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The Yankees Catching Conundrum


Well, I may or may not have jumped the gun on the whole Yankees signing Russell Martin, when I alluded to it in my last post comparing him to Mike Napoli. Yesterday Martin agreed to a two-year, $17 million deal in which it’s being reported that the Yankees didn’t even try to match the offer because they “don’t have the money.” Please let that sink in for a minute. Not only did the Yankees get “outbid” by the normally frugal (and notoriously cheap) Pittsburgh Pirates, but they lost their starting catcher. But alas, this is the front office the Yankees have now. It’s one where middling-to-above average players can no longer ask for the moon and get it, even in positions of need. Saying that, is the catching position really a position you should go cheap on, especially considering the alternatives this offseason?

You will be missed, Russell (Image: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

Here we are at the current moment and the Yankees are without a starting catcher. They have a plethora of backup catchers who can’t hit, can’t stay healthy, but play decent defense. Gary Sanchez, the Yankees prized catching prospect, is still years away from the big leagues. Before, anyone mentions Jesus Montero and the “failed trade” for Michael Pineda let me stop you right there. Reports have the Mariners pushing Montero into more of a DH role. So, yeah, he hasn’t quite gotten the whole catching thing down yet, if ever.

Will the Yankees go into the season with Chris Stewart, Eli Whiteside, Austin Romine and Francisco Cervelli in a heated battle for the two catching spots on the Yankees 25-man roster? I want to say no, but who knows how fiscally responsible the Yankees front office is willing to be. They haven’t skimped out on pitching, case in point Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera all signed new one-year deals with the team in recent weeks. However, it seems position players are getting the cold shoulder and it might just come back to bite the Yankees.

It’s quite bittersweet seeing the Yankees not buy every high-profile free agent. I actually like it, but I also enjoy signing players who make sense regardless of how frugal a franchise wants to be. With that, MLB Trade Rumors compiled a list of free agent catchers and their age:

Who on this list really excites you? Napoli? He priced himself out of a Yankee uniform before the offseason even started, and he’s really just a glorified version of a catcher. Shoppach? He’s worthless against righties, but can do some damage against lefties. There’s one name being floated around: A.J. Pierzynski. He’s a left-handed bat, which would presumably play well in Yankee Stadium and plays decent defense. I would take him in a heartbeat at this point, if he wanted to sign a one-year deal.

Otherwise it’s going to come down to the trade market and as we’ve seen over the past few seasons, the Yankees simply don’t have the chips to go after any high-caliber players. Fans can stop thinking Joe Mauer is coming through the door, because if they weren’t willing to pay Martin, they aren’t going to pay Mauer $23 million per year until 2018.

This is the first “cap” casualty for the Yankees and it comes in a spot where there’s really no better alternative. The free agent market is a barren wasteland of misfit toys and the Yankees now have to scurry around looking for their new starting catcher. If they come up empty, we better get used to seeing a .210/.300/.300 slash line from the #2 position on the field for 2013. But, hey, at least they play decent defense, right?