Sometimes the media/fan/analyst perception of what a free agent should seek – or should ultimately get – in free agency is considerably different from reality. That could be because outsiders misperceive the value of a particular player, it could be because the player misperceives his own value, or it could be because of erroneous reports or speculation.
When it comes to catcher Russell Martin, who may be the Chicago Cubs’ top target this offseason, the expectations of what he’ll seek and the reality seem to be lining up quite well. Even before the offseason began, I pegged Brian McCann’s five-year, $85 million deal with the Yankees as being the upper range of where Martin’s initial demands might be. Although that’s north of Martin’s likely valuation, his intangible and receiving skills make that valuation a little more difficult, and also, guys tend to seek out comparables and ask aggressively.
Well, according to Jeff Blair at Sportsnet.ca (writing from the Blue Jays perspective, as they are among the rumored Martin suitors), Martin’s initial asking price is indeed in the five-year, $75 to $80 million range. He adds that some “industry insiders” believe Martin is leaning toward the Cubs at this point. You’ll recall, the Cubs met with Martin last week to start dialoging about a possible deal.
The good news is that Martin’s initial ask, if Blair’s report is accurate, is really not that unreasonable. No, you’d rather not have to go to five years on a 32-year-old catcher, and maybe he won’t get that fifth year. But, given the market and Martin’s perceived value, he’s not way out on a limb here. And I’m sure it’s nice to negotiate with someone who is being somewhat realistic.
Ultimately, I expect that Martin will be able to get the $15ish million he’s seeking if he settles for a four-year deal. If, however, he holds out for that fifth year, he might top out at something closer to five years and $65 to 70 million ($13 to $14M AAV).
For me, I have absolutely no qualms about the Cubs going to 4/$60M on Martin. Going to five years, depending on how much more of a guarantee is required is a closer call, but obviously I really like the fit between where the Cubs are right now, and what adding Martin allows them to do going forward.