By Friday at 8 pm, the Yankees must decide whether or not to extend a contract to their 29-year-old backup catcher, Austin Romine.
Austin Romine has already been released once before by the Yankees. Back during spring training of 2015, the club designated Romine for assignment only to bring him back a short time later after the other 29 teams passed on his services.
Could we have a similar situation on our hands, a little over 24 hours from now?
To me, the best thing Romine did in 2017 was going toe-to-toe with Tigers’ slugger Miguel Cabrera, resulting in the brawl of the year, and a one-game suspension.
But there is little room on a 25-man roster for an enforcer. Instead, former manager Joe Girardi kept Romine around because of his excellent defensive ability behind the plate.
Girardi, the former catcher, even went so far as to start Romine in Game 4 of the ALCS against the Astros with Sonny Gray on the hill. The Yankees would win the game 6-4, keeping their World Series hopes alive (at the time).
Funny enough, the Yanks had a winning record of 33-25 in the games Romine started (54 starts were as catcher and four came at first base).
While I understand Romine saw more play time than anticipated due to start Gary Sanchez’s month-long injury, Romine should have never been allowed to play first base.
Now you may be thinking that four games aren’t worth getting bent out of shape about. And how could I when the other alternatives filling in for the ailing Greg Bird included Chris Carter, Rob Refsnyder and Garrett Cooper.
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My reason is Romine’s stick — or lack thereof.
You want to keep around a skilled defensive backup to give Sanchez a spell here or there, that’s one thing. But when a guy bats .218 with two long balls and 21 RBI (5 RBI came in one game against Baltimore) in 252 plate appearances, with a career-worst OPS 49+, he doesn’t deserve consideration for anything else.
The second round pick way back in 2007 is one of three catchers currently on the Yanks’ roster; Sanchez and 27-year-old career minor leaguer, Kyle Higashioka, the other.
And while I’ve spoken positively about Higgy in the past, he failed to record a single hit in 18 big league games last season and was limited to only 21 minor league games due to injury. So I’m not entirely sure how comfortable the Yankees are making him their No. 2 backstop.
Surely, though, there are options on the free agent market.
I recently detailed why the club should make a play for the left-handed hitting Alex Avila. The guy plays stellar defense and managed to hit .264 with 14 homers and 49 RBI in limited time last season.
Other names that may be considered include Miguel Montero, Rene Rivera, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta. All these guys throw out a higher percentage of base stealers than Romine, in addition to getting on-base far more frequently.
Yes, Romine is inexpensive, having made $805,000 in 2017, but you get what you pay for. Hopefully, Sanchez stymies the passed ball issues that plagued him last year. If not, the Yanks would be wise to have a stronger secondary option.