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Martin finalizes $17M, 2-year deal with Pirates

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Martin finalizes $17M, 2-year deal with Pirates

PITTSBURGH (AP) Russell Martin is going from a franchise that has won a record 27 World Series titles to a franchise that has endured a record 20 consecutive losing seasons.

Yet Martin, a catcher, said Friday he is excited about joining the Pittsburgh Pirates after finalizing a $17 million, two-year contract as a free agent. Martin spent the last two seasons with the New York Yankees.

``It's going to be different,'' Martin said. ``It's going to be a challenge but I think the Pirates have a young and electric club. There is a lot of talent there and I don't think we're as far away as winning as maybe people outside baseball think we are.''

The Pirates are hoping Martin can help get them at least over .500. Their string of losing seasons continued this year when they went from 16 games over .500 at 64-48 on Aug. 8 to a 79-83 finish by losing 35 of their last 50 games.

``There is a lot to like about Russell,'' Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. ``He handles a pitching staff well, he calls a good game, he throws well, he is capable of hitting the ball out of the ballpark. We're very excited to be able to add him to our club.''

Martin, 29, hit a career-low .211 last season for the Yankees but also finished with a career-best 21 home runs. Rod Barajas, the Pirates' primary catcher in 2012, batted .206 with 11 homers.

``It wasn't a very good year,'' Martin said, ``and I know I'm capable of doing better.''

Martin gets a $2 million signing bonus payable by Dec. 31 and salaries of $6.5 million next season and $8.5 million in 2014.

Part of the allure of coming to Pittsburgh for Martin was having the chance to play for manager Clint Hurdle. The two developed a relationship at the 2008 All-Star game when Hurdle, then with Colorado, was the National League manager, and Martin, then with the Los Angeles Dodgers, was on the NL squad for the game at Yankee Stadium.

``I always liked the way Clint's teams played when he managed Colorado and I have a lot of respect for him,'' Martin said. ``I just like being around him and I trust him. I'm looking forward to playing for him.''

In addition to adding power to the lineup, the Pirates are hopeful Martin can strengthen their defense.

Martin threw out 24 percent of runners attempting to steal last season, nailing 20 of 83, while Barajas threw out just 6 percent at 6 of 99. The major-league average was 27 percent.

``Russell has good arm strength and a quick release but we're going to have to give him help, too,'' Huntington said. ``Our pitchers have to do a better job of holding runners.''

Right-hander Jeff Karstens was designated for assignment to clear a roster spot for Martin. Karstens was 5-4 with a 3.97 ERA in 19 games, including 15 starts, last season while spending time on the disabled list with shoulder and groin injuries.

The signing reunites Martin with right-hander A.J. Burnett. The two played together with the Yankees in 2011 before Burnett was traded to Pittsburgh last February.

Martin was offered a $20 million, three-year deal by Yankees general manager Brian Cashman during spring training and did not accept it. New York did not make him an offseason offer.

``I like Russell Martin,'' Cashman said Friday at a charity event in Stamford, Conn. ``I'm a big Russell Martin fan. But ultimately we have a lot of holes to fill and we have to be very careful how we spend our money. The market for Russell was aggressive as it should have been and again our focus has been our pitching.''

NOTES: RHP Charlie Morton agreed to a $2 million, one-year deal with the Pirates, who did not offer a 2013 contract to Karstens.

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Everything you need to know about the new and improved MLB Trade Deadline

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Everything you need to know about the new and improved MLB Trade Deadline

For a long time, Major League Baseball had the best, most exciting trade deadline among the four major sports. In recent seasons, that excitement has been eclipsed by the popularity of the NBA, but baseball still stands ahead of football and hockey in terms of in-season movement.

In an effort to shake things up a bit, baseball’s trade deadline underwent some changes in the offseason.

Notably, while July 31 has always been deadline day, in past years it was a bit of a misnomer. July 31 was technically just the Non-Waiver Trade Deadline in years past. The month of August has always allowed trades to be made as long as players pass through waivers. If a player is claimed off waivers, his team can either pull him back, let him go for nothing, or negotiate a deal with his claiming team only.

This obviously made for much more limited movement in August, but it was always an option. 

Not anymore. Now? July 31 the *only* deadline.

The August revocable waivers trade deadline was always a bit convoluted, and it never made much sense to have more than one deadline. So it’s logical to think the powers that be would want to simplify things for the league.

Reportedly, Major League Baseball is hoping the change will not only help simplify in-season moves, but also help jumpstart offseason activity. The thinking is if teams have even just one fewer option to improve their roster midseason, then contenders will be forced to get aggressive in the offseason.

It remains to be seen if that will come to fruition, but one forthcoming change does seem pretty obvious. The singular trade deadline should make for a much more active July.

Both buyers and sellers have to commit to a direction earlier in the season now. Last year, for example, the Nationals executed their mini-firesale in mid-August, once it had become clear they were not going to compete for the postseason. At the end of the July they were still undecided, which is why they held onto Bryce Harper.

