Russell Martin: The most sought .sub.-.220-hitting free agent ever

Russell Martin's defense and power (he hit 21 home runs), means he should still do well in free agency. (US Presswire)

Catcher Russell Martin could find himself about the most coveted .211 hitter ever on the free-agent market.

The New York Yankees surely won't make Martin, who made $7.5 million this season, the $13.3 million qualifying offer by today's 5 p.m. deadline, but are still hoping to retain him in a fairly thin catching market.

With the options for Brian McCann ($12 million) and Carlos Ruiz ($5 million) picked up by the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies , respectively, the top free-agent catchers are A.J. Pierzynski , Martin and Mike Napoli , with Napoli seen as more of a hybrid by some at this point, able to slide over and be a DH or first baseman.

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Pierzynski had a big year, but while the Chicago White Sox have the option to move to youngster Tyler Flowers , Pierzynski is a favorite of team owner Jerry Reinsdorf and could still wind up staying on the South Side. If that happens, with Napoli seen as a multi-position player, Martin may actually be viewed as the top fulltime catcher in his prime on the market.

David Ross is probably next best on the list, along with Miguel Olivo and Yorvit Torrealba . Kelly Shoppach , Gerald Laird , Rod Barajas , Chris Snyder , Henry Blanco and Matt Treanor are among other free-agent catchers.

Martin, still only 29, looks pretty special in this group.

While his low batting average means the new, rich catching contracts signed by Yadier Molina and Miguel Montero (of, respectively, $75 million and $65 million) can't be viewed as viable comps, Martin's defense (he was a Gold Glove finalist and is a former winner of the award) and power (he hit 21 home runs), means he should still do well.

The Yankees have excellent catching depth, with Chris Stewart , Francisco Cervelli , Austin Romine and several top younger catchers at lower levels, including Gary Sanchez and J.R. Murphy. But they like Martin very much, don't have a starter for 2013 and want him back.

The Pittsburgh Pirates , Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners are also seen as teams in need of a catcher who could spend. The New York Mets and Tampa Bay Rays need catching help, but aren't expected to spend much for that need. The Mets, in particular, seem inclined to try to trade for a catcher. The Red Sox, and White Sox (if Pierzynski goes) could be two more teams looking at catching.

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