Kevin Kennedy on a Potential Dodgers Reunion with Russell Martin
Former Dodgers' catcher Russell Martin is available for hire. I'd argue that even at 37 years of age he's a more compelling player than Austin Barnes and would likely come cheap. He's a fan favorite for good reason and a leader in the clubhouse. Like no other position on a baseball team, a catcher could be lost to injury at any time.
So what's wrong with this picture? And why in the world would Los Angeles let Martin go to the Mets?
Former big league manager and a catcher himself, Kevin Kennedy, seemed like the right man to handle this one. So in email exchange this morning, I asked him, “should the Dodgers bring back Russell Martin for 2020?”
Here’s the response:
“Yes, for sure. At this stage of his career Martin is the perfect veteran backup catcher who’d serve the Dodgers well again. He did a solid job last year in that role.
"Will Smith is obviously going to be the number one catcher. However, this will be his first full year in the big leagues and playing 162 versus 140 in the minor leagues is a huge difference.
"Russell would be a great compliment to him. Though he doesn't hit for much of a batting average anymore -- which many organizations no longer care about -- he relies on experience and guesses right in key RBI situations. He came up with some key hits last year, including a big one in the playoffs against the Nationals.
“The other part of this is that you want to keep Keibert Ruiz playing every day in Triple-A.
“Barnes gets low under the hitter and gives the umpire a good look at the pitch. That's his strength in receiving. There is room for improvement on his throwing. I just think Martin is the better option. He's still good behind the plate defensively, sets up well and calls a good game. Barnes would be my number three. He’s hit well in the past; perhaps he'll get that back.”
Kennedy was being kind. Barnes hit .205/.329/.290 in 2018, following up with a .203/.293/.340 mark in 2019. In his 28 and 29-year-old seasons, Barnes managed a WAR of 0.6. Combined. This is who he is.
Martin, at the end of his career, hit about the same at .220/.327/.330 in 2019, but put up a combined 2.0 WAR in his last two seasons, while performing respectably with runners in scoring position, at .259/.415/.315. Barnes hit .176/.290/.255 with RISP last year.
Barnes has hit .119 in his last four postseason series for L.A.; Martin went 2-4 with a double and a homer last October, including a game-winner.
Finally, as I'm reminded by clutch reader, Lee Fink, Martin can be of use out of the bullpen. In four 2019 appearances, the right-hand hurler allowed but two hits, with no walks and two strikeouts in four innings, good for a 0.00 ERA and a 0.500 WHIP.
Martin can still play, and there is the 26-man roster to consider now. I see no down side. None whatsoever. It's time to bring back Coltrane.
And remember, glove conquers all.
Kevin Kennedy is in his 24th year as a broadcaster after 20 seasons in uniform and 43 years in and around Major League Baseball. You can hear him on SiriusXM (where he's been since 2015), follow him on Twitter and check out his website at kevinkennedybaseball.com.
Howard Cole has been writing about baseball on the internet since Y2K. Follow him on Twitter.