While a return for catcher Russell Martin to the Dodgers in 2020 is still up in the air, his intentions for next season are certainly clear, as he already began his very strict workout routine preparing for the upcoming campaign.
Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported the news this morning.
Even amid some speculation during last season’s summer months that 2019 would be his final MLB endeavor, the 36-year-old native of Canada was still able to remain relatively healthy throughout the year. Aside from a few weeks on the injured list with backs spasms and several days on the bereavement list at the end of August, Martin was an integral part of the Los Angeles roster the entire season.
Martin is well-known for implementing MMA routines into his offseason workout regimens. Across the league, he is very much respected for his level of fitness and intensity in the gym.
“Since I work out in a circuit-training environment, the power endurance was what really attracted me to MMA workouts. There are no limits to how hard you can go. That’s how they push themselves,” Martin explained in an interview with Men’s Journal several years back. “It has helped me become more efficient, getting the most out of a workout in the shortest period of time. For me, the key is mastering mobility and stability. Everything in baseball—my catching, my swing—I want to make sure I have it all under control.”
During his end-of-season press conference, front office boss Andrew Friedman had nothing but good things to say about Martin.
“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,” Friedman said.
Not only did Martin log 486.0 innings behind the plate, but he also made seven appearances at third base, where he recorded seven assists and one putout with no errors on eight total chances. What’s more, he was extremely effective as a relief pitcher, registering four full innings over four appearances. In those outings, he surrendered no earned runs on just two hits and no walks while striking out two.
Even teammate Walker Buehler, the emerging ace of the Dodgers’ starting rotation, offered praise for Martin—jokingly or not.
“He’s pretty good,” Buehler told reporters late last August. “He’s got some spin rate. You guys should check his numbers.”
In spite of all that, there’s no question his age is catching up with him, especially in terms of offensive production. With just six homers last year, his 2019 campaign was the first season in nine years when he didn’t log double digits in homers. In all, Martin slashed .220/.337/.330 over 209 AB.
Nevertheless, those efforts were still better than the .194 average he posted for the Blue Jays in 289 AB during the 2018 season.
Regardless, as inferred by Friedman, the former 2002 draft pick of the Dodgers was able to contribute to the team that may have conceivably outweighed his offerings with the bat. Martin was viewed by many in the Los Angeles clubhouse as a strong leader and an exemplary role model, specifically for the younger players.
The problem with Martin’s return, however, could lie in the number he has in mind for a salary. He made an even $20 million last season, which was the final year of a five-year, $82 million dollar deal he inked with the Blue Jays. After the dust settled on the trade with the Dodgers, Los Angeles ended up paying just $3.6 million of what he was owed last year.
In reality, Martin will be extremely fortunate to find a 2020 deal in the $5 million range.
We have already discussed the circumstances surrounding a potential return to Los Angeles for the veteran, but Friedman didn’t provide any hints on which way he was leaning.
“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 explained.
Either way, there’s a good chance that Martin will latch on somewhere for at least one more season, so long as the prospective salary is practical for him.