In what was a groggy day in Yankee Universe, the New York Yankees went out and signed Russell Martin and Mark Prior to deals, both according to MLB.com. Both of these deals will certainly gives the Yankees more options for 2011, so let’s see how they will impact the team, if at all.

Russell Martin Looks Like Jesus Montero - NDG Baseball Alumni

Russell Martin – Catcher – 2010 Stats: 97 Games, .248/.347/.332, 5 HR, 26 RBI

Bringing on a catcher makes obvious sense for the Yankees. With Jorge Posada set to be the full-time designated hitter, a veteran is necessary to keep him off the playing field. Although Martin is only an average defensive catcher and barely has more power than Francisco Cervelli, this move speaks volumes to me:

1. The Yankees simply do not think of Francisco Cervelli as anything more than a backup. Clearly, his lack of power is frustrating to management (0 HR, .335 SLG in 317 plate appearances). And even though he seems to mesh well with the pitching staff, he struggled this year throwing out baserunners. In 2010, he threw out only 9 of 64 baserunners for a total of 14%. Compare that to his rookie year, where he threw out 10 of 23 (43%) would-be runners. Although 2009’s sample size is small, that is a HUGE gap.

2. The Yankees do not know what they will do with Jesus Montero. Martin is the ultimate insurance policy. If 21-year-old Jesus Montero can prove that he can rake with the big boys, he will certainly get a chance to play. Make no doubts about it, he can hit (.289/.353/.517 as a 20-year-old in Scranton-Wilkes Barre). However, Yankee management will not rush him into action. I believe Martin and Montero will compete for the starting catcher job, with the one who is showing better defense in Spring Training taking the cake.

3. I like this move. Worst comes to worst, the Yankees will have a former All-Star as a backup catcher in 2011. That will bring some value to the trade market come the deadline in August. This will also be the fifth (Posada, Cash, Cervelli, Molina) catcher to catch the volatile A.J. Burnett, so maybe he will be the one to get his head straight?

Mark Prior – Pitcher – 2010 Stats: Did not appear in any games.

I know what you’re thinking; This is the Yankee move to make up for missing Cliff Lee? Don’t worry, this is a very low risk / high reward move for the Yanks. Prior has bounced around the minors after injuring his elbow multiple times. Although we do not have the details of the Martin deal, the Prior deal is a minor league deal with a $750,000 Major League option. The deal is obviously very incentive-laden for him to make the Major League roster. Internally, the Yankees view Prior as a bullpen/long-relief option rather than a starter.

Fun Fact: Mark Prior was originally drafted by the Yankees in 1998 with the 42nd overall pick. The two teams were not able to reach an agreement on a contract (remind you of anyone?), so he went to Vanderbilt, transferred to USC and got drafted #2 overall by the Chicago Cubs 2001. Promptly, Prior and former Yankee reliever Kerry Wood took the NL Central by storm before their respective arms fell off.

Yankees fans, what do you think of these deals? Are you excited at the prospect of having two above-average players for next year, or are you still hungover from the misery that was losing Cliff Lee?