Considering how long it can take major deals to come together, teams have to essentially decide by the All-Star break if they are in or out on competing for October. It will be especially difficult for teams to read the writing on the wall when they are hovering around .500.

As of this writing, there are 10 teams within six games of .500 in either direction, and that doesn’t include organizations like the Red Sox, Nationals and Athletics who have quality records but are way behind runaway division leaders. Will they want to trade away controllable assets for a shot at a one-game Wild Card berth?

General Managers who can forecast their team’s likelihood of competing, and respond accordingly, will be rewarded under the new system. Orioles GM Mike Elias already began his team’s sell-off, trading Andrew Cashner away weeks before the end of July. By contrast, in 2018 both Jonathan Schoop and Kevin Gausman were moved by the Orioles with under an hour to go on deadline day.

It’s hard to perfectly predict all the ways rule changes can affect a sport, but in the case of the singular trade deadline, it’s obvious that teams are now required to commit earlier, with fewer games of information from which to work.

That’s exciting for a sport that could use some more player movement-related excitement.

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Summer Guide: The top restaurants and bars for before and after Baltimore Orioles games

Summer Guide: The top restaurants and bars for before and after Baltimore Orioles games

Last summer, NBC Sports Washington put together guides that detailed the best bars and restaurants to watch the Capitals' Stanley Cup run and FIFA World Cup. Earlier this summer we gave you some spots around Nationals Park too.

With summer 2019 halfway through and baseball in full swing, it's time to highlight the go-to spots to eat and drink around the ballpark that forever changed baseball. 

In no particular order, consider these: 

Pickles Pub, 520 Washington Blvd, Baltimore, MD 21230

  • Across the street from Oriole Park at Camden Yards
  • Always packed, it's the number one go-to bar for Orioles fans before and after the games 
  • A dozen beers on tap, both local and national brands
  • Great deals throughout baseball season

Sliders Bar and Grille, 504 Washington Blvd, Baltimore, MD 21230

  • Another bar adjacent to Camden Yards
  • Less crowded than Pickles, but just as good when it comes to snacks and drinks
  • Bottle, canned, and draft beer options
  • Gameday specials built around the Orioles season

Abbey Burger Bistro, 1041 Marshall St, Baltimore, MD 21230

  • A bit further (about a mile walk) but well worth it
  • Famous for, you guessed it, their wide selection of crafted hamburgers
  • Endorsed by Oriole legend Adam Jones, who even created a burger for their menu
  • Also make spiked milkshakes for adults looking to cool off with a tasty treat

The Yard, 110 S Eutaw St, Baltimore, MD 21201

  • Inside the Marriott Inner Harbor 
  • Quieter, less-crowded option compared to more popular pregame locations
  • Crab-based breakfast options for fans looking for an early start

Camden Pub, 647 W. Pratt St, Baltimore, MD 21201

  • Two blocks from Camden Yards
  • Special discounts with game tickets
  • Variety of food options, including well-known wings

Quigley's Half Irish Pub, 633 Portland St, Baltimore, MD 21230

  • Federal Hill location, a block away from the stadium
  • Another less-crowded option, with standard bar fare
  • Just as likely to host baseball fans and neighborhood regulars alike

Pratt Street Ale House, 206 W Pratt St, Baltimore, MD 21201

  • Three blocks from Oriole Park at Camden Yards 
  • Dozens of beer options, plus signature cocktails and wine choices aplenty
  • Well-known nightlife spot for postgame celebrations

Seafood Options:

L.P. Steamers, 1100 E Fort Ave, Baltimore, MD 21230

  • Have to drive instead of walk (9 minutes by car)
  • Considered a go-to spot for Maryland-style seafood 
  • Mentioned specifically by Manny Machado upon his return to Baltimore

Phillips Seafood, 601 E. Pratt Street, Baltimore, MD 21202

  • 20-minute walk to Camden Yards, right in the heart of the Inner Harbor
  • Huge letters outside the building a part of the local skyline
  • Famous for their crabcakes, but serve all kinds of seafood and non-seafood options

Rusty Scupper, 402 Key Highway, Inner Harbor Marina, Baltimore, MD 21230

  • Another slightly further, pricier option for local seafood
  • Beautiful view right on the water
  • Live patio entertainment
  • Happy hour from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. every Monday through Friday

Postgame Dessert Options:

Insomnia Cookies, Federal Hill, 1059 S Charles St, Baltimore, MD 21230

  • 20-minute walk from the stadium
  • Wide variety of deluxe cookie options, plus brownies, ice cream, cake and dessert sandwiches
  • Open until 3 a.m. every night

Polar Roll Creamery, 600 E Pratt St Suite 105, Baltimore, MD 21202

  • 20-minutes from Camden Yards, on the Inner Harbor 
  • Rolled ice cream
  • Watch yourserver roll the ice cream in front of you

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