Sadly, Russell Martin’s tenure as a New York Yankee is over. The Russ Bus has pulled out of the Bronx and will make port in Pittsburgh now after Martin reached a deal with the Pirates last night. This leaves the Yankees with few options in the catching department and I, frankly, have no idea what they’ll do.
I would think that not signing Martin means they won’t sign A.J. Pierzynski. Everything was set for a Martin/Yankees reunion. His price would be reasonable and the Yankees needed a catcher. But, that didn’t happen for whatever reason. Either the Yankees didn’t like Martin as a player, which I doubt, or they found the price tag too high. While it’s not the most reasonable thing in the world, I have to think it’s the latter. And if the Yankees thought a 2/$17MM deal was too much for a catcher of Martin’s talents, then they sure aren’t going to go after Pierzynski, whose tag is likely to be much higher as he’s probably a) got a little more name value and b) is coming off of a career year. This would also exclude the hard-hitting Mike Napoli, as his contract will likely dwarf both Martin’s and Pierzynski’s. Napoli, despite his offensive prowess, is also a lesser catcher than both of the other options and is not a full-time catcher. I think they’ll avoid him for budgetary and baseball reasons. Hell, we’ve already seen the Yankees being averse to using a powerful righty with questionable defensive skills behind the plate, and that guy would’ve cost the league minimum.
The internal catching options don’t offer much hope either. With Eli Whiteside DFA’d to make room for Andy Pettitte, the Yankees’ in-house catchers are Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart, and Austin Romine. That is a group that inspires very, very little confidence. Cervelli probably isn’t as awful as we sometimes make him out to be, but he’s been a trainwreck defensively and his offense certainly doesn’t make up for it. He can draw a walk every so often, but that’s literally it for him on offense. Chris Stewart is, well, bad. His defense was okay, I guess, but not nearly as good as advertised and I’m pretty sure that my cat could outhit him at the dish. Romine just had the ultimate lost year in the minors: he was injured for most of it and didn’t perform well when he wasn’t injured. I highly doubt the Yankees, with postseason (and beyond) aspirations for every season will ask Romine to sink or swim behind the plate.
There’s always the trade market, and that’s about as clear to us as a class with this lady would be, and let’s be real here: good, viable starting catchers rarely hit the trade market. I can’t think of one who’d be on the market now and if one does hit the market, you can bet the cost will be high. Russell Martin may not have been the flashiest player for the Yankees, but given the rest of the market and the price, he was probably the best option at catcher for the 2013 Yankees. Thanks for two good seasons, Russ. Good luck in Pittsburgh and we’ll miss you in the Bronx.