The Yankees Catching Situation: Revisited

News broke yesterday that Russell Martin signed a 2 year, $17 million contract with the Pirates. Apparently, that was out of the Yankees’ price range. Quite frankly, that doesn’t pass the smell test. Despite being unlucky with balls in play, Martin still posted a respectable WAR in 2012. Fangraphs pegged him at 2.2, and both Baseball-Reference and Baseball Prospectus had him at 1.5. That’s not even considering his pitch-framing skills which are generally accepted to be excellent. See here, here, and here. Based on this info, a conservative estimate for Martin would be 4 WAR over the next 2 years. This would mean the Pirates paid $4.25 million per win which still seems fairly cheap. We don’t know exactly how serious the Yankees’ financial situation is; but, $17 million for 2 years of Martin seems like something they should be able to handle. 

Perhaps the Yankees know something the Pirates don’t? The Yankees have access to 2 years of medical records for Martin and (theoretically) know him better than anyone. For one thing, a torn labrum in his hip sidelined him for the last 2 months of the 2010 season. It appears that he never had surgery which means the labrum is still torn. Maybe the tear has worsened over his 2 years with the Yankees? With all of that squatting behind the plate, that certainly sounds reasonable; but, that’s something we really can’t know. 

Nonetheless, the Yankees now appear to have a gaping hole behind the plate. Cashman said today that he may be willing to roll with the in-house options for next season. Of course, that doesn’t mean much coming from Cashman. Remember when he said Bubba Crosby might be the starting CF in 2006? 

Anyway, here’s what ZiPS projects for Stewart and Cervelli: 

Stewart: .239/.303/.330 

Cervelli: .234/.308/.316 

And Bill James? (no projection for Cervelli) 

Stewart: .237/.299/.333 (.280 wOBA) 

Clearly, neither catcher can hit. Stewart has a good defensive reputation and seems to be good at framing pitches; but, he would definitely be miscast as a starting catcher. Cervelli on the other hand, has never really impressed with his defensive skills. Given Austin Romine’s lost 2012 season, expecting him to be productive at the major league level would be very wishful thinking. He just needs to focus on getting reps in AAA for now.

The Yankees will need to look outside the organization for catching help. The free agent pool doesn’t have much to offer: All that’s really left is Mike Napoli and A.J. Pierzynski. Since they passed on signing Martin, I doubt they’d be interested in paying for Napoli. Pierzynski will certainly come back to earth after belting a career high 27 homers last year; but, he would still be an upgrade over Stewart. He also may be too pricey though. Fangraphs Contract Crowdsourcing predicts he’ll pull in 2 years, 18 million (predicted 2 years, 16 million for Martin). He’ll also be 36 years old next month.

It’s beginning to look like the Yankees will need to explore the trade market for a catcher. We’ll begin profiling possible trade targets in the coming days.

About Chris

Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, and is an occasional user of the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell
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