Neal Huntington, under pressure to deliver a winning season in 2013, came through Thursday with the most expensive free-agent signing of his five-plus years as Pirates general manager. Catcher Russell Martin has agreed to a two-year, $17 million contract, pending a physical. Martin will be in Pittsburgh on Friday to finalize the deal, which was confirmed to the Trib by two sources.
Martin, 29, spent the past two seasons with the New York Yankees. This year, he made $7.5 million and batted .211 with 21 home runs, 53 RBI and a .713 OPS. With only one experienced catcher – backup Michael McKenry – on their 40-man roster, the Pirates made Martin their top offseason target. They considered going after Mike Napoli, but decided he was no longer able to handle the rigors of being a full-time catcher and thus better suited for the American League. Martin gives the Pirates an instant and significant upgrade defensively. He threw out 24 percent (20 of 83) of would-be base-stealers last season. Rod Barajas, the Pirates’ starter last season, threw out just 6 percent of base-stealers.