Pirates officials know Russell Martin is likely to test free agency this winter to see what’s out there, and you can bet Pirates manager Clint Hurdle will be among the most aggressive people in the Pirates organization lobbying Martin to return to Pittsburgh.
“He’s made every pitcher better,” Hurdle said Wednesday night of how valuable Martin is to the Pirates.
“Everything he does. He talks baseball all the time. He challenges guys in the dugout.”
Martin’s value to this team grows by the day and it goes beyond him having one of his best hitting seasons, batting .282 on the season.
He’s someone Pirates management is going to be backed into a corner that they have to keep, even if it means going a year and $1-$2 million per season more than they want to.
Martin took a two year deal from Pirates in November 2012 with the intention of getting a bigger deal after the 2014 season. He’s set himself up perfectly to do so, projected to be the top catcher on the open market
Long-term, maybe going beyond three years isn’t the best move for the Pirates organization financially, but it’s a gamble the Pirates are going to have to take as executives feel it’s going to take at least a four year, $40-$44 million contract to keep Martin in Pittsburgh, even though he loves playing here. Let’s not kid ourselves, the Pirates can afford that type of deal.
A PR nightmare for the Pirates four to five months from now would be losing Martin to free agency and the team deciding to trade Neil Walker, which seems unlikely, but can’t be ruled out if the Pirates thinking is long-term.
Pirates officials believe Walker has set himself up to be an $8 million a year player next season through arbitration and long-term the best move might be to trade the home-town kid who like Martin will cost at least $10 million per season to lock up long-term, though, it surely wouldn’t sit well in the clubhouse by any means.
The Pirates have not discussed a contract extension with Walker since after the 2010 season. The time to do so again will be this winter.