Russell Martin, a Fit for the Oakland Athletics?

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Sep 19, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Russell Martin (55) reacts as he rounds the bases after hitting a three run home run against the Milwaukee Brewers during the eighth inning at PNC Park. The Pirates won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Russell Martin is set to become a free agent this winter, and he should be atop the Oakland Athletics’ wish list. After watching the Royals literally steal their victory in the wild card game, it became apparent that the A’s could use an upgrade behind the dish.

In 2014, Russell Martin ranked 16th in all of baseball in defensive WAR, with a 2.01. That’s not too shabby. Couple his defensive capabilities with his ability to swing the stick (4.24 oWAR, 30th in MLB), and we have a coveted free agent on our hands.

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In 2014, a contract year, Martin put together arguably his best season since 2008, hitting .290, with a .402 OBP, 11 home runs, 67 rbi and 20 doubles. He has also been one of the Pirates’ team leaders since joining Pittsburgh in 2013.

When it comes to throwing out potential base stealers, Russell Martin ranks pretty well. In 111 games, Martin threw out 37 of a potential 96, for a caught stealing percentage of .385. By comparison, Buster Posey, considered one of the best catchers in the game, threw out .298 and had an identical fielding percentage behind the plate.

The Pirates have already expressed their desire to keep Martin, and have him help raise the jolly roger for many more seasons. This could it tougher for the A’s to sign him, because he is unfamiliar with their club.

Last season, Martin made $8.5M with the Pirates, and that figure will certainly go up in 2015, possibly even as high as $15M/season. For the Athletics to land Martin, they may have to offer more money than the Pirates. While this sounds unreasonable, the Pirates also have a small payroll, so it wouldn’t be like bidding with the Dodgers or Yankees.

If the A’s were able to lure Russell Martin to Oakland, there is a chance that Derek Norris could become expendable as trade bait. Norris had a big season for the A’s, but he can be a defensive liability at times. Norris and Martin had very similar offensive seasons, but Martin brings leadership, along with some defense that the A’s have been lacking.

The big questions are: Is Russell Martin willing to leave Pittsburgh, and can the Oakland Athletics pay him what he’s worth?

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