Martin bolts to Pittsburgh; Yankees thin behind the plate

Just a few days ago I wrote about how the Yankees had a surplus of catchers.

That’s a little less true tonight.

Russell Martin has reportedly signed a two-year, $17 million contract to catch for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Earlier this week, catcher Eli Whiteside was designated for assignment to make room for Andy Pettitte on the 40-man roster. That leaves backstops Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli and Austin Romine on the 40-man.

Martin was an American League All-Star in 2011, his first year in pinstripes. He finished with a .237 average, 18 home runs and 65 RBI that year, perhaps not all-star caliber numbers, but just fine for a guy that was an adequate defender, handled the pitching staff well and hit low in the batting order.

Russell Martin and his pink nail polish. (Image via Wikipedia Commons)

In 2012, Martin struggled mightily, especially in the first half (.179 batting average at the all-star break). He finished with a .211 batting average, 21 home runs and 53 RBI, playing in 133 games.

Who do the Yankees do now?

The free agent market at catcher is pretty thin. Texas’ Mike Napoli is probably the best of the bunch, but he’s not going to catch 100-plus games like Martin did the past two years. Napoli is best used in a platoon at first base, catcher and DH.

Chicago’s A.J. Pierzynski has been a solid hitter over his major league career, but his outspoken personality probably leaves him out of the Yankees’ plans. (He was voted the most-hated player in the game in a survey by Men’s Journal this past summer).

There are plenty of catchers to be had on the trade market, for sure, but I’m guessing that the Yankees stick with a light-hitting Stewart/Cervelli platoon to start 2013. I imagine they could also give a Kelly Shoppach-type a chance in spring training and see if he sticks. Should that fail – lack of offense or inadequate defense – they could call up Romine from Triple-A and hand him the reins until prospects Gary Sanchez and J.R. Murphy are ready for the big leagues.

What do you think? Is this a big blow to the Yankees? Or are you in the bon voyage Martin camp? Let me know on Twitter: @THR_Montgomery.

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    Will Montgomery

    Will Montgomery covers boys' soccer, girls' basketball, boys' and girls' swimming and diving, boys' lacrosse and baseball (including the Hudson Valley Renegades) for and the Times Herald-Record. Prior to joining the TH-R in November ... Read Full
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