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Reports: Blue Jays sign Canadian catcher Russell Martin to five-year deal

11/17/2014 01:02 EST | Updated 01/17/2015 05:59 EST
TORONTO - New Blue Jays hitting coach Brook Jacoby was quite impressed by Russell Martin when he saw the Canadian catcher play in the National League.

If multiple media reports are true, the two will get a chance to work together next season in Toronto.

Several outlets reported Monday that the Blue Jays have agreed to a US$82-million, five-year contract with Martin. The three-time all-star hit .290 with the Pittsburgh Pirates last season with 11 home runs and 67 runs batted in 111 games.

A Blue Jays spokesman said in an email that he had seen the reports, but had not announced anything. A message left with Martin's agent was not immediately returned.

Martin, 31, spent the last two seasons in Pittsburgh. The Toronto native, who grew up in Chelsea, Que., broke into the major leagues with Los Angeles in 2006 and spent five years with the Dodgers before a two-year stint with the New York Yankees.

Over nine seasons, the three-time all-star has a career .259 average with 119 home runs and 540 RBIs.

Jacoby, speaking on a conference call after his own hiring was announced, said he didn't know anything about the reported deal with Martin. However, he did see plenty of Martin in 2013 when they were both in the National League Central — Martin with the Pirates and Jacoby in his last season as Cincinnati's hitting coach.

"He did bring a lot for Pittsburgh, not only offensively in that catcher's position but his relationship with the pitchers and how well he worked the pitchers against hitters," Jacoby said. "I got to see it first-hand with him.

"What an asset he would be to any ball club that could get him. I hope that is true (that Martin is Toronto-bound)."

Dioner Navarro was the regular catcher for the Blue Jays last season and Josh Thole primarily served as knuckleballer R.A. Dickey's catcher. The addition of Martin could see Navarro shift to the designated hitter's role in 2015.

General manager Alex Anthopoulos has traditionally made his biggest splashes via the trade route, so the signing of Martin would be a dramatic change to his usual style. It would also send a signal that Toronto is ready to really open its wallet in an attempt to get over the hump in the American League East.

The Blue Jays enjoyed a strong first half last season before fading after the all-star break. Toronto settled for a third-place finish in the division with an 83-79 record.

Martin would provide some additional pop in a lineup that already boasts sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. The Canadian also has the experience to groom up-and-coming youngsters like Stroman, Drew Hutchison and possibly Aaron Sanchez in a starting rotation that is anchored by Dickey and Mark Buehrle.

He also has plenty of post-season experience, having reached the playoffs in seven of the last nine years. The Blue Jays have not reached the post-season since winning a second straight World Series title in 1993.

While the team did not make an announcement on Martin, pitcher Marcus Stroman was quick to weigh in on Twitter.

"Welcome @russellmartin55 to THE @BlueJays! #TORONTO," Stroman tweeted from his verified account.

Martin decided to test the free agent market after declining Pittsburgh's $15.3-million qualifying offer earlier this month. The Pirates would receive a draft pick in compensation if Martin signs with Toronto.

Blue Jays outfielder Melky Cabrera, who spent the last two seasons in Toronto, also declined his qualifying offer but has yet to sign with a team.

Jacoby, meanwhile, spent last season as a minor-league hitting co-ordinator in the Texas Rangers system. Prior to that, the 54-year-old Philadelphia native spent seven seasons as the Reds' hitting coach.

"I'm big on working the middle of the field, I'm big on situational hitting," Jacoby said. "So those are some big cards in my deck."

Jacoby played 11 seasons in the major leagues with Atlanta, Cleveland and Oakland and was an all-star with the Indians in 1986 and 1990. He started his coaching career in 2000 with Cincinnati.

Jacoby replaces Kevin Seitzer, who left Toronto last month to join the Atlanta Braves.

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