By now, we are all well aware that the Yankees’ plethora of catchers have been scouted over the past week, as teams around the league look to fortify one of the more shallow positions in all of baseball. The Yankees for once, aren’t scrambling to fulfill a position, as they not only have one of the game’s best in Brian McCann, but several prospects who could find themselves starting for several teams in the big leagues right now if any of them were dealt.
Ever since the departure of Robinson Cano, and the announced suspension Alex Rodriguez, the Bombers have made several moves, most less celebrated than the fan base would like, to fill the holes left behind by the two former Yankee sluggers. Not only do the Yankees have an overload behind the plate, but with the signings of Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury, the Yankees are now fully loaded in the outfield, thus making last year’s starting right fielder, Ichiro Suzuki, completely expendable this season.
Unfortunately, the Yankees also find themselves looking to rebuild their bullpen after the retirement of closer Mariano Rivera, prompting the promotion of former setup man David Robertson into the closer’s role. Along with Rivera, other pieces of last year’s bullpen have moved on, as Boone Logan and Joba Chamberlain elected free agent deals with other teams. Joe Girardi and Larry Rothschild are looking for answers, most of which will have to come from unproven, homegrown talent.
Unless…the Yankees were able to find a team that had the exact needs that they could meet, while taking care of the problems on their own roster. Where could the Yankees find such a team on such short notice? Look no further than the team out in the desert. That’s right, the same franchise that ended the last Yankees dynasty on that heartbreaking night in November, 2001…the Arizona Diamondbacks. The D-Backs are thin on outfield and catching depth, and thick on bullpen arms and infielders. Sounds like a match made in heaven. Let’s take a look at a couple of different scenarios that could greatly benefit both teams right now.
The Yankees could go a couple of different routes in their pursuit of both an infielder and a bullpen arm. The interchangeable pieces would be the infielders from Arizona for the catchers of the Yankees. The two pieces that would remain regardless, would be Ichiro heading to Arizona, and J.J. Putz coming to the Bronx to fortify the bullpen.
Now, depending on who the Yankees wanted to give up, would greatly affect who they receive to be their future shortstop. Just browsing the surface, the hot hitting Francisco Cervelli would provide solid depth for Arizona behind Miguel Montero. The Diamondbacks in return, would send Didi Gregorius to the Bronx, and the Yankees could only hope that Kevin Long could formulate the youngster into a serviceable big league hitter. Some believe Gregorius has the arm and athleticism to also play the hot corner, while others have compared him to a glorified Eduardo Nunez. Either way, he could continue to work on his hitting while watching one of the greatest of all-time do his thing one more time in Derek Jeter.
If the Yankees wanted to up the ante, and get a much better option to be their future shortstop, then the catcher that would have to go to Arizona would be John Ryan Murphy. Surprised? Did you think I would suggest parting with Gary Sanchez? Think again. While most believe that he is blocked by McCann, Sanchez is still young, and developing his defensive game. By the time Mark Teixeira‘s contract expires, McCann will slide out from behind the plate, and Sanchez will have a clear opening to be the next great Yankees catcher. He’s going nowhere.
Now Murphy on the other hand? He’s shown potential with both the bat and the glove. There’s been some talk of possibly moving him to third base, that is how athletically gifted he is. Of the Yankees minor league prospects, Murphy is probably the most polished, and mentally prepared to make the jump to a big league roster full time. I’ve always preached that to get talent, you have to give up talent. Murphy could be the second best farm product the Yankees have bar none. He’s not going to overtake Sanchez, and he’s too valuable to bury and let rot. Now is the time to deal him while he still has value. And who would be the upgrade over Gregorius if the Yankees were to offer up Murphy instead of Cervelli? Let me introduce you to Chris Owings.
While Owings has more upside than Gregorius, he has also shown the ability to strikeout in bunches. His strikeout rates have dropped (23.4% from 2011-12) to (17.2% last season). He’s already had over 2000 plate appearances as a professional, and scouts still aren’t convinced his swing and miss rate is a problem of the past. He and Gregorius are very similar in tools and ability, but Owings hits from the right side of the plate compared to Gregorius’ lefty swing. Owings has gap power, meaning he could be a doubles machine in Yankee Stadium. He has great hands, feet and arm strength. For only being 22-years-old, he makes the most sense for the Yankees to pursue after concerns about Gregorius’ big league hitting ability have arose.
Ideally, the Yankees would send Ichiro and Murphy to Arizona, and receive former closer Putz and Owings in return. Worst case scenario, Ichiro and Cervelli (who is out of options anyway) to the desert for Putz and Gregorius. It’s still not a bad deal for the Yankees. If the team needed a fifth outfielder, Zoilo Almonte is cheaper and younger, while getting plenty of minor league at-bats to stay fresh. Austin Romine would slide into the backup catcher’s role, giving Sanchez a clear path to the show in a couple more seasons. Bringing in a seasoned veteran like Putz gives the Yankees much-needed depth at the back end of the bullpen, while also acting as an insurance policy in the 9th inning should Robertson flop. It’s a win-win for everyone involved. Ichiro would most likely become a vital part of a D-Backs outfield that could use his leadership and defensive and baserunning abilities more often in the double-switch National League. Cervelli or Murphy would provide solid depth and insurance against the injury bug striking Montero again. Now, all these teams have to do is make the deal happen…