Ben Rortvedt seems to be proving the Yankees bet on the wrong catchers this offseason

Seattle Mariners v Tampa Bay Rays
Seattle Mariners v Tampa Bay Rays / Julio Aguilar/GettyImages

Ben Rortvedt, the Yankees' third catcher in a crowded team picture (with Agustin Ramirez coming up behind him), found himself the odd man out this spring. It wasn't even really a particularly tough decision, at the time.

He never stayed healthy, either before or during his Yankees career. Whether you believed in him as a starter or backup, Jose Trevino was a 2022 All-Star; even if you believed in Rortvedt's ceiling, Trevino's floor was too much to sacrifice. Austin Wells was thought of as a bat-first catching commodity. Why sell him while he was still a relative unknown? You wouldn't.

Unfortunately, as has been the case far too often in recent years, the Yankees' risky third option has somehow become a safe bet in Tampa Bay. The two big-league catchers they kept? The one with the hit tool has been completely passable defensively, but hasn't hit much, neglecting pull-side fly balls in favor of ... something worse. The defensive specialist has been an excellent framer, but midway through June, the Red Sox uncovered the sudden and glaring weakness of his throwing arm, potentially stemming from an earlier wrist issue. Then, everyone else did, too.

The Yankees might have too many offensive holes at the moment for fans to notice any bouts of defensive exceptionalism (Anthony Volpe's glove, meet Anthony Volpe's bat). But Rortvedt emerging in Tampa Bay as a 26-year-old rock with a .750 OPS has served as some pretty cloyingly sweet icing on a very frustrating cake (ugh, is this grapefruit?).

Former Yankees catcher Ben Rortvedt is emerging as thorn with Rays

Pretty much the embodiment of a backup catcher, something the Yankees don't exactly have (reliably) at the moment.

Ideally, the Yankees' "catcher of the future" is Ramirez, who pairs a solid arm with exceptional exit velocities, and has 17 bombs with an .874 OPS split between Double- and Triple-A (fair, mostly AA). Or maybe it's Wells, who still has plenty of time to rediscover what he's always done best. Trevino, if he can reverse course with runners on, possesses leadership qualities and the occasional clutch gene; he can be a viable backup, especially if robot umpires never arrive to reduce the importance of his framing.

But all of a sudden, Rortvedt looks like the surest bet to keep contributing in 2024. It's always something, and it's always the Rays.