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Russell Martin says Dodgers answered question of how much they wanted him

Russell Martin said he turned down an offer from the Dodgers earlier this month because he wanted to learn something.

How much did the Dodgers want him? Did they still believe in him?

Martin said he figured that if the Dodgers were convinced he could regain his old form, his rejection of their proposal wouldn’t have resulted in their severing ties. They would have tendered him a contract, even if doing so would have locked them into paying him more than the $5.05 million he earned last season.

They didn’t. And like that, the first member of the Dodgers’ young nucleus to become an All-Star became the first to leave.

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“They kind of gave me the answer I wanted,” Martin said.

The split became official Thursday, when the New York Yankees announced they signed Martin to a one-year, $4-million contract that could be worth as much as $5.375 million, including performance-based incentives.

Martin conceded that the deal he signed wasn’t significantly different from the deal he was offered by the Dodgers leading up to the tender deadline, which included a base salary of $4.2 million and the chance to earn another $1.1 million in bonuses.

But Martin said he had no regrets. He wanted his answer.

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“The only way to find out how much a team wants you is to take a risk,” Martin said.

Martin said he understood why the Dodgers decided to let him go. If they tendered him a contract, he probably would have earned about $6 million in the salary-arbitration process. His offensive production declined dramatically over the last two seasons. He is also recovering from a season-ending fractured hip.

Turns out there was more. The physical examination Martin underwent to finalize his deal with the Yankees showed that he has torn cartilage in his right knee. He will have surgery Monday. The procedure is considered minor, and Martin said he would be sidelined for only three weeks.

Martin, who is expected to be the Yankees’ starting catcher, said the reality that he’s no longer a Dodger hasn’t sunk in.

“I think it’s going to hit more once I’m in a different uniform,” he said.

Of the Dodgers, Martin said, “They’re still my boys over there. I wish them the best of luck.”

There was a time when Martin and his boys used to be called “The Kids.” The group — which included Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Jonathan Broxton, James Loney and Chad Billingsley — broke into the major leagues together. They were supposed to be the future of the franchise.

Martin said he leaves the Dodgers feeling the group fell short of what it set out to do.

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“We got to the playoffs, we had some good seasons,” Martin said. “But the goal is to win the whole thing, so it’s a little disappointing.”

Martin said he’s pleased to have landed with the Yankees — and not only because he’s closer to his native Montreal.

“If you want a chance to win, I don’t think there’s any better place to play than in New York with the Yankees,” he said.

Short hops

The Dodgers remain in pursuit of free-agent outfielder Bill Hall.… Reliever Matt Guerrier passed a physical to finalize his three-year, $12-million contract.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com


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