We’ve nearly had a day to let it sink in now and it still seems a little bit surreal: the Jays signed Russell Martin. To a massive free agent contract. To be their decent-hitting, defense-first, elite pitch-framing catcher. For five years.
I’ve been in such a fog that I’ve barely been calling him Jussell.
But with the dust settling, and my thoughts already made clear, let’s have a look at what everybody else is saying, shall we? Specifically (mostly) with some money quotes from around the local papers, and several major voices around the league…
“Conceptually, the move resembles the Royals’ trade for James Shields two offseasons ago,” writes Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, who notes that The team hadn’t reached the postseason in more than two decades, and its general manager needed to send a message — to fans and, more important, the roster — that expectations had changed. Within two years, Shields started Game 1 of the World Series.
“Based on market rates, for $82 million, the Jays are paying Martin to be worth something on the order of 10 – 11 wins. Historically, for catchers between the ages of 29 – 31, Martin’s been around the 85th percentile. For those catchers over the next five years, through age 36, the 85th percentile has been worth about 10 – 11 wins. It’s simple, but it works,” explains Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs. In his conclusion he gets even more positive: “At the catcher position, the Jays just upgraded their durability, discipline, power, running, blocking, throwing, and receiving. Though we don’t have numbers for it, the Jays also seem to have upgraded their leadership, and in the overall picture, the Jays significantly upgraded their team and therefore their 2015 playoff prospects. Like most free-agent contracts, this one’ll look worse a few years down the road, but Martin ought to age somewhat gracefully, as he’ll be declining from a hell of a peak.”
“There is no shortage of teams in need of a catcher,” says Mike Axisa of CBS Sports, seeing a rather large ancillary benefit of this deal for the Jays. “The Cubs and Pirates, who lost out on Martin, could have interest. The Dodgers are said to be seeking an upgrade over A.J. Ellis. The Rockies, Red Sox, White Sox, Athletics and Rangers could all use another catcher to some extent. Some club will happily take a $5 million Dioner Navarro off Toronto’s hands. Maybe the Blue Jays could net a pitcher or the second baseman they still need in the process.”
“It seems almost certain now that the Blue Jays will look to offer contract extensions to Encarnacion and Bautista before the 2016 season, prior to them hitting free agency. If that scenario unfolds, consider that the Blue Jays will be looking to reach agreements with stars that will be 34 and 35, respectively, in a universe where 35-year-old Victor Martinez just got a four-year, $68-million contract from the Detroit Tigers, or where Martin — who will be 33 in 2016 — will be in the second year of a contract paying him $16.4 million,” opines Michael Grange for Sportsnet. “Doubling-down wasn’t the Blue Jays’ only option, but it is the path Anthopoulos has chosen. It’s expensive and comes with risks and high expectations. It also means the Blue Jays have passed any opportunity to reshape their organization by selling their veterans at peak value.”
In the Globe and Mail, Cathal Kelly tells an anecdote of Alex Anthopoulos, during his tenure as the GM of a Major League Baseball team, looking for a new car and settling on a Honda — on a lease! “A son of working-class immigrants, a man who treats other people’s money as he would his own and someone who exercises caution in all his dealings,” is how Anthopoulos is described in the piece. “That’s what makes the Russell Martin deal significant. This is Anthopoulos going against his basic nature.”
“For a born-and-bred Canuck, for easily the top catcher in the free-agent class (if not the only viable everyday option in the free-agent class), for a guy whose pitch-framing, game-calling prowess, offensive impact and conditioning diligence make him a better bet than most to age gracefully behind the plate, for an organization that needs to have a win-now mentality, the reported five-year, $82 million commitment the Blue Jays are making to Russell Martin makes sense,” writes Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com, about to turn the screw. “If only it weren’t necessary in the first place.” The obvious reason? Yan Gomes.
It’s eye-rolling hobby horse time in the Toronto Sun, as Steve Simmons goes with hockey-ish horseshit in the hilariously-titled Blue Jays are Martin’s team now, saying that “his will represent a culture change around the Blue Jays as Martin becomes the captain of the club without a ‘C.’ He does that with teams.” Simmons also celebrates the departures of Colby Rasmus, Adam Lind, Brandon Morrow, and Anthony Gose, who he has dumbly decided he’s divined through his TV screen were “the underachieving, the laissez-faire and the barely interested.” His ability to dumb the discourse down to sub-moron level is truly unparalleled.
And elsewhere in the Sun, shock of all shocks, Bob Elliott lathers up a big ol’ maple-flavoured dildo for insertion into Gordie maple-six-pack’s favourite maple-orifice. (It’s actually a fine piece, just thick with entirely as much mapleness as you’d expect).