Jon Heyman of CBS Sports is reporting that the Pirates offered catcher and soon-to-be free agent Russell Martin a contract extension late during the regular season, but Martin rejected it. Details of the offer are not known.
Martin, 31, had a fantastic year with the Pirates, the latter half of a two-year, $17 million contract he signed with the club in November 2012. The veteran hit .290/.402/.430 with 11 home runs and 67 RBI while being a stalwart behind the plate. Among hitters with at least 450 plate appearances, Martin’s .402 on-base percentage ranked fourth in baseball behind teammate Andrew McCutchen, Victor Martinez, and Jose Bautista.
The upcoming free agent market for catchers is grim beyond Martin, so teams in need of a front-line catcher will have laser focus on him. Last off-season, Brian McCann was made rich when he signed a five-year, $85 million deal with the Yankees during the past off-season — $59 million more than the next-richest contract (Carlos Ruiz, Phillies for three years). Heyman suggests Martin could attain a similar contract in both length and value, which may price the Pirates out of the bidding.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have hired Ben Cherington as the team’s new general manager. They do so after the general manager meetings ended, but better late than never.
Cherington served as GM of the Boston Red Sox for four years, winning the World Series in 2013, but resigned during the 2015 season after Dave Dombrowski was named Boston’s new president of baseball operations. Which was a defacto demotionn for Cherington who, until then, had the final say in baseball decisions. Dombrowski, of course, was fired late in the season this year. Cherington went on to work for the Toronto Blue Jays as a vice president, but was seen as biding his time for another GM position. Now he has one.
Cherington takes over in Pittsburgh for executive vice president and general manager Neal Huntington, who was fired after a 12 years at the helm. Also fired was team president Frank Coonelly. Travis Williams replaced Coonelly recently. While the Pirates experienced a few years of contention under Huntington and Coonelly, they have slid out of contention in recent years as the club has traded away promising players for little return, all while cutting payroll. There’s a very big rebuilding job ahead of Cherington.
The first move he’ll have to make: hire a manager, as the team still hasn’t replaced Clint Hurdle since he was dismissed in the final weekend of the regular season.