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The Pirates agreed to terms with free agent catcher Russell Martin Thursday evening, according to an industry source, filling their void at catcher.
Martin and the Pirates agreed to a two-year, $17 million contract, but Martin needs to pass a physical. Fox Sports and the New York Times first reported the terms of the agreement.
Bringing Martin to Pittsburgh solidified the Pirates’ catching situation, which contained questions after the team declined Rod Barajas’ option for 2013. Michael McKenry will likely back up Martin.
Luring Martin, one of the top free agent catchers in a shallow market, to Pittsburgh represented a rare occurrence for the Pirates, who generally do not target premium options. The New York Yankees, Martin’s former team, were reportedly interested, as were the Texas Rangers and the Seattle Mariners.
Martin, 29, hit .211 with a .311 on-base percentage and 21 home runs for the Yankees last season. He made three All-Star teams, including in 2011, when he hit .237 with 18 home runs. He has played in at least 125 games in each of the past two seasons. In 2012, Martin threw out 24 percent of potential base-stealers, a sizeable upgrade over the Pirates’ catchers last season.
Martin, a right-handed hitter, started his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who drafted him in the 17th round in 2002. The Dodgers non-tendered him after the 2010 season, when he hit .248 but had only five home runs. Martin signed with the Yankees in December 2010. He made $7.5 million in 2012.
The signing adds another roadblock for catching prospect Tony Sanchez, the Pirates’ first-round draft pick in 2009. The Pirates added Sanchez to the 40-man roster this offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. Sanchez hit .251 with eight home runs and a .338 on-base percentage in a 2012 season split between Class AA and AAA.
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