martin-russell101203

Solid in the field, catcher Russell Martin, right, has struggled at the plate in recent years. He posted a batting average of .248 in 2010, down from .250 the previous season and .280 in 2008. ((Stephen Dunn/Getty Images))

Russell Martin is a free and, seemingly, wanted man.

The Los Angeles Dodgers deemed the price for a catcher coming off a fractured right hip — thought to be in the $5-million US range — too rich and couldn't come to an agreement with the Toronto native before a deadline Thursday at midnight ET to offer deals to players under their control for 2011.

So Martin, who wasn't eligible to hit the free market for another two years, can negotiate with any of the other 29 major league teams.

The New York Times reported that the Yankees nearly acquired Martin on Thursday for fellow catcher Francisco Cervelli. The teams apparently exchanged medical records on Wednesday.

On Friday, FOXSports.com — through Martin's agent Matt Colleran — reported the Yankees and five other teams remain interested.

Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti told the Los Angeles Times he would like to re-sign the 27-year-old Martin, but said the two sides were far apart in contract negotiations leading up to Thursday's deadline.

Colletti did come to an agreement with a catcher Thursday, bringing back Rod Barajas on a one-year contract, sources told the Times.

Barajas, 35, was acquired from the New York Mets for cash on Aug. 22 and hit .297 in 25 games for L.A. with five home runs and 13 runs batted in.

'Extremely athletic'

"The Dodgers may become a different option," Colleran told FOXSports.com. "They see Russ — and they know him very well — as being extremely athletic. Although they may have signed another catcher, they want to continue discussions with the idea that Russ could come back and catch, play second base and third and a little bit out of outfield."

It's believed the Dodgers didn't want to offer Martin salary arbitration and take a chance the player would earn a raise from his $5.05 million US salary last season after suffering a small fracture in his hip. Martin's offensive game is also on the decline.

Under baseball's collective bargaining agreement, the Dodgers couldn't have cut Martin's salary by more than 20 per cent if they tendered him a contract.

A two-time all-star, Martin reportedly proposed a deal that included a $5-million base salary and $1 million in incentives.

In 2010, he posted a batting average of .248, down from .250 the previous season and .280 in 2008. He hit a career-best 19 home runs in 2007 but swatted 13, seven and five the next three years.

Martin also went from a career-high of 87 RBIs in 2007 to a low of 26 in 97 contests in 2010.

The Dodgers could re-sign him at any price at or above the major league minimum of $400,000.