The top free agent catcher is heading to an AL East team for a second straight year. Last off-season, it was Brian McCann who inked a deal with an AL East club, signing with the New York Yankees. This year, Russell Martin heads to the American League's most expensive division. The former Pittsburgh Pirates star reportedly came to terms on a five-year deal with the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday. The deal, which was first reported by Peter Gammons and confirmed by Ken Rosenthal and Jon Heyman, is in the range of five years, $82 million.
Martin returns to the AL East after two years with Pittsburgh, during which he led the Pirates to two straight playoff appearances. Martin hit only .226 in 2013, but he hit .290 with an 832 OPS in 2014. He is widely considered one of the elite defensive catchers in the league. Over the past two seasons, Martin was worth 4.5 dWAR.
Martin is familiar to the AL East, having played for the Yankees in 2011 and 2012. He hit 18 homers in 2011 and 21 homers in 2012, both career-highs. Martin began his career with the LA Dodgers, making the All-Star team in 2007 and 2008 as a member of the Dodgers. He was also an All-Star in 2011.
A native of Canada, Martin joins a Blue Jays squad that is built to win now with fellow veterans Jose Reyes, Jose Bautista, Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey and Edwin Encarnacion set to return. The Jays are expected to lose outfielder Melky Cabrera to free agency, but the Blue Jays hope that Martin will replace some of Cabrera's offensive numbers while giving them an elite defender behind the plate. Toronto figures to be in the market for at least one more outfielder, as well as pitching.
Martin becomes the second high-profile free agent to come off of the board early in the off-season. Michael Cuddyer signed with the New York Mets last week. Victor Martinez re-upped with Detroit last week and A.J. Burnett signed with the Pirates. The Pirates extended Martin a qualifying offer -- which Martin declined -- meaning Pittsburgh will receive compensation picks for Martin and the Blue Jays will forfeit their first-round selection.