While catchers appear to be a much sought-after commodity with a trio of free agents already signing, it appears that two teams feel that they may have a surplus at the position. Jeff Passan of Yahoo reported that the Blue Jays have discussed trading long-time veteran Russell Martin, and that the Pirates are open to trading Francisco Cervelli.
Passan reports that both players are drawing interest from various teams.
Martin, 35, is coming off a rather disappointing year in which he hit just .194/.338/.325 in just 90 games. Martin saw his playing time shrink, playing just 26 games in the second half of the season in favor of some of the younger catchers in the Blue Jay organization. Martin was splitting time early in the season with Luke Maile, who had a hot first month of the season, then quickly cooled off.
The right-handed hitting Martin did have a 101 wRC+ in 2016 and 2017, and was a 1.9 fWAR player in 91 games during the 2017 season.
Salary is another thing that could hurt Martin’s trade prospects, and even return. Martin is set to make $20 million in 2019, the final year of his contract. Passan does report that the Blue Jays are willing to eat a significant portion of that salary. There may also be concerns about Martin’s knee, which ailed him as recently as 2017, and whether it will hold up as he enters his age-36 season. Martin will be a free agent after the 2019 season.
Martin did handle himself well defensively last season, ranking 16th among 117 catchers in fielding runs above average according to Baseball Prospectus. He graded out as a strong framer and blocker, though he struggled with his throwing.
Cervelli, 32, is coming off a career year offensively in which he hit .259/.378/.431, and saw career highs in HR, RBI, OBP, SLG, ISO, wOBA, wRC+, to name a few. While dealing with some injuries himself over the last few years, including lingering effects from the removal of a hamate bone, and quad injuries in 2017, his performance in 2018 may have increased his trade value.
Despite his excellent year, the emergence of Elias Diaz has made Cervelli expendable to the Pirates. Cervelli is set to make $11.5 million in 2019, his last year before free agency as well. Obtaining Cervelli will is likely to have a higher price tag.
Defensively, Cervelli struggled in 2018, ranking 95th among MLB catchers with -4.0 FRAA. It was the second straight season of defensive struggles after posting a -5.6 FRAA in 2017. Though in 2015 (22.0 FRAA) and 2016 (10.4) he was one of the better defensive catchers in the league.
The Mets could potentially have interest in either candidate, as they’ve been said to have spoken to Cleveland about Yan Gomes, and have reportedly checked in on free agent catchers Wilson Ramos and Martin Maldonado. With J.T. Realmuto, Yasmani Grandal, Robinson Chirinos, among others also still available through free agency or trade, one has to wonder whether or not the saturation in the market may drive some of the prices down.