By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) The Cubs have wasted little time in their pursuit of becoming a contending team in 2015. After hiring veteran manager Joe Maddon on Monday, the team rolled out the red carpet in a meeting with free agent catcher Russell Martin on Thursday, according to an MLB source.
Martin is considered one of the top catchers in the game and will have further serious conversations with four teams, including the Cubs, according to industry sources. The Pirates, Martin's most recent club, the Dodgers and Blue Jays are other teams that Martin and his agent will visit with.
The Cubs are believed to be pursuing veteran starting pitching to augment their youthful mix that has begun to develop under pitching coach Chris Bosio and his support staff. Left-hander Jon Lester is the top pitching target for the Cubs.
Having had six playoff appearances with three different teams, Martin is looked at a potential linchpin for those pitching staffs of the future in Chicago.
The money and years will be substantial for the 31-year-old Martin's services. Brian McCann signed a five-year, $75-million contract with the Yankees in the fall of 2013. Those figures should be a focal point for Russell and his agent as they sift through offers from teams that are serious bidders during the process.
Current Cubs catcher Welington Castillo is considered a rising talent, and he's already been the topic of some conversations among teams looking for catching. The 27-year-old Castillo has improved his game-calling and defensive skills in the last two years as a starter. His offense suffered in 2014, dropping 37 points in batting average to .237. However, Castillo's 13 home runs were a career-high.
Martin's 2014 was his best all-around season since 2007. He hit .290 with 11 home runs, 67 RBIs and a .402 on-base percentage. Martin was also second in the National League in throwing out 39 percent of runners.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.
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