The New York Yankees have been deemed by many of having a “disappointing” offseason by not signing the star free-agent they sought after in Cliff Lee. It seemed as though Hank and Hal Steinbrenner along with Brian Cashman grew a little frugal this offseason by not shelling out the big bucks to land any of baseball’s most coveted free agents (Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford, etc.) after failing to repeat in their title defense last season unless you want to count signing Rays closer Rafael Soriano, who is getting paid handsomely to be a set-up man.
One player the Yankees did go for immediately when Cliff Lee shocked the baseball world and signed with Philadelphia was former Dodgers catcher Russell Martin. Martin signed a one-year, $4 million dollar contract to move across the country and play in the Bronx. It has been uttered out by Brian Cashman this offseason that Russell Martin will be the Yankees everyday catcher while the beloved “Core Four” member, Jorge Posada, will be spending most of his time as the designated hitter due to prior injury troubles, a weaker throwing arm and declining age at a position of youth. What makes the whole Martin signing interesting was that Cashman refused to trade for Cliff Lee in the summer because he did not want to part with coveted prospects including Triple-A catcher, Jesus Montero, who was proclaimed to be the “catcher of the future.” It looks like the Yankees now may use Montero as trade bait with Martin signing as a stop-gap catcher this season.
Russell Martin joined the Fan 590 in Toronto with Greg Brady to discuss the excitement of signing with the New York Yankees, how refreshing it is to sign with an organization that expects nothing less than a World Series title, on being signed as the everyday catcher for the Yankees while they still have Jorge Posada, his player-manager relationship with former Dodgers manager Joe Torre and how many teams truly pursued him this season.
On your excitement to sign with the New York Yankees and join the squad in Tampa soon?
“Absolutely. I haven’t played since August when I got hurt last year. I’m finally starting to get that itch to get it going again.”
How refreshing is to play for an organization that strives for nothing less than winning the World Series and making into the postseason every year? Is there any added pressure?
“Yeah, well definitely with a team where expectations couldn’t get any higher. I like the pressure you know. It makes you feel more alive. I mean it’s really what you play for. When you’re playing all you want to do really as a kid growing up is you dream of getting to the World Series and playing in the postseason, playing at the high intensity. You can’t pick a better organization to play for than the Yankees to try to get to that point.”
Is it your understanding that you signed to be the everyday catcher while Jorge Posada becomes the full-time designated hitter? Is Joe Girardi going to handle that when you arrive to Spring Training? Are you expecting to catch every day?
“I mean at this point they told me that you know that I’m going to be the starter and the #1 guy. For me I’m not taking that as a guarantee. I never want to play like I have anything guaranteed. I want to play like I have something to prove and now I do. I’m going to a new organization. It’s my first time going somewhere new. I was drafted by the Dodgers. I’ve been with the Dodgers since 2002. Obviously there’s still questions marks out there. People are still wondering with the injury and all that stuff, so I’m going to have to go out there and prove what I can do again.”
How was the manager-player relationship when Joe Torre become the manager out in Los Angeles?
“It was good. I mean he gets automatic recognition and respect from all the players with everything that he has accomplished as a manager because you know you get respect from winning. Everybody respects that man for that. Also getting to know him. He is just a class act. All the way around he treats everyone with respect. He almost has that father feeling to him you know where you can talk to him about anything. He really cares about his players, so I have tremendous respect for that man. I wish him well. I haven’t talked to him in awhile. I wish him well in whatever he wants to do.”
There were quite a few teams pursuing you? The Red Sox? Yankees? Did the Blue Jays make an offer?
“The Yankees were just pretty aggressive in how they wanted me. It really came down to my decision and where I wanted to be and where I thought I had the best chance at winning and getting that championship because that’s really what I want to go after is a championship. The Blue Jays have a good team. They have a young, good, pitching staff and their going to be a tough team to play against. I thought the Yankees were a good fit distance wise. I wanted to be closer to home because I’m from Montreal, but the Yankees, it was just hard to turn it down.”