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Jays ship veteran catcher Russell Martin to Dodgers for minor leaguers

Last Updated Jan 11, 2019 at 6:02 pm EST

Toronto Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin (55) reacts at home plate against the Cleveland Indians during seventh inning, game two American League Championship Series baseball action in Cleveland on Oct. 15, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

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.

With files from The Associated Press

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