From the moment the Yankees signed Russell Martin last winter, it was clearthis season was going to be a transition behind the plate. Jorge Posada was shifting to designated hitter, Martin was going to do most of the catching and Jesus Montero was not going to have an everyday role on the big league roster.
The transition could continue next season.
Martin is still arbitration eligible, meaning he’ll make more money next season, but he’s the Yankees property if they want to keep him. His defense behind the plate, strong reputation with the pitching staff and ability to hit for power could be enough for the Yankees to want him back.
Montero, though, has proven he can hit, and he seems ready for some sort of role in the big leagues. If the Yankees prefer Martin at catcher, the natural fit seems to be for Montero to take Posada’s spot as the regular DH, with occasional starts behind the plate when Alex Rodriguez or Derek Jeter needs a half day off. It could require that the Yankees carry a third catcher — Francisco Cervelli obviously jumps to mind — but the Yankees had a similar roster construction throughout 2010, and it could work again in 2011.
The bigger question might be a familiar one: Do the Yankees trust Montero’s defense enough to ever give him a full-time job behind the plate?
Joe Girardi clearly preferred Austin Romine’s defense late this season, and part of moving forward might be determining whether Montero belongs in the catching conversation. Is he a catcher who can hit, or is he a hitter who can catch? If he’s the latter, is that enough to believe he’ll ever take this job on an everyday basis?
Associated Press photo