Although the Los Angeles Dodgers were linked to Yan Gomes and J.T. Realmuto throughout much of the offseason last year, the club wound up addressing their catching need by reuniting with Russell Martin in a surprising development.
Whereas Realmuto — and potentially Gomes — would’ve served as the starting catcher, Martin was acquired as a backup to Austin Barnes. The veteran was entering the final year of his contract, and the Toronto Blue Jays agreed to pay $16.4 million in salary for 2019.
Martin and the Dodgers were optimistic he would put a down 2018 season behind him, but that never quite manifested. Martin battled back trouble during Spring Training and also was placed on the 10-day injured list because of it in April.
Despite not having the resurgent season he hoped for, Martin intends to play in 2020 rather than retire, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network:
Russell Martin, 36, is working out already and plans to return for a 15th season next year. There had been some retirement speculation but he remains hungry. In his 14 seasons he’s played for 10 postseason teams but has yet to play for a World Series winner.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 6, 2019
In August, Martin suggested this past season could be his last, but he otherwise didn’t openly discuss or suggest a possible retirement.
Martin appeared in just 83 games, batting .220/.337/.330 with five, doubles six home runs and 20 RBI. Nevertheless, the organization valued his presence and impact on the clubhouse and pitching staff.
“Russ came in and fit a role extremely well for us. He was a great veteran presence, did a lot for Barnesy, did a lot for Will Smith,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said.
He did provide highlights on the field, including a walk-off base hit against to complete a sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals and spawned a spin off of the “don’t let the kids get hot” saying that Alex Verdugo created.
In the postseason, Martin had a 2-for-4 effort with one double, one home run and four RBI against the Washington Nationals in Game 3 of the National League Division Series.
Martin was among the four Dodgers who officially became a free agent the morning after the World Series concluded; that includes David Freese, who of course announced his retirement prior to that.
“At this point, with our catching depth, it’s a more difficult fit, but that doesn’t mean things won’t play out in a different way,” Friedman answered when asked about possibly re-signing Martin.
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