There’s still a chance the Yankees re-sign free-agent catcher Austin Romine, but if they don’t GM Brian Cashman says he comfortable making Kyle Higashioka the new backup for Gary Sanchez.
Although the Yankees haven’t closed the book on bringing Romine back just yet it’s looking more likely than not that his tenure in New York has come to an end. After having a breakout-year offensively in 2019 this offseason might be the only time in his career where he’ll ever have the chance to cash in on a multi-year deal with a club that will make him their starting catcher. As much as the Yankees would love to have him back he’d be crazy not to take advantage of that opportunity and earn a nice pay raise in the process.
Last week at the GM Meetings in Arizona Brian Cashman said he met with Romine’s agent a couple of times but he also gave a vote of confidence to Higashioka who would be the next man in line to step in as Sanchez’s new backup. Higgy has had multiple stints with the big league club over the past three seasons but most of his time has been spent at Triple-A Scranton. He’s struggled offensively hitting a combined .187 at the major league level from 2018-2019 but he’s a solid defensive catcher and the Yankee pitchers love throwing to him.
If he’s the guy tasked with replacing Romine his days with the Railriders should be over because next season he’s officially out of minor league options. Due to Gary Sanchez’s inability to stay healthy over the past couple of seasons, he’s used them all up.
That’s part of the reason why the Yankees might be content with letting Romine walk because if Higgy’s not on the 25-man roster next season they would be forced to designate him for assignment.
The Yanks have more pressing needs to worry about this offseason but the decision regarding Romine’s future with the team is surely going to be a difficult one. They know he’s definitely a better option than Higgy is to backup Sanchez and that he’d be more than capable of doing a great job filling in for Gary if he were to miss significant time on the IL again in 2020.
I’m not saying Higgy won’t become a solid backup catcher, but it’s certainly not a given and if the Yanks end up letting Romine walk it could be a decision they come to regret down the road.