Yankees, Russell Martin finalize contract

Updated: December 16, 2010, 5:34 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- Russell Martin wanted the Los Angeles Dodgers to show him some love. When he didn't get it, he was willing to move on.

The catcher finalized a $4 million, one-year contract with the New York Yankees on Thursday, a few weeks after rejecting an offer from Los Angeles that guaranteed $200,000 more. When he turned down the Dodgers' deal, the team allowed him to become a free agent.

"I wanted to find out how bad the Dodgers wanted me and see if they still believed in me," Martin said during a telephone conference call. "So by doing that, they kind of gave me the answer that I wanted to find out about."

Martin, who was born in Ontario, turned down interest from Toronto and Boston. He said changing teams will hit him when he arrives at spring training and puts on a different uniform.

"They're still my boys over there," he said. "It's tough not being able to be with the guys that I've always played with, but my main goal is just to have a chance to win. If you want a chance to win, I don't think there is any better place to play than in New York with the Yankees."

Martin becomes the Yankees' primary catcher, with Jorge Posada shifting to designated hitter. Barring a trade, Francisco Cervelli, Jesus Montero and Austin Romine will compete for a reserve role.

"He was one of the premier catchers in the game not too long ago," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "From performance and injuries the last two years, he's slipped from that status, but we feel he's a low-risk, high-reward scenario."

Martin will have surgery Monday to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, an injury the Yankees discovered during his physical. Cashman said Martin should be ready by the start of spring training.

The 27-year-old was an NL All-Star in 2007 and 2008, hitting 19 homers in 2007 and driving in 90 runs the following year. He set career lows last season with a .248 average, five homers and 26 RBIs in 97 games. His season was cut short Aug. 3 when he broke his right hip and tore a labrum against San Diego while tagging up and trying to score on a flyball.

"It could be a physical thing," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "But I believe we can get him back to where he was. He's a patient hitter. He knows how to work the count."

Martin said he tried to be more athletic in his swing, going for speed, agility and flexibility instead of strength.

"I lost a little bit of my power," he said.

In a strange way, Martin said, the meniscus surgery actually could be a positive because it allows a little more downtime for the hip injury that cost him the final two months of the 2010 season.

"It feels great," Martin said. "I haven't felt anything wrong with it for at least a month now. With the knee thing, now it's kind of like [the hip] will get even more rest, so now it will be ready for sure."

New York had planned to move the 40-year-old Posada from behind the plate, and Cashman had been saying Cervelli would compete with the two young players for playing time.

"As these kids take the next step to the major league level, they can develop on their time frame, and now the time frame is not forced on them because we need them now at all cost," Cashman said. "Instead of sink or swim, it's now a situation where we can ease them in."

Girardi said the youngsters may be better off in the minors than a promotion to a major league backup role.

"It is a position that you want guys playing every day, improving their skills," he said.

Martin made $5.05 million last season and the Dodgers included in their offer $1.5 million in performance bonus that could have raised his income next year to $5.7 million.

Martin can earn an additional $1,375,000 in performance bonuses under his Yankees deal for games played at catcher: $50,000 each for 30 and 35, and $75,000 apiece for 40 and each additional five through 120.

Part of Martin's job, along with that of Posada, will be mentoring Montero and Romine.

"We have great depth," Cashman said. "We have great protection from injuries."

Information from ESPNLosAngeles.com's Tony Jackson and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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