Russell Martin Trade Brings Veteran Back To Dodgers
The Dodgers are bringing back an old friend, as catcher Russell Martin is returning to Los Angeles. The Dodgers acquired Martin from the Blue Jays on Friday afternoon in exchange for righthander Andrew Sopko and infielder Ronny Brito.
Martin hit .194/.338/.325 for the Blue Jays last season in what was the worst offensive season of his career. The 35-year-old is in the final year of a five-year contract and is slated to earn $20 million in 2019.
A seventh-round pick out of Gonzaga in 2015, Sopko ranked 26th on the Dodgers' Top 30 Prospects as recently as two years ago. He has spent much of the past three seasons at Double-A Tulsa. Brito ranked 25th on Baseball America's Top 50 International amateur prospects in 2015. The 19-year-old switch-hitter spent much of last season at short-season Ogden.
Russell Martin, C
It's been a long time since Martin backstopped the Dodgers to back-to-back NLCS appearances in 2008-09 and made back-to-back All-Star games with the team. Then a young, rising standout, Martin is now a veteran on his last legs. He played only 91 games last season and 90 games the year before due to injury, and he has seen his offense decline rapidly, cratering with last season's career-worst showing. Martin is still an able defensive catcher on a part-time basis, and he moved to third base for 21 games last year as well (in addition to three games at shortstop). With the Dodgers lacking a big league catcher to pair with Austin Barnes, Martin fills that need and provides veteran leadership in the clubhouse. For Toronto, this move opens up playing time for rising young catchers Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire.
BLUE JAYS ACQUIRE:
Andrew Sopko, RHP
Sopko has spent the last three seasons bouncing between high Class A and Double-A, but he appeared to finally solve the higher level last season, going 3-1, 2.88 with 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 41 appearances (10 starts) at Double-A Tulsa. Like many Dodgers pitchers, Sopko primarily works north-south with a four-seam fastball up and a curveball down in the zone. He sits 92-93 mph and stands out more for his pitchability than his pure stuff, hitting his spots and mixing in a slider and changeup to keep hitters off balance. None of Sopko's offerings are truly plus, but he throws strikes and mixes his pitches enough for evaluators to see him contributing in the majors in some form. Sopko will begin his Blue Jays career in the upper levels of their system and has a chance to make his major debut in 2019 if he performs.
Ronny Brito, SS
Brito signed for $2 million as part of the Dodgers’ loaded 2015 international class that included Yadier Alvarez and Oneil Cruz. A broken leg limited him to 28 games in 2017, but he re-emerged in 2018 by leading all Pioneer League shortstops in home runs (11) and OPS (.841) at Rookie-level Ogden. Brito signed as a slick-fielding defensive shortstop whose defense was ahead of his bat, but he put on 20 pounds after his injury and now has a more balanced projection. Brito shows rare opposite-field power for a teenager, ambushing fastballs with a steep, uphill swing. He’s an aggressive free-swinger who doesn’t adjust with two strikes, resulting in plenty of strikeouts, but he makes impact contact when he connects. He is still working to improve his secondary pitch recognition and strike zone management. Brito has slowed down in the field but still flashes excellent hands, a smooth transfer and plus arm strength, giving him a chance to remain a shortstop. He is lethargic in the field sometimes and makes poor baserunning decisions, so his effort and focus are areas targeted for improvement. Brito’s ability to hit the ball hard and play a smooth defensive shortstop provide a workable foundation. Now, he needs to add maturity to his game. He will try to do that low Class A in 2019.