Jays ship veteran catcher Russell Martin to Dodgers for minor leaguers

TORONTO — An off-season of change continued for the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday as the team dealt catcher Russell Martin to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a pair of minor-league prospects.

The move came a month after the Blue Jays gave another high-priced veteran — shortstop Troy Tulowitzki — his release.

Like the Tulowitzki decision, Toronto will be eating a lot of Martin’s salary. The Canadian is owed US$20 million this season and reports indicate the Dodgers will only be on the hook for a fraction of it.

Joining the Blue Jays are right-hander Andrew Sopko and infielder Ronny Brito.

Sopko, who played 14 games for the double-A Tulsa Drillers last season, had a 3-1 record with a 3.88 earned-run average. A seventh-round pick in 2015, the 24-year-old has a career minor-league record of 27-17 with a 3.61 ERA with 363 strikeouts over 394 1/3 innings.

Brito, 19, split last season between the Dominican Summer League Dodgers and the rookie-level Ogden Raptors, hitting .295 over 61 games.

The trade sends Martin back to the team that drafted him in 2002. The 35-year-old from Chelsea, Que., spent his first five big-league seasons with the Dodgers.

Martin signed with Toronto as a free agent in November 2014. He helped the Blue Jays make back-to-back American League Championship Series appearances in 2015 and 2016.

The four-time all-star has also played for the New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates over his 13-year big-league career. Martin’s numbers have tailed off in recent seasons and his playing time has diminished.

He made 90 appearances last season and hit .194 with a 10 homers and 25 RBIs. Martin is slated to become a free agent at the end of the 2019 season.

Tulowitzki recently signed with the Yankees for the major-league minimum of $555,000. That will be offset against the $20 million that he’s owed for 2019 by the Blue Jays, who are also on the hook to pay him $14 million for 2020 along with a $4-million buyout of a 2021 team option.

Toronto is in full teardown mode after two straight disappointing seasons. The Blue Jays finished fourth in the American League East last year with a 73-89 record.

The Blue Jays have been stockpiling prospects and will field a young team in 2019 with an eye to returning to contention two or three years down the road.

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Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter. With files from The Associated Press.

Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press

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