Pirates, Yankees look like biggest players in four-team Russell Martin derby

The Pirates are said to be making a spirited effort to pry away catcher Russell Martin from the Yankees.

The Rangers and Mariners are two more possible suitors for Martin, but his choice appears likely to come down to the Yankees and Pirates. And he is expected to make that choice sometime within the next several days, perhaps before the Winter Meetings, which will begin Monday in Nashville, Tenn.

Word going around is that the Pirates might come in with the high bid, perhaps for three years and maybe close to $25 million -- though sources familair with their situation suggest $21 million is closer to where they are now. The Yankees are not believed to be offering anything close to that, but the bidding isn't over and it has been thought likely that Martin would prefer to stay in New York, where he has been the starting catcher the past two seasons.

The Yankees are thought likely to be offering only a two-year deal to date, but if they get close to Pittsburgh's reputed offer, either by bumping up the salary, adding an option year or perhaps even a third year, they still might have the inside track. Martin is well-liked in Yankees circles, and there aren't a lot of great outside options.

A.J. Pierzynski had the best year of all the free-agent catchers, but it's uncertain whether the Yankees might turn to him next. Letting Martin leave and giving the job to some combination of Francisco Cervelli, Austin Romine and Eli Whiteside wouldn't be very Yankee-like.

Martin hit only .211 last year when he made $7.5 million but had 21 home runs and was a finalist for the Gold Glove that went to Baltimore's Matt Wieters.

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