Pirates finalists for Russell Martin?

The Pirates are shopping for catching in a thin market that leaves them few high-end choices and, according to one published report, aren’t shying away from the heat.

Jon Heyman reports on CBSsports.com that the Bucs have stepped up as finalists with the Yankees for Russell Martin’s services. At 29 — he will turn 30 during Spring Training — Martin is the youngest, by far, of 13 free-agent catchers.

Martin has also drawn interest from Texas and Seattle, after hitting the market seeking a long-term deal for about $10 million per. He has slightly backed off that figure, and the Pirates are portrayed as being will to go three years at $8 mil per.

One thing Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington has to be wary of: Not being used as leverage to get the Yankees to improve their offer. Martin is known to favor a return to New York, but the Yankees haven’t budged from offering a two-year deal, also in the $8 million-a-year range.

Martin’s age would be a plus for the Pirates, As would his weaponry behind the plate: He threw out 20 of 63 baserunners, a 24 percent rate that would be a vast improvement over the Pirates’ performance in 2012, with Rod Barajas as their lead guy.

Not so encouraging: Martin hit .211, merely five points higher than Barajas, with 10 more homers (21) and 22 more RBIs (53) in 101 more at-bats than Barajas, himself a free agent.

Tom Singer

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