- Wallace Matthews, ESPN Staff Writer
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With a half dozen teams interested in Russell Martin, it's no slam dunk that Martin, who the Yankees like very much despite his subpar 2012, will be returning to the Bronx next year.
And since this is a particularly weak year for free-agent catchers, their best alternative seems to be Mike Napoli, who hit 24 HRs for the Texas Rangers this season. (A.J. Pierzynski, the other "name" catcher on the market, is soon to be 36 years old and presumably not a candidate for a multiyear deal).
So which do you choose?
Here's a quick comparison:
Napoli just turned 31, is a career .259 hitter and has hit 146 home runs and driven in 380 runs in seven big-league seasons. His career on-base percentage is a respectable .356. He made $9.4 million last season.
Martin will turn 30 in February. He is a career .260 hitter with 93 HRs and 418 RBI in seven seasons, and his career OBP is a just-as-respectable .352. He made $7.5 million last year.
Obviously, they are remarkably similar offensive players, with the edge in power going to Napoli, although as a right-handed hitter he might not hit as many home runs in Yankee Stadium.
And each hits left-handed pitching equally well: Napoli .273, Martin .271.
The one significant difference between the two is defense. Martin is a better catcher: He has thrown out a higher percentage of would-be base-stealers, 30 percent to 24 percent, and has allowed 37 passed balls in 851 games as a catcher to Napoli's 29 in just 485 games. Perhaps more importantly, Martin is a full-time catcher, catching at least 117 games every season, with a high of 149.
Napoli is slightly more than a part-time catcher -- he has never caught more than 96 games in a season, splitting the rest of his time between DH and first base. You have to wonder if his bat, and body, would hold up to the kind of daily grind Martin has shown himself to be up for.
So the question of the day to you is, if you are the Yankees, which one would you sign?
Not always so easy playing GM, now, is it?