Now that the Major League Baseball offseason is finally upon us, the Chicago Cubs will look to improve their team in a big way. With the team’s developmental period finally nearing its end, management can now begin the transition from a seller to a buyer.
Considering the fact that most of the team’s position players are already locked in, the priority will be starting pitching. However, the Cubs would be wise to entertain the possibility of adding Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Russell Martin to the mix.
Martin, 31, is an exceptional backstop and had a strong year at the plate. In 111 games with the Bucs, he hit .290 with 11 home runs and 67 runs batted in; and his career high .402 on base percentage ranked highest in the MLB.
In addition to what Martin brings offensively, his defense is what makes him such a coveted acquisition. This past season, the former gold glover posted a .994 fielding percentage and threw out 37 of 59 base runners attempting to steal, which resulted in a .385 caught stealing percentage. Furthermore, Martin’s ability to call a game would be a huge boost to a pitching staff that is also expected to be improved by free agent signings.
Aside from what the three-time all-star can offer on the field, his leadership role in the clubhouse may also factor in the Cubs interest. The nine-year veteran has plenty of postseason experience, and knows what it takes to get there. This becomes a big factor when considering the lack of playoff experience on the current roster. Chicago is in dire need of a seasoned leader if they hope to contend, and Martin is more than capable of meeting that need.
It may take, at least, a solid three-year deal to lure Martin in. But if all goes well and he does in fact join the team, the Cubs will automatically become an alluring destination for other free agents, particularly pitchers.
Bringing him aboard could however, mean the end of the Welington Castillo era; although when comparing the two, there’s really no contest. While Castillo would be a solid backup, the Cubs may want a more defensive minded catcher that would likely come at a cheaper price. On top of that, whether or not Castillo would accept a second string role remains to be seen.
The bottom line is, Martin is a proven game changer who knows how to win and right now, the Cubs don’t. If the team has any of hope of finally shedding their tags of being the “lovable losers,” they must seek to add the best talent available, no matter the cost.