Austin Romine is not only battling for the backup catcher spot on the Yankees, but also auditioning for the rest of the league. It’s been a few years since Romine was one of the Yankees’ better prospects, but he still has some valuable skills that might make him attractive as a reserve. In particular, his defense is well reputed. He’d be tolerable as the Yankees backup this season, but the problem for him is that the team has a better option in John Ryan Murphy. Furthermore, he’s out of options, and thus would have to slip through waivers in order for the Yankees to retain him in the minors. Odds are another team would scoop him up on waivers, so if the Yankees aren’t planning to use Romine as the major league backup, they might as well try to get something for him.
Any return for Romine isn’t going to be impressive. It could include a player in the same out-of-options situation as Romine, or a fringy low level prospect. Let’s examine the teams that could be a trade match, and if there are any worthy out-of-options trade targets on those clubs.
This is undoubtedly the saddest catching situation in the big leagues. As it stands, Tuffy Gosewisch and Gerald Laird are slotted to be their catchers, and both are replacement level quality. Ex-Yankee Peter O’Brien is technically waiting in the wings, but there are serious doubts about his ability to hack it defensively behind the plate. Although Romine might be better off as a backup, it wouldn’t be a crazy idea for Arizona to give him a shot as a starter. Austin is still just 26, while both Gosewich and Laird are on the wrong side of 30. With Arizona unlikely to contend, why waste time with guys that have no future with the club? Romine might not turn out to be anything, but it’s a better option than what they have now.
The only out of options guy Arizona has is Randall Delgado. He’d be a passable choice as the fifth starter, but I doubt the Yankees could acquire him for Romine straight up. Besides, he’ll be making the Diamondbacks major league roster, so it doesn’t appear that Delgado will be on the move. A fringy prospect would probably have to do. Better than nothing, I guess.
It’s been reported that the Phillies are interested in Romine. Internally, the team could tab Cameron Rupp as the backup to Carlos Ruiz. Yet, considering that the Phils are reportedly seeking a catcher, it doesn’t sound like their management is enamored with Rupp.
Phillippe Aumont might be the most attainable out of options player on the Phillies roster, but he’s not exactly attractive. The Yankees would have to be in love with him to give him a bullpen spot over the guys currently in camp. Mike Axisa wrote about Aumont and the idea of trading Romine to the Phillies recently. Similar to Arizona’s situation, expect a meh minor leaguer if a trade were to be worked out.
San Diego Padres
Tim Federowicz was slated to be Derek Norris‘ backup, but Federowicz just had surgery to repair a torn meniscus and will miss a significant portion of the season. The Friars have veteran Will Nieves in camp, but are willing to look at external options. That’s where Romine comes in.
Any deal with San Diego likely wouldn’t involve anybody recognizable in return, as the Padres don’t have anyone out of options that’s at risk of not making the team. Again, though, something in return is better than nothing.
Neil Huntington seems to covet the Yankees’ backstops. He’s brought in Russell Martin, Chris Stewart, and Francisco Cervelli in recent seasons. This season, Cervelli and Stewart are slated to be the catchers, but Stewart is now dealing with a hamstring injury that’s jeopardizing his opening day roster spot. Stewart expects to be ready for opening day, but if things change, Tony Sanchez would be slated to be Cervelli’s caddy. Sanchez isn’t much of a catcher defensively, so maybe the Pirates look for a boost in a guy like Romine.
The most attractive out of options guys for Pittsburgh are Vance Worley and Jeff Locke, but I highly doubt the Yankees could attain either of the two for Romine alone. They’d be decent options for the Yankees’ fifth rotation spot if they chose not to use Adam Warren, but regardless, it looks like Worley and Locke are going to make the Pirates 25-man anyway with one as a starter and the other a long man. Ultimately, I don’t expect a match here unless Stewart has a setback or two.
If the Yankees can’t find a trade match, then they’ll be left with two choices: (1) keep Romine as the backup and send down Murphy or (2) outright Romine and risk losing him on waivers. The latter will only happen if the team is absolutely convinced that Murphy would be wasting his time in Triple-A and if management believes Romine simply isn’t the best option with the big club. I still expect Romine to be moved before the regular season, but it wouldn’t be overly surprising if the front office decided to bring him north. It’s one thing to lose a fringy infielder or outfielder to waivers, but Romine’s position makes him a tad more valuable, so I don’t think the Yankees would easily concede him to the waiver process.