makes up for it with his bat, either. Light-hitting Chris Stewart remains under control, but the backup role is all he’s really suited for.
If the Pirates can’t get a deal done with Martin in the coming weeks, the Rockies and Rangers figure to target him in free agency. Other suitors could also emerge, with the Dodgers, Angels, Cubs and Astros possibly jumping into the mix.
Besides Martin, the Pirates face losing starters Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez in free agency this winter, which would leave them looking at more buy-low candidates to go along with Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton in next year’s rotation. They’ll also have to make a decision on how to handle first base, which will probably involve non-tendering either Ike Davis or Pedro Alvarez.