With Yasmani Grandal signing with the Milwaukee Brewers in free agency, the Los Angeles Dodgers were left with a hole at the starting catching position for the 2019 season.
Top catching prospects Keibert Ruiz and Will Smith are both just a year away from being Major League ready, so president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman was just looking for a one-year stopgap at the position.
He recently found that solution on the trade market with the Dodgers acquiring a familiar face in Russell Martin from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for a pair of prospects.
Martin has a year and $20 million remaining on his contract, although the Blue Jays will be paying $16.4 million as a part of the trade.
After making the deal, Friedman expressed his belief that the duo of Martin and Austin Barnes will be as good as it gets defensively behind the plate, via Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
“He’ll team up with Austin to be a really good duo behind the plate,” Friedman said. “We feel they can be good stewards for our pitching staff.”
“We have something unique with Russell and Austin in that both are really good athletes,” Friedman said. “Both can kick out and do different things.”
Both Barnes and Martin are believed to be solid framers, ranking 13th and 17th, respectively, among catchers in framing runs last season.
Additionally, Barnes ranked seventh among catchers with 10 defensive runs saved (DRS), while Martin was not far behind with 7 DRS, which tied for 10th.
While neither player is expected to put up the offensive production that Grandal did as a catcher the last few years, Friedman seems comfortable enough to get through the 2019 season without acquiring another catcher.
Despite expectations not being that high, there is a hope that both Martin and Barnes can have bounce-back seasons at the plate after both posted career-low numbers in 2018. Whether or not they are able to do that remains to be seen.