Going into this off-season the Yankees had two important free agents that would be hard to replace. Nick Swisher in right field and Russell Martin behind home plate. With the trade of Jesus Montero last season and Austin Romine’s injury plagued season that limited his Triple A at bats, the Yankees are lacking a MLB caliber replacement on the roster. So with Martin’s signing with the Pirates for only 2 years and $17 million, Yankees fans are rightfully depressed. This leaves the Yankees most likely with the Opening Day catching tandem of Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli. Stewart can’t hit and Cervelli spent last season at Triple A because he was deemed worse than Stewart. So for the first time in recent memory the Yankees will go into the season with an automatic out in their batting order.
The Yankees brass is going to claim the 2014 budget is the cause of losing Martin. That is not the case. Martin’s tax hit will be 8.5 million for the Pirates. I’m under the assumption that Russell would pick the Yankees over the Pirates given similar deals. The Yankees could have given Martin a 2 year $20 million, but they structured the deal differently. The deal was first year salary of 15 million and 5 million for the second year with a limited no-trade clause. This would have allowed Martin to control is future a bit by eliminating teams he could be traded too.
A team like the Braves would gladly take the $5 million salary. By declining McCann’s $12 million player option and the 500K buyout, the Braves would have saved almost $7 million. The Yankees then would have received a borderline prospect such as Aaron Northcraft. Northcraft is a groundball pitcher who is ranked 11th in the Braves system by SB Nation’s Minor League Ball. So the Yankees would keep Martin for 2013, break in Romine as his back-up after the All-Star break and then receive a prospect in a trade. Instead, now the Yankees have one of the worst catching situations in baseball.
All contract info came from http://www.baseballprospectus.com/compensation/cots/