Pirates reel in quite the catch with Martin

By Tom Singer / 11/29/12 10:28 PM ET

Acting quickly to shore up their biggest hole, the Pirates on Thursday reached agreement with catcher Russell Martin on a two-year, $17 million contract.
The agreement, pending a physical of the 29-year-old veteran before it can become official, was first reported by FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal, and subsequently confirmed by a team source.
General manager Neal Huntington told MLB.com, simply, that the two sides were "still working through the process" and that he had "nothing to report at this point."
Shortly after 10 p.m. ET, Martin tweeted: "I want to thank the @yankees organization and fans for treating me with class and respect... I will truly miss the city and people of NY."
The Bucs, seeking a veteran to replace Rod Barajas and to pair with instrumental backup Michael McKenry, entered what turned out to be a brief scramble for Martin a few days ago.
The Rangers, Mariners and Martin's club for the last two seasons, the Yankees, all were hot on his trail. Reports of Martin entering the market seeking a four-year deal for an annual $10 million may have scared off early suitors. The Pirates emerged as frontrunners due to the perception that Huntington was willing to go three years on a guaranteed contract.
Huntington's ability to secure Martin with a two-year deal, then, amounts to a coup, and it may be a reflection of the belief that Martin has a positive impression of the Pirates' future -- doubtless formed with the help of another former member of the Yankees, pitcher A.J. Burnett, who considered his first season with the Pirates a good experience.
In Martin the Pirates get a receiver with a reputation not unlike that of Barajas, who calls a solid game and has a good rapport with pitchers, with occasional flashes of power at the plate.
However, Martin is seven years younger than Barajas, with an added defensive weapon: an arm good enough to deter runners. In 2012, Martin threw out 20 of 83 runners. Between them, Barajas and McKenry nailed fewer (19) in 173 attempts.
Offensively, Martin does not immediately come off as an upgrade over Barajas, who hit .206 with an OPS of .625 in 321 at-bats.
Martin hit .211 but had nearly twice as many extra-base hits (21 homers and 18 doubles), for an OPS of .713.
The most distressing part of Martin's offensive resume is his steady decline since earning a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger in his sophomore season with the Dodgers, in 2007, when he hit .293 with 19 homers and 87 RBIs, all still career highs.
His average has declined in every subsequent season, to that low of .211 in 2012, but he was a finalist for the 2012 Gold Glove, which was awarded to Baltimore's Matt Wieters.