Plan A was clearly Russell Martin. Plan B is not so clear. What are the Yankees options behind the plate now that Martin is heading to Pittsburgh?
Sign A.J. Pierzynski
This option is obvious, isn’t it? Plenty would argue that Pierzynski was a better option that Martin to begin with. He’s coming off a career year offensively — he’d never really come close to last season’s .501 slugging percentage — and he’s a proven veteran behind the plate. He’s also about to turn 36 years old. On a one-year deal, Pierzynski could be a perfect fill-in while the Yankees wait to see whether Austin Romine can rise to the occasion and become a legitimate big league catcher. But coming off that sort of season, will Pierzynski settle for one year, or will he look to cash in with something larger? A clear market for Pierzynski doesn’t seem to have emerged at this point, but right now there’s little indication that the Yankees are interested.
Punt on defense; go with offense
Mike Napoli is the best offensive catcher on the market, but he seems unlikely for two reasons. First, he doesn’t fit the mold. Joe Girardi clearly favors defense in his catchers, and Napoli is not a very good defensive catcher. Second, he’s a potent enough hitter that he isn’t likely to come cheap. Last time the Yankees had a DH who could catch, they shipped him to Seattle. Hard to imagine them reversing course and going after Napoli.
Stick with defense; spend on offense
The Yankees have two big league catchers on their roster. Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli have each spent a full year as the Yankees backup. They’ve proven they can handle the pitching staff, but they’ve also proven they can hardly hit. The Yankees could lean on the defensive of those two and spend their Martin money elsewhere. If the Yankees stick with their in-house backups, they could throw more money into right field and designated hitter to help make up for the lost offense.
Give the kid a shot
A variation of the above plan: Instead of giving Stewart and Cervelli a chance to share the load, give the job to Romine. Make it his to lose. When Romine came up for a short stint at the end of 2011, he clearly impressed Girardi, and he might have factored into the big league plans this year had he not hurt his back during spring training. At 24 years old, Romine has only 21 games of Triple-A experience. It’s not an ideal situation for throwing a young guy into the fire, but occasionally situations dictate that player development doesn’t go as planned.
Take what you can get
There are catchers other than Martin/Napoli/Pierzynski on the market. Assuming the Yankees don’t feel comfortable with their in-house options, and don’t want to commit to either Napoli or Pierzynski, they could always grab a secondary veteran free agent. Rod Barajas is out there. So are Miguel Olivo, Kelly Shoppach, Geovany Soto and Yorvit Torrealba. Those names won’t exactly energize the fan base, but they won’t break the bank either. And they won’t stand in the way if Romine proves himself midseason.
Get creative with the trade market
Look around baseball. There’s just not a lot of catching out there, and there’s certainly not a lot of catching that is both readily available and clearly able to make an impact. The top young catchers in the game have been locked into long-term deals, and most teams are too short on catching to actually trade away an everyday guy. But Brian Cashman has pulled off surprises before. Unfortunately for the Yankees, one team that actually has two everyday catchers is Toronto, and I’m not sure the Blue Jays would want to help a team in its division.
Associated Press photos