While the New York Yankees remain the favorites to sign Russell Martin, they are not the only team pursuing him.
The free-agent catcher also is drawing significant interest from the Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners and Pittsburgh Pirates, according to major-league sources.
The Rangers, in particular, could pose a threat to the Yankees, who intend to be under the $189 million luxury-tax threshold by 2014.
Martin, 29, almost certainly will command a multi-year deal, and the Rangers conceivably could pressure the Yankees by making him a substantial offer.
On the other hand, the Yankees might not be willing to risk losing Martin over a difference of say, $2 million per season.
The average annual salary of players on multi-year contracts is used for luxury-tax purposes. The Yankees want to reduce their payroll below $189 million by ’14 to reap a variety of significant financial benefits under the new collective-bargaining agreement.
Both the Yankees and Rangers are thin at catcher. The Pirates, too, have a glaring need at the position, while the Mariners are looking for offense at a variety of spots. A.J. Pierzynski, who will turn 36 on Dec. 30, is the only other prominent catcher on the open market.
The Yankees need Martin or another regular catcher because all of their other options — Chris Stewart, Eli Whiteside, Francisco Cervelli and Austin Romine — project as backups next season.
Geovany Soto, a non-tender candidate, is the only experienced catcher on the Rangers’ roster. Michael McKenry is the only catcher on the Pirates’ roster, period.
Jesus Montero and John Jaso are the Mariners’ returning catchers, but Montero likely will be more of a DH next season.