The injury bug has hit the New York Yankees once again, but this time in a very bizarre way. Their catching depth behind Jose Trevino and Kyle Higashioka has been absolutely decimated as third-stringer Ben Rortvedt, top prospect Austin Wells, and fellow prospect Josh Breaux have all went down during Spring Training.
And all of them are out for the foreseeable future. Rortvedt underwent surgery to address “an aneurysm of his posterior artery near his left shoulder" and will miss at least a month. Wells will likely miss up to two months with a fractured rib. Breaux has been shut down from throwing due to an elbow issue. It's a mess.
As a result, per reports, the Yankees are on the hunt for catching depth ("specifically one with big-league experience"). Fans certainly don't mind that last part, especially since Higashioka will need to recreate a semblance of his second-half performance in 2022 in order to keep a hold on the backup job (or at least that's what we'd like to see).
There's only one problem: catching depth is hard to come by across the league. And it's arguably even harder to have capable starting/backup options at the major league level.
After a bit of a deep dive though, we were able to identify two different types of impactful deals the Yankees could make to address their current issues.
2 catching trade targets Yankees can eye to weather injury storm
Sam Huff, C, Texas Rangers
Let's plunder the Rangers once more! Last year, Brian Cashman struck a deal with Texas to land Trevino. Might he give them a ring again to see what's going on with former top prospect Sam Huff?
Huff made his MLB debut in dazzling fashion during the shortened 2020, belting three homers and three doubles in just 10 games of action. Injuries held him back in 2021 and he didn't appear in the bigs again until last year. In 2022, he logged 44 games and hit .240 with a .675 OPS. Not exactly what the Rangers were expecting after 2020 as well as his 2022 rebound at Triple-A (.260 AVG, .868 OPS).
Both Jonah Heim and Mitch Garver are presumably ahead of Huff on the depth chart. Even though Garver is more of a DH option, Heim is clearly the preferred "younger" option. Does that make Huff expendable?
Worst case (if the two sides can strike a deal) is that the Yankees get Huff to provide Triple-A depth and then shuttle him to the MLB level when there's an injury. At best? He fights Higgy for the backup job over the next couple months. By then, one or more of the Yankees other options should be healthy.
Travis d'Arnaud, C, Atlanta Braves
A trade for Huff can improve minor-league depth and potentially alter the Yankees' backup situation. A trade for d'Arnaud immediately changes the backup situation and offers a challenge for Trevino's starting spot.
The Braves acquired All-Star Sean Murphy this offseason in a trade with the Oakland A's. They also have an All-Star in d'Arnaud, who split time with William Contreras in 2022. Contreras is now gone and Murphy is a workhorse (he's started 228 games at the position the last two years). How will they properly manage this situation with Marcell Ozuna essentially locked into the DH spot? Obviously injuries will happen and there can be platoon options at DH ... but will that fly with d'Arnaud, who could hit free agency after this season (he has an $8 million team option for 2024)? It's unclear why the Braves would exercise that if Murphy is now here for the long haul after signing an extension.
d'Arnaud can't move up unless Murphy gets injured. But the situation is different in New York. Yes, Yankees fans love Trevino, but he has much less of an offensive track record than d'Arnaud. Trevino really only has 2022 to his name. d'Arnaud has had some sort of influence at the plate dating back to 2014.
If the Yankees are going to have a platoon at catcher, then they should probably upgrade. A tag team of Trevino and d'Arnaud would be that much better. As for the Braves, they can promote Chadwick Tromp to fill in when needed (really not a bad backup option!). We're not sure what a trade would look like (the Yankees would have to unload some salary here to remain under the Steve Cohen tax threshold), but this is what you'd call a "move" to elevate the status quo.