Well now what?

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.

About Matt Imbrogno

A native and resident of the Mean Streets of Southwestern Connecticut, Matt is a narcissistic, misanthropic 20something English teacher who lives by a simple creed: Yankees Only.

11 thoughts on “Well now what?

  1. This seems like a strangely downbeat analysis of what is essentially a very positive development. In not signing Martin, the Yankees retain budget flexibility they would not otherwise have. Martin’s $8.5 mill next year would come at thexpense of pitching and outfield help. One possibility: extending Hughes in a deal that benfits both parties. A 3 yr. $25-28 mill contract is now far more doable.
    Passing on Martin may even make the re-signing of Swisher slightly more likely. If not, it frees up cash for a solid outfield option in 2014-15.
    Most importantly, this non-signing opens the door for Austin Romine. It’s become fashionable to knock Romine but not long ago he was considered a solid defensive catching prospect, who would likely hit 15 HRs or so at MLB level. It’s easy to imagine he can also hit more than Martin’s .211. Of course, the Yanke brain trust has to give him a chance. That’s the real issue now with NYY. When will they start giving their own young players a chance? Wit the budget cap, that is now not a policy option. It’s a necessity.

    • Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it the general consensus that Romine isn’t ready for the Majors? Not to mention the back injury. I do agree with your point on the negative impact the signing would’ve had for 2014. I wanted Martin back, but not for longer than a year. Oh well, they’ll have to scratch something else together then.

    • The problem is Romine missed pretty much all of last year with a back injury, when he did play he wasn’t very good, the last time he was in the majors he was way overmatched at the plate, and he probably needs a full year at least in AAA for his development. Catchers have to deal with so much between learning pitcher’s, calling a game, framing pitches, blocking balls, dealing with umps, worrying about their own ABs 3 to 4 times a game that throwing the kid to the fire could way overwhelm him and cause him to slump in all areas doing too much at once.

      Romine has the skills to be a decent defensive catcher, I’ve always had questions about whether his bat would develop to where a lot of people thought. I think it’s no question Martin is the better between the two in 2013, I think it’s likely he’ll be better in 2014 as well. 2015 and beyond is a different story but it’s far from a lock that he’ll grow to be anything more than a solid all glove no bat backup. That’s not being mean it’s just being reasonable, he could put it all together and become a starter but even then he won’t be blowing the world away. The last thing they need to do is rush him with the fans the Yankees have.

      • Romine was ready defensively before his back went out last year.
        As to his hitting, there is little question he can outperform Martin’s .211. And AAA is no longer a required stop for many prospects. Also, putting stock in a handful of MLB ABs when he was 22 is a classic error. Maybe he won’t develop into the 15-20 HR guy people recently expected. But his minor league record, plate coverage and bat speed all suggest a guy who will hold his own.
        I do agree that there are health concerns. But they won’t go away just because you park him in AAA or sit him on the bench. The recent problem with the Yankees is that by shunning their own youngsters to dumpster dive for other teams’ rejects they do not develop player value. All Romine had to do is catch competently and hit .250 and suddenly he has value both to Yanks and other teams. No way to traverse the budget cap years if Yanks do not create value in their own farm products by playing them at MLB level.

        • In 86 plate appearances in AAA Romine has hit .197/.267/.342, you can argue small sample sizes stretched across two years, and you’d be right. Still against advanced pitching in AAA and the major leagues Romine has shown, both by the numbers and the eye test, to be extremely over matched.

          Romine has the defense for the majors right now, though I’d say it’s been some what overhyped, since I don’t see it as much more than slightly above average. I personally doubt he’d hit .250 if made to start in 2013, I think it’s almost a guarantee he’d post a SLG under .400 since he only slugged .378 in 85 games at Trenton in 2011. Struggles at the plate, combined with learning a major league pitchingh, catching pressure packed games in New York, and having his every move over analyzed could cause his one valueable asset, defense, to slip as he tries to cope.

          I agree the Yankees have to play young players but they need to set them up to succeed, not throw them to the fire to fail. Romine at the very least needs to start the year in AAA, considering the last time he hit even competantley was in 2011, if he tears the cover off the ball then you re-evaluate. However to try and act like he’s a guarantee to hit .250/.320/.380 is a real stretch, considering his lack of power in AA and his less than thrilling work against pitchers with more than 2 pitches. If I had to put money on it I’d say he’d be likely to hit somewhere closer to .230/.300/.360, so yeah he may outdo .211 but I doubt he outdoubts Martin’s .310-320 OBP, 400 SLG, 710+ OPS.

  2. Russ Bus has pulled out of the Bronx and will make port in Pittsburgh

    Must be an amphibious bus. :)

  3. It’s beyond unlikely, it’s simply not going to happen, but what would the Yankees be able to approach the Indians with in a theoretical trade proposal for Carlos Santana? I imagine it would have to start with Sanchez and Williams, but would Sanchez, Williams, Nova, and Nunez even be considered by CLE?

  4. Any of the Molina brothers available? They are usually quite reliable defensively, and would be unlikely to provide batting averages lower than any of the post-Posada catchers so far. Of course, there was a catching propspect, but he was sent off to Seattle for a yet unknown entity. Maybe A-Rod can be taught to catch after his surgery.

    • Yadier just signed an extension with the Cards, Jose is still a Ray, and Bengie is retire.

      Also yes Jose did have a higher battingh average than Martin last year, thank god we don’t live in a world where we judge players on BA. Jose hit .223/.286/.355, so Martin by far out performed Jose last year despite Jose having the better batting average.