The Pirates uncharacteristically pilfered a player from the Yankees over the winter, signing catcher Russell Martin to a two-year, $17 million contract that made him the highest-paid free agent in franchise history. While Martin began his Bucs tenure 0 for 17 at the plate, he has since belted a team-best six home runs and has thrown out 38 percent of would-be base stealers — well above the 28 percent major league average and otherworldly compared to the 11 percent clip that Pirates catchers managed in 2012.
Martin's all-around excellence makes him one of the game's best so far in 2013. He ranks second among major league catchers in Wins Above Replacement, a stat comparing a player's offensive and defensive contributions to those of a Triple-A-caliber talent:
Highest WAR among catchers, 2013
Player Team WAR
Carlos Santana Indians 1.5
Russell Martin Pirates 1.3
John Buck Mets 1.2
Buster Posey Giants 1.1
Yadier Molina Cardinals 1.1
Better late than never
The Pirates' latest foray into the free-agent catcher market is going far better than their last. Martin is playing like an All-Star one year after the Bucs paid Rod Barajas $4 million to produce one of the team's worst catching seasons in the expansion era (1961 to present):
Lowest single-season WAR among Pirates catchers since 1961
Player Year WAR
Tom Prince 1993 -0.8
Junior Ortiz 1989 -0.7
Manny Sanguillen 1978 -0.5
Rod Barajas 2012 -0.4
Steve Nicosia 1980 -0.3
David Golebiewski is a freelance writer.
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