Yours truly committed a sin of omission yesterday and forgot to include Russell Martin in my defense of the Yankee offseason, so here’s my apology to you (and Russell, on the off chance he’s reading this). Signing Russell Martin was a good move for the Yankees. He’ll be making just $4MM, which is affordable for the Yankees. He also has a year of team control left, so if the Yankees like what they get out of him in 2011, they can tender him a contract and keep him around for 2012.
On the field, he gives the Yankees a good defensive catcher and someone who can at least not embarrass himself at the plate. The .307 wOBA and his 86 wRC+ may belie my point a bit, but those numbers are a bit mundane because of a big drop in power–.081 IsoP over the last two years. In that time, though, Martin has had a 12.0% walk rate, leading to a .350 OBP. Essentially, that’s all Martin has to do for his time with the Yankees to be worth it: play good defense and avoid making outs. CAIRO projects Martin to have a .336 wOBA, which would be more than acceptable, considering Martin’s defense.
That’s where I want to take this post. What should we reasonably expect from Martin in 2011? I’m comfortable going with the .336 wOBA projection, though I could have us temper those expectations because his wOBA has been under .310 for the last two years. CAIRO assumes 547 PAs for Martin in 2011, so let’s run a quick WAR projection, assuming a league average wOBA of .327 (2010’s league average) and plus 4.5 defense (average of 2009-2010 DRS), we get a rather lofty 4.0267 WAR projection for Martin. That’s really high, but I think it comes from a few things: the nice positional adjustment (+12.5), good projected defense, and a lot of PAs. Despite this calculation, this is not a fair expectation of Martin.
As noted, he hasn’t hit that well lately and I doubt he gets that much playing time. Why not? Well, we all assume that at one point, Jesus Montero will be (once again) destroying the International League and he’ll be ready to join the big league club. At that point, I think we’ll say goodbye to Francisco Cervelli and we’ll see Mr. Martin shift to the back up catcher’s role. When Montero comes up, there’s no way he’s not going to be playing every day.
If Russell Martin can give the Yankees about half a season of competent play, keeping the seat warm for Jesus Montero, I’ll be happy. If he can do more than that, I’ll be even happier.