With free agent Russell Coltrane Martin leaving New York for the big bucks in Pittsburgh -- and if I had a dime for every time I've written those last few words ... -- the Yankees are looking for a regular catcher.
Here's what Brian Cashman said on the subject, just this morning: "It’s possible that our catchers are right here on this roster right now. That is very possible, and more likely than not, to be honest."
Those catchers right there on the roster? Here's the exciting list of candidates, via SB Nation New York:
- Austin Romine, 24, has played nine career big-league games. He played only 31 minor-league games last season, hitting .243, after missing most of the season with a back injury. If the season opened today, Romine might be the starter.
- Chris Stewart is a journeyman who played 55 games for the Yankees a season ago. He hit .241 and has a career .217 average. He has never played more than 67 games in a season.
- Francisco Cervelli was the Yankees' backup from 2009-2011. He lost that job to Stewart a season ago and hit .246 at the Triple A level.
- Eli Whiteside is a 33-year-old journeyman the Yankees recently signed. He has a .215 career average over parts of five big-league seasons.
Not a real starting catcher in the bunch.
Oh, but wait! I have an idea! How about a platoon?
Oh. Right. All four of them bat right-handed. So that won't work.
The basic truth here is that none of these guys can hit, at all. Romine might be the leader at the far turn, but he's played in only 30 games above Double-A; there's no evidence that he can hit Triple-A pitching, let alone anything higher than that.
My guess? Cashman gets another catcher, either a regular catcher who can hit or a lefty-hitting catcher who can hit some. But either way, this isn't the end of the world. Russell Martin's OPS+ over the last two seasons was 94, and the Yankees averaged 96 wins. The next catcher probably won't hit quite as well as Martin, and might not field quite as well. But every team has a hole somewhere, and lots of good teams over the years have relied on defense-first catchers.
With all that straight, this is an exceptionally strange turn of events, with the Yankees' insistence on keeping their payroll under $189 million resulting in the loss of a desirable player to the Pittsburgh Pirates. I suppose if I were a Yankees fan, I might find this frustrating and perhaps infuriating. As a baseball fan, though, I couldn't be happier about seeing the Steinbrothers focusing on lining their wallets instead of donning their ring fingers with championship jewelry.