This offseason calls into question the future of Russell Martin with the Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays will have some tough decisions to make this offseason. One of which is just how much gusto they commit to a youth movement in 2019. If they truly believe that is the way to go, then it would make sense for them to consider trading off aging, expensive pieces. Joel Sherman of the NY Post says that Russell Martin is one guy who falls into this category.
Sherman writes: “The Blue Jays are willing to eat a portion of the $20 million Russell Martin is owed in 2019 to facilitate a trade.” First of all, this kills me to hear. I truly love that Martin was brought to Toronto. I hate that it took so long. He had the right talent, leadership and demeanor to help the Blue Jays win. It is no coincidence that they made the postseason when he came to Toronto.
What is interesting about this quote from Sherman is that it isn’t thrown out there with the usual Hot Stove parlance of “could”. Sherman says the Blue Jays will eat money to trade Martin, which could mean just as much as “could”, but it sounds stronger.
If it is true, it would make perfect sense. Currently, the club seems quite content with youngster, Danny Jansen. We saw just how comfortable they are near the end of this season when he was given playing time to the tune of 31 games. They have Luke Maile to figure out. Previously, one would have thought he’d be on his way out since Martin seemed untradeable. Maile certainly did himself a favour with his 2018 showing as he looked primed to move on from a team that is full of catchers. But, maybe his performance in 2018 has given the Blue Jays reason to consider other options.
Maile may have proven himself to be a solid backup for Jansen, which means that Martin very well may be on the bubble. That’s not a sentence I ever thought I’d write. But, with Reese McGuire waiting in the wings, there doesn’t seem much of a point in keeping so many catchers. And, if the Blue Jays are going to commit to the young guns, then it makes sense to eat some salary to move the aging veteran, as hard as it is for us to accept that.
The trouble is that Martin is coming off a season that saw him hit just .194 for a wRC+ of 91. His OBP was around its usual mark, but his production was not, and his has declined in each of the last 3 seasons. He was hit by a BABIP of just .234, but it can’t all be bad luck. Surely there is an element of decline happening. At 35, it is bound to happen, especially to a catcher. Despite his offensive struggles, he may have helped his trade value by playing other positions.
Someone will undoubtedly say that his price tag will have the opposite effect and the Blue Jays would HAVE TO eat a portion. There is no point dwelling on how much is owed. That is the nature of back-loading contracts. But, if current management is going to turn this into something, they will have to figure out how to go about doing that. The amount they eat will have an impact on the return they can expect. Each team they call will have a different number in mind, of course. But, this might be an opportunity to get themselves some of that coveted pitching talent.
Just like trading Diaz got the Blue Jays young, controllable pitching, if they set their sights right, they could turn the Martin situation into another such gain. The problem is that this move will not be a popular one. Trading a prominent Canadian player from the only Canadian team in baseball is not going to sit well with the fans. And, the front office must be thinking about this since next season will be hard enough to put butts in the seats of Rogers Centre.
Trading Martin might make sense on a few levels, but it will not be an easy sell. Ross Atkins won’t be swayed by emotional decision making, but he also won’t thumb his nose at fans. That’s why this whole line of thinking won’t be as easy as all that.
There are catchers who can do the job in 2019. There is a youth movement afoot in Toronto. Does that mean that there is no room for Russell Martin? Maybe. Does that mean that he is definitely playing somewhere else next season? Not 100%. But, Martin would be rather valuable to a team that is looking to compete and in need of a solid catching option. But, just because he has value, doesn’t mean it is sky high.
Trading Russell Martin is far from a slam dunk. But, it is closer to being reality than we may have thought possible.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.