By Chad Jennings
Last winter, the Yankees picked their everyday catcher. They signed Brian McCann, locked him into a long-term deal and basically cemented his spot in the regular lineup. It’s McCann’s job, and there was nothing about his slow start last season that put him at risk of losing that job, just like there was nothing about his strong month of September that helped him keep the job.
McCann’s the Yankees catcher. Going to be that way for the next several years.
This winter, the Yankees have to pick their backup. At the very least they need to trim the field from three to two. Carrying Francisco Cervelli, John Ryan Murphy and Austin Romine was an overabundance during the season, and it’s pretty wasteful this winter.
Gary Sanchez is going to need Triple-A at-bats next season, and there’s little sense in making both Murphy and Romine sit around. Pretty sure Romine’s out of options anyway, so sending him to Triple-A might not even be an option.
“I think they get frustrated up and down in Triple-A,” Mark Newman said. “At some point you’ve got to either put them up there or trade them because they’ll die (if you leave them in the minors). You’ll destroy their value and then you won’t get anything for them.”
Neither Murphy nor Romine hit a ton in the minors this season, but you have to wonder how much of that was due to frustration, uncertainty and maybe even a little boredom. Murphy certainly held his own when he was in the big leagues, and Romine did the same late in his big league stint during the 2013 season.
They’ve done enough to at least compete head-to-head for a big league job in spring training.
That said, Cervelli is looking more and more like a pretty nice player. At the very least I’d consider him a high-end reserve, and he just might be a lower-end regular. He’s hit pretty well and pitchers seem to like throwing to him. He’s done nothing to lose his job. In fact, it’s largely to his credit that Murphy and Romine were stuck in the minors most of the season. Cervelli played well when he was healthy, and he earned the gig.
So what to do this winter? If there’s a team out there that values Cervelli as a potential starter, and is willing to treat him as such on the trade market, that seems like the obvious way to go. Trading Cervelli lets the Yankees get younger and cheaper. That said, Cervelli is still not overly expensive or particularly old, and if there’s significant value in trading Murphy or Romine, that would make sense as well.