Martin Will Make Just $7-Million In 2015, Fitting Perfectly Into The Jays’ Future Salary Structre

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Holy backloaded!

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports was the first to get the dirt on the salary structure of Russell Martin’s new five-year, $82-million contract, tweeting on Tuesday morning that the yearly breakdown is as follows: $7-million, $15-million, $20-million, $20-million, $20-million.

Make no mistake about it, this is a very, very good thing.

Yes, yes, the natural reaction of the garbage clown, of course, will be to insist that Alex Anthopoulos is leaving a mess for his successor, and that Martin will be that much more difficult to trade. These are not even necessarily untrue points, especially if the 2015 season and the contract both ultimately turn sour.

But please. The positive far outweighs the negative here. Like really, really obviously.

First of all, the average annual value of Martin’s deal is $16.4-million, so by paying him $20-million in the final three years of the deal they’re not actually adding that much to his salary. Sure, they’re his decline years, where the gap between his value and his cost is widening, and that might make it more difficult to move him, or might require the Jays to spend more money to do so. But by the simple fact that they’ve given him this deal the Jays are betting on Martin as an athlete and a guy able to stay healthy and productive, so shying away from big outlays at the back end doesn’t really make sense.

Sure, in an ideal world you’d be paying him less money in the years when he’s expected to provide less value, but this is hardly an ideal world, and the Martin contract has actually been structured to fit the Jays’ salary commitments quite perfectly.

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Russell Reax: Money Quotes In The Wake Of The Jays’ Big Signing

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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).

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Russell Martin Is A Blue Jay, And If That Paves The Way For Melky’s Exit, So Be It

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How many extra season tickets sold does $82-million buy?

As much as I think this is almost entirely a “baseball acquisition,” that’s sort of an interesting question in the wake of the Jays signing East York-born, Montreal-raised catcher Russell Martin to a five-year free agent contract worth that exorbitant amount, huh?

But hold on. Let me write that again, just for shits and giggles: the Toronto Blue Jays have signed East York-born, Montreal-raised catcher Russell Martin to a five-year free agent contract worth $82-million. They might not even be done spending yet, either, but there’s no need to get greedy here right now. Not until we digest just what the hell happened today.

Let’s actually start with the negative, because there certainly is plenty of that here, and plenty of fans ready to cling to it. The deal is a gamble, like all massive free agent contracts are. Martin turns 32 in February. He’ll be 36 in the final year of the deal, and maybe not a young 36 after five seasons crouching on the Rogers Centre concrete (unless we really believe there will be grass in there by 2018). He’s had an up-and-down career as a hitter: spectacular in his second and third full seasons, with the Dodgers in 2007 and 2008, then league average at best for five full years (95 wRC+, .234/.332/.370), before a BABIP-driven spike in production coincided with his walk year. Martin is projected to be worth 3.8 WAR in 2015 by Steamer, but in his catchers buyers’ guide at ESPN.com earlier this month, Keith Law noted that ZiPS has him generating just 10.8 WAR over the next three years, and wrote that “Buster Olney wrote on Oct. 28 that his guess at a Martin contract would be four years and $50-60 million; the projections and the scouting reports would call that an overpay.” He’s also a right-handed bat being added to a lineup that’s already pretty right-handed-heavy. And he’s an addition at a position where the Jays didn’t seem so terrible in 2014 — Dioner Navarro’s 2.0 WAR ranked fifth among Jays position players, and Jeff Blair tweets that the Jays have told Martin “he will catch, not play 3B or any place else, even spot duty.” He’s also an addition that will not only cost the club their first round draft pick, but likely takes away a good chunk of their ability to do other things on the free agent market. And this is, of course, money that wouldn’t have needed to be spent in this area if the Jays had just been keen enough to hang on to either Travis d’Arnaud or Yan Gomes.

These concerns aren’t mere footnotes to be slipped in at the bottom of a post lavishing praise on the Jays, Anthopoulos, and Rogers for finally stepping up to the plate after just over two years in the wilderness. These things need to be front and centre.

