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$25 million is too much

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A trusted source told me last night that early reports that the Pirates had offered catcher Russell Martin a deal worth $25 million were not true. This morning, George King of the New York Post writes that the Pirates’ offer is closer to $22 million, which makes more sense (well, that is, it makes sense in the twisted world of baseball’s economics). Martin made $7.5 million this year. The Pirates initially offered Martin a two-year contract, but have since sweetened it to three years.

If Martin takes the Pirates’ offer, he’d become one of the highest-paid players on the team behind AJ Burnett ($16.5 million, of which $8 million is being paid by the Pirates) and Wandy Rodriguez ($13 million, of which $8 million is being paid by the Pirates). Closer Joel Hanrahan, who’s in his final year of arbitration eligibility, is in line for a payday of somewhere around $7 million in 2013.

»»» The Pirates still are seeking at least one more starting pitcher, plus bullpen help. Giving $22 million to Martin over three years would put a serious dent in their budget. One solution would be to trade Hanrahan. Two sources with other teams have told me the Pirates already have begun discreetly shopping Hanrahan around the league. That could make things interesting Friday leading up to the midnight non-tender deadline. I will not be surprised if Hanny is dealt during the winter meetings or during spring training, if a top team loses its closer to injury.

»»» Finally, what would a three-year deal for Martin say about the status of Tony Sanchez? The former first-round pick remains one of the Pirates’ top prospects, but his performance the past couple of seasons in the minors cannot be described as sizzling. Still, the Pirates know they have zero chance to get Martin with just a one-year contract (unless it’s for, say, $15 million). Twenty straight years of losing records makes it hard to lure free agents. The front office believes Sanchez is not ready for full-time duty in the majors. A three-year deal for Martin could work fine for Sanchez — he could get in more development time at Triple-A, then work his way in as Martin’s understudy and perhaps take over the top job in 2015 as Martin’s getting set to move on.

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