With a night to cool down and think it over I think I have discovered a way the Pirates might be able to potentially get value out of Martin. Upon the signing I was certain it was going to take an amazing sequence of events for the Pirates to even get anywhere near the value they are paying Martin. That is now the case but I now see a way they can actually get plus value from him. It is a non-traditional idea the Pirates will likely never pursue but it is the only path I see. First in order to even have a chance at breaking even we must assume the following:
– Martin’s drop in average and subsequently OBP over the past two seasons is due largely to luck as evident by his low BABIPs. A return to around his career BABIP of .286 will boost his OBP back up to the .340-.350 area
– Martin’s power will undoubtedly be hurt tremendously in PNC Park but he showed some opposite field ability last season. If that tuns out to be because he has matured as a hitter rather than just the result of pure chance it is possible we will see a fair amount of doubles hit off the Clemente Wall. While this wouldn’t keep his slugging percentage from dropping below .400 it could potentially keep it out of the .330-.340 range it was in before coming to the Yankees. Perhaps something around ,370 is feasible.
– Martin’s supposedly pitch framing skill is more a result of talent rather than catching for the likes of CC Sabathia who due to reputation is more likely to get borderline calls. If this is the case and the Pirates pitchers start receiving a significant amount of borderline calls than that would be a huge boost.
– The Pirates alter their strategy of not holding on runners enough that Martin is at least able to be a deterrent to would be base stealers. He obviously isn’t good at it and maybe not even better than McKenry but if he can get a rate in the mid teens it would be a big plus.
– The Pirates actually give Martin a decent pitching staff to work with. This means tendering Karstens and then using the available resources to go out and acquire another starter so McPherson and Locke are available as depth.
– Martin is able to not only help the young pitchers adjust but is able to help groom Sanchez or Cabrera as his eventual replacement.
– Martin manages to stop the alarming downward trends of year’s past and keeps his walk rate above 10% and his strike out rate below 20%.
– Martin manages to hold father time for two season and catches 100+ games for the Pirates each season.
Any one point of the above is certainly very possible for the next two seasons but to get even fair value the Pirates need essentially all of them. If they want to get above value or even possibly offset not getting some of them there is only one way to do so. Have Martin work hard on his OBP skills and hitting to all fields if those two return he will give the Pirates a much needed boost in the OBP department. However to fully capitalize on that Martin must hit in front of the Pirates run producers so that means batting 2nd in the order or even leading off. With an OBP possibility of .350 the Pirates probably have no better choice to hit leadoff with the exception of Andrew McCutchen.
If Martin can return to his old level of OBP and the Pirates properly use him a top the order it could go a long way to solving the offenses biggest weaknesses of last season which was not enough runners being on base for McCutchen, Jones and Alvarez. A lineup of: Martin, Walker, Cutch, Jones, Alvarez, Marte, Snider, Barmes would probably be laughed at by some but it gives us two good OBP guys atop the order, 3 power bats in the middle, two high potential bats for depth and a defensive specialist hitting 8th. It may be crazy but if the Pirates are truly thinking outside the box like that I might just might be able to get behind this signing. However if they plan a more traditional approach with him in the 6th or 7th hole they are going to need a whole lot of things to break right for them to just break even.
So say it with me Pirates fans: Martin for leadoff!