1. Russell Martin: 2013-2014
Not many people remember, but when Russell Martin initially signed with the Pirates, many fans and media pundits dismissed the signing as a desperate team overpaying for a light-hitting catcher simply because he was a “name.”
Martin quickly put that theory to rest as he was ridiculously valuable during his first season in Pittsburgh. He helped lead the Pirates’ to their first playoff berth since 1992 and quickly became a vocal leader in the clubhouse.
During his two seasons in Pittsburgh, Martin not only provided elite catching defense by throwing out 39.5 percent of would-be base-stealers, he hit .256/.362/.401/.764/116OPS+, hit 26 home runs, and was worth 9.7 WAR. He was everything the Pirates could have asked for and more.
He is also forever ingrained in Pittsburgh sports lore because of his home run off of Johnny Cueto during the 2013 National League Wildcard Game. That moment alone makes the contract worth it in my book. The Pirates did a great job replacing Martin’s production by trading for Francisco Cervelli, but Martin will forever hold a special place in many fans’ hearts because of what he represented to the team. He was a key member of a franchise rising from the dead and returning to glory. He was a vocal and emotional leader that always seemed to come through in the big moments. He may be a Toronto Blue Jay now, but Russell Martin will forever be linked to the Pittsburgh Pirates.