With Russell Martin signing a two-year $17 million contract with the Pirates, the Yankees now have ‘starting catcher’ atop their Nashville shopping agenda. However, I’m not quite sure why. There are more than a few able bodied catchers already within the organization; and those that are currently available via free agency or (shudder the thought)Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft don’t fit the organization’s current thought patterns. Even so, a couple of free agent names have been buzzing around the rumor mill…
Sure, Pierzynski is a magnificent defensive catcher and is coming off a fabulous season where he hit .287 including a career high 27 homers. But can he find that magic again in 2013? I’d say it’s more than likely. This being the case, if the White Sox are smart (and I venture to say they are) A.J. will still be paying rent in Chicago next season.
Another excellent defensive catcher, the Ranger’s Mike Napoli has a decent bat but fell a little flat in 2012. Regardless, Napoli is a solid player; and should be able to command a multi-year contract. Something the Yanks are likely not prepared to offer.
Thus, this leaves the Bronx Bombers to take on an expensive place holder or work with what they have ‘in house’. I really think they can get it done with the guys they have provided management doesn’t play head games this coming spring. Yes, Mr. Cashman, I’m talking about you and what you did on the last day of spring training 2012. All I have to say is *tsk* *tsk*. But, I digress… Working with the current backup catchers and not signing a new starter will leave the Yanks with some extra cash to shop around for an outfielder to replace the likely departing Nick Swisher who will take his powerful left-handed bat with him.
Here are the three most likely starting backstops for the Yanks in the 2013 season provided they do the logical thing and don’t sign anyone new.
Acquired from the Giants as the primary backup to Martin this past season, Stewart seems the likely choice for the starting role. He’s a solid defensive catcher with the ability to work with anyone in the current rotation. However, his inability to add power to the lineup (.319 slugging percentage) may prove to be an issue depending upon how the Yanks fill the rest of the 40-man roster.
I firmly admit I have a soft spot for Cervelli. I love to watch him scramble, grab the ball and then rise behind the plate with a look of fiery death in his eyes. But my admiration for him doesn’t change the fact that he’s got enthusiasm (well, before it was squelched by Cashman last spring), calls a good game, hits well (has a .271/.339/.353 for his time in the majors), and throws runners out at a better than decent rate (31 percent). His weakness lies in his defensive play. However, even Stewart lets a few balls get by him (eight this past season). Thus, I have firm belief that if given the opportunity, Cervelli could easily become a valuable asset in the Bronx.
The critics’ darling, I cannot argue that Romine has the makings of an excellent starting backstop with his marvelous defensive skills and a true knack for the game. However, a bad back kept him on the sidelines for much of last season. Truth be told, it would be smart for the Yanks to keep Romine in the minors for a season to ensure he’s got his health and the chops to handle the majors.
Now to sit back and watch the show that is the Major League Baseball winter meetings. No doubt there will be more than one surprise from the Yanks front office. But, I do wonder who will take home the belle of the ball, Zack Greinke…