Catcher Martin signs 2-year deal with Pirates

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PITTSBURGH (AP) -- A day after agreeing to the deal in principle, the Pirates signed free-agent catcher Russell Martin to a $17 million, two-year contract on Friday.

Martin, 29, a three-time All-Star, hit .211 with 21 homers and 53 RBIs in 133 games last year with the New York Yankees. Martin's batting average has declined in each of the last five seasons after he hit .293 and made his first All-Star game while playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2007.

The signing reunites Martin with right-hander A.J. Burnett. The two played together with the Yankees in 2011 before Burnett was traded to Pittsburgh last spring.

The Pirates were in need of an experienced backstop after declining the club option on Rod Barajas, who struggled in his one season in black-and-gold. Barajas hit .206 with 11 homers in 104 games and struggled defensively, throwing out just 6 percent (6 of 99) potential base stealers.

After a surprising start, Pittsburgh stumbled down the stretch last season. The Pirates finished 79-83.

Martin was offered a three-year, $20 million deal by Yankees general manager Brian Cashman in spring training and did not accept it. New York did not make him an offseason offer.

"I like Russell Martin," Cashman said Friday at a charity event in Stamford, Conn. "I'm a big Russell Martin fan. But ultimately we have a lot of holes to fill and we have to be very careful how we spend our money. The market for Russell was aggressive as it should have been and again our focus has been our pitching."

Mike McKenry, the backup to Barajas last season in Pittsburgh, fared better than the starter, but does not have Martin's resume. Martin threw out 25 percent (20 of 83) of base stealers last season and committed just six errors in 128 games at catcher, the same total Barajas had in 24 fewer appearances.

The signing is the latest dip into deeper pockets by Pittsburgh, which tied for the franchise's best record in 20 years last season. The year was marred by a late fade in which the Pirates fell from playoff contention. But the team opted to not make any major changes to the front office and instead focus on upgrading several spots, with catcher being among the top priorities.