Reports are that B.J. Upton just signed a five year deal with the Atlanta Braves for $75.25 million and Russell Martin just signed a two year deal with the Pirates for $17 million. Frankly, I expected both players to get more, based on the amounts relief pitchers have signed for earlier this off-season.
Some articles argue that the Braves are taking a risk with Upton based on his diminished on-base percentage in 2012, but I just don’t see it. How many true center fielders with Upton’s power become free agents the off-season before they turn 28? Not many.
Upton will be age 28 through 32 under the new contract, and for a player who runs as well as Upton, they are all reasonably likely to be prime seasons and may include the best seasons of his career. Upton also moves out of Tropicana Field, one of the worst hitters’ parks in baseball.
Fangraphs values Upton’s performance over the last five seasons at $86 million. For the Braves to sign Upton for five years and only through age 32 for a little over $75 million sounds like a bargain to me, given the premium free agents usually receive.
My feelings about Russell Martin are pretty much the same. Two years, when Martin will be age 30 and 31, for $17 million sounds like a bargain to me.
O.K., Martin didn’t hit for average in New York, but he drew walks and hit for power, giving him OPS numbers over .700 both seasons, which is good for a catcher, particularly one who provides Martin’s defense. Fangraphs values Martin’s two years as a Yankee at $23.6 million, which is a lot more than what the Pirates will pay him for the next two seasons.
If nothing else, Martin will certainly improve the Pirates’ defense at catcher significantly, given that Pirates’ catchers threw out only 11% of base-stealers, the worst by far of any National League team in 2012. In fact, the Pirates allowed both the most stolen bases and recorded the fewest caught stealing of any team in MLB last year.
The biggest knock on Martin is that he has played a lot of games at catcher in his career and his body may begin breaking down sooner rather than later. Perhaps there is something the Yankees know that the Pirates don’t, and that’s why the Yankees didn’t match the Bucs’ offer.
I kind of doubt it. The Yankees were more than happy to commit a total of at least $22 million in 2013 to two over age 40 pitchers Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera, who pitched a total of only 83.2 innings between them last year.
Yes, Pettitte and Rivera have had great careers as Yankees, and that’s worth something. However, the Yankees are a team that is built to win the World Series every year, and they and their fans are disappointed if they don’t.
While it’s true that if any two pitchers in baseball could have great years at, respectively, age 43 and 41, those pitchers are Rivera and Pettitte. However, the odds that both of them will justify their salaries in 2013 is extremely unlikely. The Rivera and Pettitte signings are the kind that make a team’s fans happy during the off-season, but not so much once the new season actually begins.
If the Yankees were willing to throw this much money at two over age 40 pitchers in 2013, it’s a little hard to understand whey they felt that two years of Russell Martin at $17 million was too expensive.