The catching position has become a position of need for the Yankees as a result of Francisco Cervelli going on the 60-day disabled list with a fractured wrist. He will likely not be back until sometime in July. The current starter, Chris Stewart, has one hit in his last nine at bats. He started the season off hitting well in limited action backing up Cervelli, but Stewart is now batting only .256 in 15 games.
Austin Romine, who was called up from AAA Scranton when Cervelli went on the disabled list, is similar to Romine in that he is more known for his defense than his offensive ability. Ideally, the catcher should be able to help the team in both facets. Romine has always been a quality prospect since he was a second round pick by the team in 2007, was a participant in the All-Star Futures Game in 2010 and was voted the organization’s second best prospect in 2010.
Joe Giradi has not had much confidence in playing Romine, which will mean that Stewart could become less and less reliable. Stewart is also best suited to be a reserve. This is why it hurt the Yankees so much when Cervelli was injured last week because he was having a solid all around season.
However, Romine clearly has not developed like the team thought he would. It is still possible that he will, but Romine is now 24, and the Yankees have other quality catching prospects in the minor leagues, which means that it is worth exploring other options. He has only hit .136 in his at bats that he has had with the team in 2011 and 2013. However, the Yankees might be able to find a team who will believe that his offensive abilities will turn around.
The Yankees should target Nick Hundley, who is the starting catcher for the San Diego Padres. The Padres, who are currently 13-18 and in last place in the NL West, will be looking to sell and not buy leading up to the trade deadline. Ideally, the Yankees will acquire a catcher in the beginning of June.
Candidates to be traded for Nick Hundley include David Adams and Corban Joseph, who are currently second baseman for the AAA RailRiders, since All-Star Robinson Cano who will be their second baseman for a long time. Austin Romine could also be included in the trade since he might fare better in a less pressurized environment. The Padres need all of the prospects that they can get.
The Padres also have Yasmani Grandal, who is their catcher of the future, who hit .297 in 60 games last season for San Diego, so it would make sense for the Padres to trade Hundley. Grandal could return as the starting catcher when he is eligible to return from his 50-game suspension. Hundley is hitting .297 with three homers so far this season.
Hundley hit .288 in 2011, after a sub-par 2012 that saw Grandal play instead, and is showing signs of being more consistent.
It is fitting that on the day that the Yankees celebrated Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball, the last remaining MLB player wearing the number 42, Mariano Rivera, picked up another save for the team. Every Yankee wore the number 42 during the 4-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks, which was in honor of Jackie Robinson. Rivera recorded his third save of the season and 611th of his Hall of Fame career.
Rachel Robinson, Jackie’s widow, who started the influential Jackie Robinson Foundation, said that she is a “little sad” that Rivera will be retiring and taking the esteemed number 42 with him. She has always said that Rivera plays the game the right way and is the right person to wear Jackie’s number. (Rivera was grandfathered in as he was wearing the number before it was retired across baseball in 1997.) In the Daily News story, Rachel Robinson said that Rivera is carries himself with class and is determined just like Jackie Robinson was.
It is also noteworthy that Robinson Cano, who is named after Jackie Robinson and wears the uniform number 24 since it is the reversal of 42, hit a home run to deep right center in the fourth that drove in Lyle Overbay and Chris Stewart. That homer essentially won the game for the Yanks because it made the score 3-2. After getting off to a slow start, Cano now has four homers and 11 RBI in his last six games. His average is a solid .327. Based on his last six games, Cano is on his way to being named an All-Star for the fifth time.
It was also a positive game from the pitching standpoint as Ivan Nova was able to rebound from his first start by allowing two runs instead of four. He was not dominant as he only lasted five innings, but Nova gave the Yankees a chance to win the game.
Also, it can’t be forgotten that the Yankees organization handled themselves with class once again as they had a moment of silence before the game and played “Sweet Caroline” after the third inning to honor the victims from the tragic Boston Marathon bombing.
C.C. Sabathia (2-1, 2.25 ERA) will get the start tonight against the Diamondbacks.
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.