With some context, though, I think a lot of those negatives disappear. Or, at the very least, are mitigated enough to end up loving this deal — which, frankly, you probably should anyway simply because THE JAYS JUST SIGNED RUSSELL MARTIN. (And, maybe more importantly, because Russell Martin apparently believes in the Jays enough not to look at their offer and think, “Well that’s going to end up a total disaster!” — though I suppose he has 82-million reasons to feel that way).

But obviously such an exclamation doesn’t pass for any type of serious analysis, so let’s go through some of these concerns, shall we?

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Martin To Toronto For “McCann Money” … Like, For Real!

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Jaw-dropping. The Jays are players on the free agent market. Or so says the venerable (albeit notoriously un-Twitter-savvy) Peter Gammons.

Holy shit!

John Heyman confirms. It’s a five-year deal, he says. “McCann money” is five years, $85-million, plus an option. Ken Rosenthal clarifies that the deal with the Jays is five-years, $82-million.

Holy shit!

ORIGINAL POST: “Did Peter Gammons Just Imply Martin Is Coming To Toronto?”

I really don’t think that he did. Ken Rosenthal says that he didn’t. But did the notoriously un-Twitter-savvy Gammons mean it as a DM? I can’t possibly say, so… well… see for yourself:

I mentioned in the previous post that this morning I’d received my first “guy who knows a guy who knows says Martin is coming” message, for whatever that’s worth, too. But let’s maybe not go fucking crazy here… he said, knowing full well people are about to go fucking crazy here.

I’d love it if it happens. I’m not going to hold my breath just yet.

That said, if anybody talking about the Jays’ interest is going to make you feel like it might actually, really, seriously, be serious, it’s probably Rosenthal and Gammons, eh?

Do it!

Trying To Make Sense Of The Jays’ Free Agent Interests

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Late Sunday Ken Rosenthal tweeted that the Chicago Cubs are the “clear front-runner” to land catcher Russell Martin, who he says is expected to sign a deal in the four-year, $64-million dollar range. But, he added, there is a caveat: the Blue Jays “still could be in mix,” reiterating that the Tigers feared that the Jays would outbid them for Victor Martinez. Dun dun dunn…

Prior to Rosenthal’s tweets his Fox Sports colleague Jon Morosi had tweeted, as I noted in last night’s Presented Without Comment…, that the Jays have checked in on Nick Markakis — though they are “prioritizing other outfield priorities” ahead of him — as well as Hanley Ramirez.

It’s extremely easy to get cynical about seeing the Jays being mentioned among these types of rumours. This kind of chatter has gone on throughout during the Anthopoulos era, but other than landing Melky Cabrera during that halcyon late-fall of 2012, the Jays’ reported pursuits for various reasons have always come up empty. The painfully reductive conclusion to draw from that is that they haven’t ever been particularly serious in the first place, and that may well have been true. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it must now remain true. Skepticism, however, is in order.

Something about this feels different, though. Or it does to me, at least. And it’s a feeling, I think, that’s reinforced by the fact that — unlike last off-season, when commitments had grown significantly before the club had made a single move, thanks to multi-million dollar raises due Buehrle, Reyes, Encarnacion, Dickey, Lind, Rasmus, Janssen, Happ, and Santos — they’re actually significantly under their previous payroll number.

Last week MLBTR put together a chart of all teams’ payroll expectations for 2015, including current arbitration projections, and the 2015 figure for the Jays is just $121.7-million, down nearly $20-million from 2014’s $137.2-million (per Cot’s). So, last year when we were told that payroll would rise, the Jays didn’t have to shell out a single extra dollar to be technically correct. This year, however, the club will need to find someone to spend significant money on if they’re going to make good on Paul Beeston’s “you know it’s going higher” comment.

