Brian Cashman said tonight that “weather permitting, Russ Canzler will probably get the call up” to join Yankees. Decision isn’t final.
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) April 15, 2014
Bryan Hoch tweeted that out last night, after it was reported that John Ryan Murphy, and not Austin Romine, would get called up to replace Francisco Cervelli as the Major League backup catcher. It has yet to be reported by any other beat guy or confirmed by the team itself, but I have to imagine this is the decision that will be made. When the Yankees take the field tonight against the Cubs, they will be back to full strength. Well, at least in terms of number of healthy bodies on the active roster. That’s better than where they were at on Sunday night.
While these moves provide the obvious benefit of getting the Yanks back to a standard 5-man bench/7-man ‘pen roster breakdown and filling in the cracks on their injured infield, it’s what’s between the lines that is the real story here. The decisions to call up Murphy and Canzler tell us a little bit about what else might be happening on the roster and in the front office.
With Murphy, I think the implication here is a positive one. To me, the decision to call him up over Romine shows that the Yankee brass is sold on Murphy as a legitimate prospect after his strong 2013 season. Let’s face it, the Yankees value experience and familiarity when making roster decisions. While his ceiling may no longer be as high as Murphy’s, Romine is the more experienced catcher. He has more experience at Triple-A and more experience in the Majors. The general belief was that the Yankees wanted Murphy to start the year in Triple-A to gain a little more experience and it was perfectly reasonable considering he played less than half a season of Triple-A ball last year.
To call him up over Romine this early in the season tells me the Yankee front office believes Murphy is legit as a Triple-A prospect and is more interested in seeing how real he is as a Major League prospect. Murphy didn’t do much in his 27 plate appearances last September, and those 27 PA were barely enough to form a first opinion. The Yanks would rather get a look at what he’s got now than give him more time and seasoning in the Minors, so that has to mean they think pretty highly of him. Now what they think highly of him as is up for interpretation. Perhaps it’s as a real backup option to McCann long-term, or perhaps it’s as a trade chip and they’re calling him up to showcase him to teams. Either way, Murphy is clearly the organizational priority over Romine now and Romine looks like the organizational filler guy.
The Canzler move isn’t as positive. I see the decision to call him up over the more versatile Scott Sizemore as a sign that something is more wrong with Brian Roberts than just a sore back and a DL trip could be coming up for him. Teix going down caused a scramble of some guys playing more (Solarte, Anna) and some guys playing out of position (Cervelli, Kelly Johnson). Roberts being out on Sunday night spread those remaining players even thinner, and after seeing how those modified infields have struggled defensively at times, I think Joe is done playing guys out of position. By bringing in Canzler, who’s been playing first base for SWB, he frees Johnson back up to play third base regularly or play more second base when Roberts hits the DL. Both he and Solarte are interchangeable there. It’s when Johnson has to play first that the team flexibility goes away. If Teix is still on track to come back this Sunday, it’s a quick and painless switch for him to be activated, Canzler to be sent back down, and Johnson and Solarte to hold down the fort at second and third.
That’s just what I’m seeing when I read between the lines, so if I end up being wrong later today, feel free to come back here and tell me about it. But it all makes too much sense. Murphy is the better player than Romine at this point and you always want your better players on the active roster. He’s also the more valued trade chip and we know there are teams out there who are interested in the Yankee catchers. The biggest infield weakness right now is up the middle, especially if Roberts is going to be out. By bringing up a “natural” first baseman, the Yankees can use their remaining infielders to fill in that gap up the middle. They’re 2 good moves for the short-term and could end up helping the Yankees down the road.