The Pittsburgh Pirates will extend a $15.3 million qualifying offer to catcher Russell Martin next month, according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman. The 31-year-old Martin is among the game's best players behind the plate, so the move comes as no surprise, though Martin will almost certainly decline the offer due to the allure of a potentially monster payday.
Martin had a huge season in 2014, hitting .290/.402/.430 with a .370 wOBA, 140 wRC+, and 5.3 WAR in 111 games for the Bucs. While this season was easily the best offensive campaign of Martin's career, and a performance which he is unlikely to repeat, he still provides an enormous amount of value via his glove, which is considered to be among the game's elite. His pitch framing skills in particular are well-regarded across the game.
Martin played a key role in leading the Pirates to the postseason in each of the past two years, and Pittsburgh would certainly like to have him back, though that may be a bit of a stretch at this point. It's just simply unlikely that the Pirates can afford to re-sign Martin, and he already rebuffed an in-season offer from the club.
While having draft pick compensation attached to him certainly doesn't help Martin's market, it doesn't seem that it will hurt that much either, especially with a dearth of catchers available on this year's free agent market. Per Heyman, Martin could be in line for a deal similar to the five-year, $85 million contract Brian McCann received from the Yankees last offseason. He also mentions the Rangers, Dodgers, and Cubs as potential landing spots for Martin.
The Dodgers would seem to be the most logical fit, as Martin spent the first five years of his career with the club, making two All-Star teams. The Dodgers could also use an upgrade over AJ Ellis, who was miserable with the bat in 2014 and is a poorly regarded pitch framer. Los Angeles' recent hire of Andrew Friedman seems to only further to probability of the Dodgers landing Martin, as Friedman clearly held an adoration for strong framing catchers with the Rays, often playing Jose Molina despite him being a clear negative on offense.