Is The New York Yankees’ Battle For Catcher Already Over?

Coming into Spring Training, nearly every Yankees fan had their eye on the battle to see who would become the starting catcher for the team in the upcoming season. But now, after just one week of Spring Training games, is the battle already over?

Chris Stewart has been swinging a hot bat from the onset of Spring Training. (Image: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

When the New York Yankees let Russell Martin leave and sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates without even attempting to resign him, it caused a bit of an uproar. To date, it remains the biggest mystery of the Yankees’ offseason. Nobody is quite sure why the Yankees would let their starting catcher of two years go and play with a different team. Because of his absence, the Yankees were left with an interesting predicament on their hands. Among career backups, and minor leaguers, the team needed to find themselves both a starting catcher and a backup within their system.

Ultimately, they decided that they would have three catchers battle it out in Spring Training for the chance to become the starter or backup. These three players are Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli, and Austin Romine.

However despite this “battle” that is currently taking place, was it over before it really began?

Through just one week of Spring Training, all three have appeared in roughly the same number of games, but Romine has not received as many opportunities as Stewart or Cervelli. From the onset, Stewart has been swinging a very hot bat, hitting .429 with a home run and three RBIs. Although he has impressed with the bat, it has been Cervelli who has impressed in the field, showing that he can accurately throw down to second base in an effort to try and catch a runner stealing. Combing those two factors with the fact that Romine has not been used all too often, and we may be looking at the starting and backup catchers, respectively. But this alone is not the only reason as to why the battle may already be over. In fact, there is a much bigger reason that looms over a possible decision.

Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli are out of minor league options.

Yankees’ brass have said that they like both Stewart and Cervelli. If they were to take Romine instead of one of them, they would have to clear waivers before they can be sent down to Triple-A. The Yankees’ fear is that if they are put onto waivers, another team will claim them, thus causing another issue for the team. They would like to have a solid backup catcher playing in Scranton, that way they have a player that they can go to in case one of the two catchers on the big-league squad go down with injury. They can send Romine down to Triple-A because he still has minor league options available, so he will not need to clear waivers, and there would be no threat of another team claiming him.

So no matter how well Austin Romine does compared to Stewart or Cervelli, I find it highly unlikely that he will make the team right out of Spring Training. The Yankees probably feel that he would be better suited as a mid-season call-up, given the fact that he still has options and is coming off of a back injury which forced him to miss the majority of the 2012 season. Because of that, this battle for catcher may already be over.

Topics: Catcher, Editorial, New York Yankees

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  • Bill B

    I enjoyed “Russell has muscle” he really fit. Let us think clearly though. Again this over reaction to the catchers spot for the Bombers. Not only on your staff but other media outlets. If you look at Cervelli’s numbers for 2011 you find it is not a story. Cervelli struck out a little too much but if he played 130 games he is going to produce more the Martin. The big big question is can Cervelli call games to have this aging staff succeed. If so he is gold. If his defense is consistent we have a winner. It never has been an issue in my mind. Cervelli Stewart. It will be fine if fundamentals are in order.

    • Hunter Farman

      Thanks for the comment, Bill, but I don’t not see an overreaction to Martin’s departure on here at all.

    • Jimmy Kraft

      Bill, how do you come to the conclusion that Cervelli could outproduce Martin? At what point in Cervelli’s short career has he made you believe he could do that? Bill, I’m not sure what to make of your statement. You’re simply using small sample sizes to justify Cervelli’s numbers against Martin’s. There’s a reason the Yankees sent him to Triple-A last year.

      Cervelli played in 99 games last year in AAA, he compiled a .246/.341/.316 (89 wRC+). That 89 wRC+ basically shows that he is a below average hitter, as with most catchers. As for Martin, he played in 133 games last season with the big league club and hit .211/.311/.403 (95 wRC+), which is almost average in the runs produced department. I wrote a story late last year on how Martin’s numbers are a bit misleading, and that he was mostly unlucky last season. On top of that, he also managed a complete MLB pitching staff. I just can’t see Cervelli matching that production without a platoon with Chris Stewart.

      What I do like is Cervelli’s improved defense, which will make him very valuable to the Yankees. He “could” also be better with the bat than Martin, but he’ll have to do it in another way because he has little to no power, unlike Martin. Who knows how Cervelli’s body holds up over an entire season at the MLB level. We’ll see….

  • Corethree

    Good job, Mr Farman, as always.

    • Hunter Farman

      Thank you.

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