There are not many 32-year-old catchers who land five-year, $82 million contracts, but Russell Martin is not like many other catchers. In 2014, at age 31, Martin had one of the best seasons of his career. With improved strikeout and walk rates from his recent seasons, Martin exceeded a .400 on-base percentage for the first time in his career. His power numbers were down slightly from his Yankees days, but PNC Park in Pittsburgh has allowed 42 percent fewer home runs to right-handed hitters over the last three seasons according to the Bill James Handbook, which makes it the hardest venue for right-handed power in baseball. Based on the park-adjusted Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+), Martin's offense was 40 percent better than an average player last season. Only Buster Posey and Devin Mesoraco were better among catchers.
It's a tremendous luxury to have a productive offensive catcher, but Martin's greatest value is likely on defense. In two seasons with the Pirates, he threw out 57 of the 169 baserunners attempting to steal. His resulting 34 percent catcher caught stealing rate trailed only Yadier Molina among primary starters. He blocked 1,221 pitches in the dirt -- fourth most of all catchers -- and allowed just seven passed balls -- third fewest of 20 qualified catchers. He saved 15 runs with his pitch framing based on Baseball Info Solution's Strike Zone Runs Saved metric. In total, he saved the team 40 runs in his two seasons, which represents approximately four extra wins because of his defense alone. It was the most among catchers and tied for sixth most among all players. Martin finished 13th in NL MVP voting in 2014, and even that may undersell his value with the many subtle ways he contributes to his team's success defensively.