It’s been no surprise this season that Russell Martin has had a tough time at the plate. The back-up catcher Chris Stewart is only used when CC Sabathia pitches or whenever Martin needs a day off. Personally, I always liked having Francisco Cervelli on the roster. I thought getting Stewart and sending Cervelli back to Triple-A was a huge slap in the face for Cervelli. Is Stewart a bad catcher? No, but he’s not Cervelli. Making his debut in 2008, Cervelli really stepped in as the backup catcher, and he spent time as the starting catcher in 2010. The Jesus Montero trade looked like it would definitely make Cervelli the backup in 2012, but the Yankees went out and signed Stewart, which I never understood. Martin is struggling at the plate and Stewart is just kind of there to take up space and catch for Sabathia, as he really provides nothing offensively and is an average defensive catcher. So, with that, is it time for the Yankees to call Cervelli back up to the Majors?
Looking at what Cervelli as done in three years in the Majors, it’s a lot more impressive than what Stewart has done, who has been playing since 2006. The biggest thing between the two is that Cervelli has played 65 more games than Stewart, so clearly Cervelli has more experience behind the plate. 2011 was such a weird year honestly because at one point, the Yankees had four catchers on the roster: Jorge Posada, Martin, Cervelli and Montero. Typically, a team will only will want to stick with two catchers, and in this case, Cervelli has earned that spot on the roster. Cervelli to me has proved that is he a more capable back-up catcher than Stewart. He should be on the 25-man roster now, but that didn’t exactly happen. Going into this season, the combination of Martin and Cervelli was pretty much going to be it for the Yankees’ catching solution, but the front office had other ideas by signing Stewart.
Last year was Martin’s first year as a Yankee and he did fairly well for a catcher, batting .237 with 18 home runs, 65 RBIs and 57 runs scored. What surprises me is that you look at some of the stats Martin did have, such as 28 walks, you’ll see that Cervelli had 9 inside of 137 plate appearances. Martin’s 28 walks were inside of 476 plate appearances. Now it’s just speculation, but that tells me that if Cervelli had 476 plate appearances that he would have somewhere around 31 walks. While it’s not a huge step above what Martin did, three walks can be crucial. What if the bases were loaded? What if Cervelli was walked and the next hitter hit a home run? It’s not that I’m trying to say Martin is a bad catcher, but if Cervelli is putting up the same numbers, if not slightly better numbers, then why is he not on the 25 man roster? If Cervelli can put up those numbers and match Martin, he’d be considered a starter for most other teams, but on the Yankees, Stewart has the advantage over him? Come on.
This isn’t a rant to say how awful Martin is because he’s far from it. His years with the Los Angeles Dodgers showed not only Dodger fans, but the rest of the MLB that power hitting catchers do exist outside of Joe Mauer. This is more a question as to why the Yankees don’t have Cervelli on the roster. While Stewart is a decent catcher, he’s never really started and as mentioned before, has less experience behind the plate than Cervelli, despite debuting two years earlier. I’ve always felt Cervelli was as crucial a part to this team as anyone, yet a lot of fans don’t say the same.
Martin still can hit well, but his contact has been severely decreasing in the past few years. While he does have quite a few clutch hits and is usually able get some extra base hits, he also has a string of hit-less games. Right now, Martin has already struck out 41 times this season, a number which was doubled through the entirety of last season. What’s concerning about that stat is that July is still less than week away and if Martin continues to struggle, he’ll more than likely go over the 81 strikeouts he had last year. Fortunately enough, it isn’t all doom and gloom with Martin as he is keeping his on base percentage up (currently at .323) and is being a little more patient at the plate. I fear however that he isn’t waiting for his right pitch and that part of the game is all mental. With Martin struggling mentally and physically, the Yankees must bring up Cervelli, send down or just flat out get rid of Stewart, and go from there. Cervelli is a Yankee at heart and he’s definitely capable of catching MLB pitchers.
So with that, is it time for the Yankees to consider their catching conundrum and bring Cervelli back? This isn’t to say that Martin should be benched or sent down, just maybe given some time off to work with Kevin Long and reconsider his approach at the plate. During that time, Cervelli needs to be brought up and take over the starting role temporarily. While having three catchers on a 25 man roster isn’t exactly ideal, the Yankees aren’t hurting too badly offensively, so perhaps it’s a temporary thing with Martin and the rebound will be fast. Looking forward to next year though, I would like to see Cervelli on the roster come Opening Day because I just don’t think Stewart is our answer for a back-up. There’s always the possibility of trying out the newly converted catcher in Brandon Laird come September, but then again, why worry about that as long as we have Cervelli?