Of course, it would be hopelessly naive of us to think the organization actually makes massive financial decisions because it cares whether or not it turns out that Beeston was lying, but the confluence of that comment, the millions of dollars they’d have to spend just to reach last year’s commitment levels (even more than MLBTR’s figure shows when some of their potential non-tenders are considered), the lack of obligations for 2016 ($27.6-million) and beyond ($22-million for 2017, $4-million for 2018, zero after that) that would allow them to backload contracts, and the copious rumours makes one wonder if we might actually want to suspend our disbelief about how serious they really are.

If that sounds great, that’s because it is. Sort of. Unfortunately, though, whether they’re serious or not may not matter — may not have ever mattered.

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Presented Without Comment…

The Daily Duce: Friday, November 14th

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Hey, don’t get all Sophie’s Choice, man. You know, think of all the sympathy cooz I’m gonna get.

Hey, so that previous Presented Without Comment… probably needs a comment, eh? OK, here’s one: that sucks. And it sucks that this has been a known issue for years, and sad that Rogers so badly wanted to steal the Bills from Buffalo that they refused to take care of the team that they actually do own in this regard. It’s a fact of life we need to just accept, but it’s also stupid. I can’t blame a Kendrick or an Utley (or, let’s be honest, a Kendrick — Utley has some weird vesting options that I’d wager the Jays wouldn’t touch) for not wanting to put his earnings potential in peril by not just having to withstand the physical demands of playing on the carpet, but the havoc it can wreak with a player’s defensive abilities as well.

Then again, I might not have to blame those guys for anything: Mike Wilner tweets that a Jays source tells him that no trades were in place for either and nobody was asked to waive their no-trade clause. Because, y’know, if a player had just told them “hell no, I’m not playing there,” I’m sure the Jays would be rushing to let everybody know. Also: read the language closely. There was “never a trade in place” and “neither player was ever approached to waive” doesn’t necessarily mean things could have been discussed more informally. Or maybe it was nothing.

This morning I tweeted that Jon Morosi was on the Fan 590, suggesting that — if he’s really serious about being open to a position switch — Hanley Ramirez would be a terrific fit for the Jays and their collection of Dominican stars, especially as a guy you could play at third, you could DH, and you could even play in the outfield. Obviously it’s doubtful it would ever happen — Morosi certainly isn’t suggesting the Jays are interested, just that maybe they should be — but he’s a hell of a hitter. His last two seasons have seen him produce a 157 wRC+. For Jose Reyes that number is 107, FWIW (though Reyes has more than 200 more plate appearances in that span).

Oh, and don’t go rushing to believe this one, but speaking of Hanley, someone called Jorge Izaguirre, whose Twitter bio says he’s a Venezuelan baseball and softball commentator, tweets that the Jays are indeed interested. Yeah… OK.

Still getting reaction to the Gose-Travis trade, including Gideon Turk of Blue Jays Plus. John Lott has an excellent profile of Travis in the National Post. Rob Rogacki of Tigers blog Bless You Boys provides a scouting report for Bluebird Banter. Robert MacLeod of the Globe and Mail looks at the other side, focussing on the departing Anthony Gose. While Ben Nicholson-Smith looks at Travis’s impending return to second base, after being briefly moving to the outfield this season, as he was blocked at his preferred position in Detroit by Ian Kinsler.

Great stuff from Steve Adams of MLBTR, as he profiles the free agency of reported Jays top target, Russell Martin, and attempts to project his contract: “I feel that four years is the absolute floor for Martin, given his interest, and it’s hard to see him taking an annual value that’s much lower than McCann’s $17MM if he has to sacrifice a full year. Ultimately, I think there will be several teams involved and willing to go four years, but the team that pushes to a fifth year will be the one to land him. That fifth year will require him to take a hit on his annual value, and I think anything in the $70-75MM range is plausible, so I’m splitting the difference and projecting a five-year, $72.5MM contract.”

@Clutchlings77 has been following the Jays players who are playing winter ball in Australia, tweeting today’s lines from Canberra for guys like L.B. Dantzler, Griffin Murphy, and — most interestingly — Anthony Alford, who today went 2-for-4 with a pair of runs and a home run. The former quarterback was showing more patience today. He “only swung at one first pitch today – and hit an inside the park HR on it,” we’re told.

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