Even though Russell Martin (29) signed a two-year, $17 million contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates two days ago, the Yankees can be blamed for not bringing him back because they should have offered him a similar contract earlier. He obviously took the offer from the Pirates because he did not feel wanted in the Bronx.
He was the best available option at catcher for the Yankees as the possible free agent catchers don’t provide what Martin does defensively and offensively. A.J. Pierzynski has attitude issues, is old for a catcher (36 as of Dec. 30) and is not as reliable with the pitching staff as Martin. However, he can be relied upon to post a solid average. The other talked about free agent catcher is Mike Napoli. He is more of a part-time player who is more known for his offense.
Pierzynski would be the better option than Napoli, but the Yankees front office has said that they don’t have much interest in signing the veteran catcher who was born on Long Island. Pierzynski would be the better immediate option, but as it stands, it seems like the Yankees will wait to trade for a catcher in July.
Martin only hit .211 last season, which is not what it should have been, but he did slug a career high 21 homers. That is a high number from the catcher position and the Yankees will miss that offensive output behind the plate in 2013. They will also miss his speed on the bases, as he swiped six bases last season, but had a career high of 21 in 2007, which he could possibly come close to again.
Additionally, the Pirates have usually been the team that players from the Yankees have gone to after they could not help the Yankees anymore, like Ross Ohlendorf, Jeff Karstens and more recently A.J. Burnett, but Martin was necessary for the Yankees to keep. Martin was a finalist for the Gold Glove award, which went to Matt Wieters, and Martin is better than any of the catchers currently on the roster who will be competing for the starting spot.
The four candidates that will attempt to seize the catcher position that are on the roster are Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli, Eli Whiteside and Austin Romine. None of the four offer the combination of offense and defense that Martin does.
Cervelli has enthusiasm while being solid behind the plate, but has not shown the ability to produce on offense. He is mainly a singles hitter. Romine is known for his defense and is one of the higher regarded catching prospects in the organization, but he not ready to be the starter. Whiteside is old and is essentially an unknown. Stewart spent time as the catcher last season while Martin was injured.
The Yankees would have a decent defensive catcher and one that is very productive with the bat if they did not make the Jesus Montero trade with the Mariners last off-season. (That trade has not been a success for the Yankees since Pineda has not pitched an inning for the team while Montero hit .260, with 15 homers and 62 RBI as a rookie.)
Unfortunately, Montero is not an option, so it seems like it could be a combination of Cervelli and Stewart, which I did not expect to see. They will need Cervelli to be able to hit in the clutch like he has at times in the past.
UPDATE: Eli Whiteside is no longer an option because the Blue Jays have claimed him off of waivers.
>Freddy Garcia (2-2, 2.61) vs. Jon Lester (4-1, 2.96)
There is no way to tell if a players encouraging or underachieving start to the season will continue or not but so far Brian Cashman’s offseason signings have been a resounding success, overall. He deserves praise for his strategy of signing many low risk high reward veteran players hoping that many of them would capitalize.
Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez are both hitting above .300 in limited action with Jones even adding a home run as one of his six hits. An added benefit of signing Chavez is that he gives the team versatility since he can play first base and third base. Freddy Garcia has only allowed one run in three appearances, two starts. They will need him to continue this dominance. Russell Martin has played like the All Star he was a few years ago before his injuries. He is hitting .292, with six home runs, 16 RBI and has shown the speed from earlier in his career with two stolen bases. Martin is constantly hustling and has proven to cause havoc on the base-paths.
The off-season signing who has surprised the most is none other than Bartolo Colon. He has likely been the Yankees most dominating pitcher so far. He has proven that his excellent numbers from winter league and Spring Training were not a fluke. Most probably doubted Colon in Spring Training because he showed up out of shape and did not even pitch in the major leagues last season but so far he looks the pitcher who won 21 games for the Angles in 2005. So far, in five appearances and two starts, he has 26 strikeouts, six walks and has recorded a stellar 2.77 ERA.
Cashman’s most expensive offseason signing was Rafael Soriano who was coming off an All Star season with the Tampa Bay Rays. He was signed to a three-year, $35 million contract after recording a 1.73 ERA, 45 saves and 57 strikeouts with Tampa Bay. So far this season he has allowed nine earned runs which is only three less than he surrendered all of last season.
Soriano came to the Yankees with a lot of hype because it seemed like he would be the perfect bridge to Mariano Rivera in the eighth inning, and be a suitable replacement for Rivera when he does retire. However, as stated above he has not produced on the field, in addition to having meltdowns as well as refusing to talk to the press after ruining a CC Sebathia win against the Twins. He has even used the cold weather as an excuse for giving up runs earlier in the season.
It is possible that he is one of the players that just can’t handle the media and everything that comes with playing in New York City but based on his performance that last few years it seems like he will bounce back. In 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010 he pitched in at least 53 games and his ERA was always 3.00 or below. His previous track record surely suggests that he will have many more shut down performances than not the rest of the season.
The other pitcher that Cashman signed that was going to be counted on as being a reliable lefty out of the bullpen was Pedro Felicano. He was somewhat of a risky signing coming into the season because over the last three years he led the majors in appearances. He suffered a torn capsule in his left shoulder in Spring Training and is now likely out for the season. This is not the end of the world because relief pitchers are so hard to predict before the season anyway. Cashman could not predict that this injury was coming and if needed the Yankees can sign another lefty in July.
Jones and Chavez offer reliable bats off the bench that the Yankees did not have last season and the team will need the stellar pitching from Colon and Garcia to continue. Hughes will be out for an extended period of time so if Colon can continue to “turn back the clock” it will surely be an added bonus. The bullpen can still be a strength of the team when Soriano lives up to his past performance.