Posted on January 11, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
In need of a catcher, the Los Angeles Dodgers are turning to a familiar face. On Friday, Los Angeles acquired Russell Martin in a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays. In exchange, the Blue Jays will receive pitching prospect Andrew Sopko and shortstop prospect Ronny Brito. Toronto will also pay a majority of Martin’s $20 million salary in 2019, the last year of his current deal.
The 35-year old Martin spent the first five years of his career with the Dodgers. Some of the best seasons of his career came in Los Angeles, including two of his four all-star appearances in 2007 and 2008. He also won both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award while wearing Dodger blue in 2007. However, father time has hit Martin hard the past couple of seasons in Toronto. In a part-time role last season, Martin hit just .194 with an OPS of .663.
Nevertheless, the Dodgers are in need of some help behind the plate. The trade for Martin comes less than two days after Yasmani Grandal officially moved on from the Dodgers by signing with the Brewers. At the moment, Martin and Austin Barnes are in line to share the catching duties for the Dodgers in 2019. Those two may be little more than placeholders for top prospects Keibert Ruiz and Will Smith. Both are listed among the top-10 catching prospects in baseball, according to MLB.com. More importantly, one or both could be ready to take the reins by opening day in 2020.
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Of course, adding Martin shouldn’t take the Dodgers out of the running for J.T. Realmuto, who is likely to be traded before spring training. Realmuto would be an obvious upgrade behind the plate over both Martin and Barnes. It’s worth noting that Martin started 16 games at third base last season, as well as one at shortstop and one in left field. He’s not solely a catcher and brings some defensive flexibility to the table, even at his advanced age.
As for the Blue Jays, trading Martin takes another aging veteran off their roster. Eating most of his salary is similar to the team parting ways with Troy Tulowitzki earlier this offseason. Even if neither prospect they received in the trade is that heralded, the Blue Jays will be glad to move on from Martin a year early.
Toronto has two young catchers in Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire who are poised to take over the catching duties long-term. Both made their big league debut last season and should be close to ready to play full-time in 2019. Jansen is Toronto’s no. 3 prospect and no. 65 in all of baseball, according to MLB.com. He has a chance to make an impact on both sides of the ball whereas McGuire profiles better as a defensive-centric backup. The Blue Jays also have veteran Luke Maile just in case their young catchers need more seasoning.
From Toronto’s perspective, this trade is addition by subtraction despite having to pay off most of Martin’s salary. For the Dodgers, re-acquiring Martin is simply a temporary fix. Other than providing some experience and leadership, it’s unclear how much Martin has left in the tank. However, the Dodgers didn’t give up much to get him, making this a low-risk move for an aging player who doesn’t move the needle much for Los Angeles.