Cashman, Yankees sorry to see Martin leave for Pirates

Russell MartinInbetween practice jumps down the side of the Landmark Building in Stamford, Conn. on Friday, as preparation for the city’s upcoming Heights and Lights festival, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman responded to Russell Martin’s decision to ink a reported two-year, $17 million contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Cashman said that the Yankees had interest in retaining Martin this spring (offering him a three-year, $20 million deal, according to reports at the time), but the Yankees seemed to recognize that Martin’s departure was a very real possibility as they headed into the winter. Cashman said the Yankees never got around to making Martin an offer after the season, instead choosing to focus on pitching.

We will have full coverage on MLB.com later today, but here are some quick reaction quotes from the Yankees GM, who said the team may very well have their starting catcher on the roster right now in Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart, Austin Romine or Eli Whiteside:

On the aforementioned group of replacement catchers:
“Listen, without a doubt, in terms of catching and throwing and running games, I’d line those guys up with some of the best catchers in the game on the defensive side, game planning and handling a pitching staff. The bats, a couple of guys have the potential to become everyday catchers because of their bats, if they develop. Other guys really are more backup oriented.”

On the blow of losing Martin to Pittsburgh:
“I like Russell Martin. 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. After that, I’ve got a lot of different holes to fill. We need to be careful how we allocate our remaining funds to make sure that we can fill all the holes. Now, I feel fortunate to have had Russell Martin for the two years that we had him, and I’m sorry to see him go. The Pirates got a really good one, but at the same time, I think we’ll find ways to cushion the blow like we always try to do.”

On if Martin’s departure creates another hole to fill:
“No, when he left for free agency, that was the hole. That hole has been there. This isn’t something that caught us off guard. It’s something we were very well aware of, and the agent was very honest with us, as well as the player, Russell. The best shot we took at retaining him was in Spring Training, and after that, obviously it became more difficult and now he’s moving on.”

On if the Yankees were willing to offer the three-year, $20 million deal again:
“No, we were prepared to do that in Spring Training. We never made an offer. … We never got to that point.”

On if the Yankees will play on the high-end catching market:
“At the end of the day, we have holes to fill. In the catching area, we do have placeholders there. We have people that can handle and run the game. The offense is an area that currently what the rest of our roster provides will be a downgrade from what we’re used to, but the most important aspect — listen, when Girardi was catching for us, he was a defense oriented catcher. We played him at the time ahead of a young Posada and an older Leyritz. They were more offensive oriented at those times, so it’s not like we haven’t gone with defensive oriented first situation. We transitioned from Mike Stanley to Girardi while Posada was being cultivated and growing still. We had Girardi, we had gone away from Leyritz who was offensive oriented. I only point that out because it’s not the first time we’ve been in this position, but it’s an acknowledgement that the offense that is provided off the roster at that position right now certainly isn’t what we’ve been accustomed to. The defense is special in our opinion, no matter what name we’re going after. If you want to throw Stewart’s name, Cervelli’s name, or Whiteside, who we claimed off waivers but recently designated. Romine is young and up and coming and had a very good Fall League; a lot of good things coming. He just missed a full year of Triple-A development, unfortunately. He’s back on track, he’s healthy. At the very least, that’s our fall back, but we are going to have to pursue a lot of areas on this club — the bench, right field, potentially catching. Maybe not. It’s possible that our catchers are right here on this roster, right now. That is very well possible and more likely than not, to be honest. We’ll see. Patience is a virtue and good things come to those who wait.”

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