Free-agent catcher Russell Martin is seriously considering a position change this off-season in addition to a new contract.
The Montreal native reportedly has told Greg Hamilton, director of national teams for Baseball Canada, he’s interested in playing shortstop for his country in March at the World Baseball Classic.
Canada doesn’t boast a major leagues shortstop, a position the 29-year-old Martin played in high school and college and on previous Baseball Canada teams Hamilton coached.
“If it’s something that would help the team, I am willing to do it,” Martin told the New York Times over the weekend. “It’s my most natural position.”
At the 2009 WBC, Chris Barnwell (30 career MLB at-bats) played short for Canada.
Should Martin change positions for the 2013 event, the Canadians would start Oakland Athletics catcher George Kottaras. Last week, Martin told Montreal’s La Presse: “My goal at the Classic will show the world that I can do it,” in reference to being a part-time infielder.
Martin told the Times that he is looking to build on his offensive skills over the course of his next contract.
He did hit a career-high 21 home runs for the New York Yankees in 2012 but also watched his batting average hover around .200 at times. Martin’s average dipped below .200 as late as Sept. 3 but two days later he bumped it back over “The Mendoza Line” for good.
Martin hit .211 overall and .242 in the second half of the regular season, shining down the stretch with a .277 average, seven homers and 17 runs batted in over his last 24 games. In the playoffs, Martin hit .161 in nine contests with one home run.
Through it all, Martin never let his struggles at the plate affect other parts of his game which could strengthen his bargaining power.
“When you go through tough times for a substantial period it can really tax on you, and I never saw it [this season from Martin],” Yankees manager Joe Girardi told CBCSports.ca in September.
“I never saw him stop working. I never saw him take [his frustrations] behind home plate and it just shows you how unselfish of a player he really is.”
Martin is negotiating with several teams including Boston, Seattle and Texas, according to the Times, but New York has yet to present him an offer. He wants a four-year contract worth $9 million-$10 million US annually, according to ESPN New York.