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Dodgers reuniting with catcher Martin

Los Angeles sends Minor Leaguers Sopko, Brito to Toronto in swap
MLB.com @kengurnick

LOS ANGELES -- After being reacquired by the Dodgers on Friday, Russell Martin told president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman that he wanted to win a championship so badly he'd do anything and play any position.

"I'm super excited to be back where it all started for me, and I always felt there was some unfinished business when I left, so I'm glad for this opportunity," Martin said.

LOS ANGELES -- After being reacquired by the Dodgers on Friday, Russell Martin told president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman that he wanted to win a championship so badly he'd do anything and play any position.

"I'm super excited to be back where it all started for me, and I always felt there was some unfinished business when I left, so I'm glad for this opportunity," Martin said.

"I don't want this to be my last year. Coming off a year where I feel I underperformed offensively, I'm looking for a bounce-back year and I'm looking for a championship. I'm still hungry for that. That keeps me motivated. I know the team in L.A. got close last year and they're really hungry for it."

Friedman swapped Minor Leaguers Ronny Brito and Andrew Sopko for Martin, with the Blue Jays agreeing to pay $16.4 million of Martin's $20 million salary this season.

Tweet from @Dodgers: Welcome back, @russellmartin55! pic.twitter.com/Qj7wOnLqZ3

Martin's first five years in the Major Leagues were with the Dodgers, and they see him returning as an ideal veteran catching partner for Austin Barnes as the club awaits the arrival of catching prospects Will Smith and Keibert Ruiz. Martin replaces Yasmani Grandal, who chose free agency and signed a one-year, $18.25 million deal with the Brewers on Wednesday.

"He's still really good at what he does behind the plate," Friedman said of Martin, a four-time All-Star and a Gold Glove Award and Silver Slugger Award winner entering his 14th Major League season.

Video: Russell Martin's most memorable Dodgers highlights

The first five of those were with the Dodgers, who converted Martin from third base.

"He'll team up with Austin to be a really good duo behind the plate," Friedman said. "We feel they can be good stewards for our pitching staff."

Martin, who turns 36 in February, is coming off a disappointing 2018 season during which he hit .194 with 10 homers and 25 RBIs in 90 games.

"Last year was obviously a down year [offensively], but digging into it more, the quality of at-bat is elite and the batted ball profile is still strong," Friedman said. "We'll … bet on him at the plate beyond what he did last year. At that position, the offensive bar isn't extremely high and there's obviously a lot more that goes into a catcher having value. We feel between he and Barnes, we'll get good offensive production and good production behind the plate."

Martin is the second All-Star to be reacquired by the Dodgers after Matt Kemp in 2018, when Kemp turned back into an NL All-Star.

"There's something about putting on that Dodgers uniform that can bring out the magic in you," Martin said. "I hope to get some of that magic this year. It's a big year for me. I need to have a good year or nobody's going to want to have me. The motivation is there."

Video: TOR@TB: Martin makes managerial debut vs. the Rays

A Canadian native, Martin was non-tendered by the Dodgers in 2010 coming off a hip injury and joined the Yankees, then the Pirates and most recently the Blue Jays. He was an All-Star as recently as 2015. He also notably managed the Blue Jays' final game of the 2018 season after the departure of longtime skipper John Gibbons.

Martin also has played third base, shortstop, second base and the outfield in recent years.

"We have something unique with Russell and Austin in that both are really good athletes," Friedman said. "Both can kick out and do different things."

The Dodgers had targeted Miami catcher J.T. Realmuto as Grandal's replacement and the Marlins demanded center fielder Cody Bellinger in return, but Los Angeles had no interest in dealing him. While the Dodgers also have been rumored as suitors for game-changers like outfielder Bryce Harper and starting pitcher Corey Kluber, acquiring a catcher has been a top offseason priority.

"Our focus is always on wanting to get better," Friedman said, when asked if he might still be in the market for a catcher, without mentioning any names (like Realmuto). "We like the team we have in place, but that doesn't mean we aren't focusing on continuing to improve it, whether that's before the season starts or when the season is in progress."

Tweet from @Ken_Rosenthal: There is not a chance the 2019 version of Russell Martin would preclude the #Dodgers from continuing to pursue J.T. Realmuto.

Sopko, 24, was selected by the Dodgers in the seventh round of the 2015 MLB Draft out of Gonzaga, and he has a career 27-17 Minor League record with a 3.61 ERA and 363 strikeouts against 112 walks over four seasons.

Brito, 19, signed with Los Angeles as an international free agent from the Dominican Republic on July 2, 2015, and has a career Minor League slash line of .259/.339/.418 with 15 homers and 104 RBIs over three seasons.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Russell Martin