The Pirates officially announced today they have signed catcher Russell Martin to a two-year contract, worth $17 million.
“I feel like this team’s got a lot of potential, and I'm excited to take on that challenge,” Martin, 29, said in a conference call with reporters.
He said the Pirates made the best offer of any suitor, and that spoke volumes to him.
“It was the best offer that was on the table,” Martin said. “Whenever somebody makes the best offer, it’s because they want you.”
A career .260 hitter, Martin played the last two seasons with the New York Yankees after beginning his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Martin did not speak with former Yankee teammate A.J. Burnett, whom the Pirates acquired in a trade in February, prior to signing with the Pirates. But Burnett texted Martin a couple times, and Martin said reuniting with Burnett was a factor in his decision.
He replaces Rod Barajas, who the Pirates did not bring back, as the team’s starting catcher. He hit .211 with a .311 on-base percentage last season with the Yankees. Coincidentally, Barajas replaced Martin as the Dodgers catcher in 2010.
Martin is a three-time All-Star, most recently in 2011 with the Yankees.
The Pirates announced today they will not tender a contract offers to right-handed pitcher Jeff Karstens, an arbitration-eligible player who will become a free agent at midnight.
“A tough decision for us as an organization,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “We’re grateful for what Jeff has done, on and off the field.”
Huntington said the Pirates tried to negotiate a contract with Karstens prior to the tender deadline, and then the club tried to trade him.
“Our hope is that the door is still ajar and he would entertain an opportunity to return to the Pirates. We’d still like to have him back.”
Huntington said the team will announce later today whether they will tender the remaining seven arbitration-eligible players.
Today is the deadline for all teams to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players. Technically, Karstens has been designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for recently acquired catcher Russell Martin. But he will be non-tendered at midnight.
The Pirates acquired Karstens, 30, in a trade with the New York Yankees that sent Xavier Nady to the Bronx in 2008. Though he led the team with a 3.38 ERA in 2011, Karstens battled a couple injuries last season that kept him off the mound and limited his effectiveness.
He made 15 starts and four relief appearances, finishing with a 5-4 with a 3.97 ERA. He earned $3.1 million last season, signing a one-year deal to avoid arbitration.
Given his injuries this season, the Pirates were not willing to enter arbitration with – and hence give a raise to – Karstens.
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