Daily Archives: November 30, 2012

Yankees Offseason Notes: A lot of questions left unanswered for the Yankees

It’s November 30th and Winter Meetings are on Monday. But when this should be a joyous time of year to watch other teams moves, hear other team rumors, this year it’s slightly different. The Yankees have no right fielder, no legitimate catcher and ten million questions for Brian Cashman. Although Cashman says the first priority is a right fielder, fans can’t help but worry about if the catcher should be first on the list. They are the ones that stop the pitches from hitting the backstop in every game you know. Given the Yankees current roster, here is how the Opening Day lineup would look (I factored in that Jeter most likely will be able to play shortstop on Opening Day)

SS Derek Jeter
2B Robinson Cano
1B Mark Teixeira
3B Alex Rodriguez
DH ???
CF Curtis Granderson
RF ??
C ???
LF Brett Gardner

Some of the main questions for the Yankees could possibly, who will the Yankees bring to be the everyday catcher? Can the Yankees really count on Austin Romine to be ready for Spring Training despite the back issues? Can the Yankees really count on Francisco Cervelli‘s bat? Can the Yankees count on Chris Stewart to take on a bigger role? Can the Yankees bring back Ichiro Suzuki to the team for another year? Who will the Yankees chose to be the DH for the 2013 season? Can they get Raul Ibanez or Eric Chavez back into their roles for another year?

And…the questions go on and on. What questions will be answered and which ones will remain a mystery? Stay tuned to find out.

In Other News

— Curtis Granderson signed up to be an ambassador this off-season and will fly to Korea and Japan.

— Who remembers seven years ago to this date where Brian Cashman was planning to use Bubba Crosby as the everyday CF for the 2006 season? Then they signed Johnny Damon and Bubba Crosby was traded. Well, the first part mirrors the catcher predicament. Cashman believes that any of the catchers in the organization can replace Martin. I bet he makes some kind of deal for a catcher by January.

Letting Martin Go Represents A Bigger Issue

Last night, Russell Martin signed a two-year deal worth $16.5 million with the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was reported that the Yankees didn’t even make an offer. This leaves the Yankees with very few catching options and who knows what they will do. People who are saying that this isn’t a big deal because Martin had a down year last season are missing the greater issue that this represents.

The fact that the Pirates gave Martin a very fair contract and the Yankees chose not to match it, with no good in-house catching replacements is a scary sign. You have to figure Martin would have rather come back to New York than go to Pittsburgh, so if the Yankees just matched that offer you have to figure he would be a Yankee. Martin was always a player the front office was fond of, so the fact that they didn’t match a fair offer for him means they really don’t want to spend any money at all. It really boggles my mind that the Yankees couldn’t match this.

Martin is an average hitting catcher and an above average defensive catcher who is well worth what Pittsburgh is paying him. Martin’s line for the 2011 season was.211/.311/.403. His .714 OPS was fine for his position and when you combine that with his defense and power, it more than makes up for his average, which is not a good stat in determining value anyways. Martin hit an impossibly low .222 on balls in play and was one of the few Yankees who had clutch this down the stretch. Martin hit a career high 21 homers and had a good walk percentage of 10.9%. According to Jay Jaffe of SI.com, Martin’s pitch framing was 15 runs above average at midseason last season and the final value is unpublished, but it has Martin at 19 runs above average.

Martin is certainly replaceable, but the Yankees’ resources to replace him are minimal.  If they couldn’t afford Martin for two years and $16 million, than I don’t see how Mike Napoli or A.J. Pierzynski could cost less. I would love to get Pierzynski on a one-year deal. Sure, he won’t have as good of a year as last season, but he should fit well in Yankee Stadium and he would bring a level of toughness that was lacking last season. The trade market for catchers is probably not good, as good catchers are so valuable that teams are reluctant to give them up.

It should be obvious to most people that Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart are not starting caliber catchers. Austin Romine missed the whole season last year, so I doubt that he is ready either. For reasons I will never understand, a lot of fans really like Cervelli. In my opinion, his defense is atrocious and despite a decent career batting average isn’t much of a hitter and would get exposed given regular at-bats. There is a serious problem if Cashman truly believes that they can go with these internal catchers.

Martin really was a  good catcher for the Yankees and his leadership will be missed. However, a lot of fans I have seen on Twitter are missing the big picture of what this means. They might figure it out if the Yankees spend no money to fix huge holes at catcher and right field. Hopefully this is a part of some master plan, but I doubt it.

It is certainly fair to say that the Yankees should be able to win with a $189 million payroll. However, when you have so much money tied into Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and Derek Jeter and two of them are not worth their money, it is a lot harder. It is also harder when you have little farm help ready. Hal Steinbrenner might figure out it is not as easy as he think to build a championship team at $189 million. He also might figure out that Yankees fans’ patience will not last very long if this penny pinching continues. Even though the offseason is still very young, mine is starting to go by the day.

Cashman goes into Winter Meetings with a lot on his plate

With Russell Martin going to the Pirates, Brian Cashman's winter list got a little bit longer

With Russell Martin going to the Pirates, Brian Cashman’s winter list got a little bit longer

When the Yankees ended their 2012 season with an ALCS loss to the Tigers, the pieces that the Yankees have to pick up again seemed legitimately small. They knew they were going to have to sign Hiroki Kuroda and Mariano Rivera to contracts. They knew they had to wait for Andy Pettitte’s decision on whether or not he would return in 2013–which came quickly this year. They knew they were going to have to replace the right fielder since Nick Swisher most likely won’t come back next season. They also knew that they were going to have to re-sign Russell Martin to another contract to play behind the plate in the Bronx. Well, as of last night Brian Cashman’s list got a little bit longer.

Although he was able to re-sign closer Mariano Rivera to a 1 year, $10 Million contract, he let another player get away–Russell Martin. The offseason plan has always been to take care of starting pitching first before going off and extending contracts to other players. Apparently, Russell Martin couldn’t wait for that, signing a contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates for 2 years and $17 Million, rejoining ex-Yankee A.J Burnett in the process. This leaves Brian Cashman heading into the Winter Meetings on Monday with no catcher and no right fielder, two moves that he has to fill up before Spring Training.

With Martin gone from the Yankees, heading to Pittsburgh there are two legitimate catchers on the free agent market that are still available: A.J Pierzynski and Mike Napoli. Although the Yankees aren’t reportedly targeting either catchers, at this point they don’t have much of a choice.

Last season if Martin had ever gotten hurt, Francisco Cervelli would have been the starting catcher. Now that Martin is gone, that looks to be the case with Chris Stewart at backup and Austin Romine as an emergency choice. As much as I like Cervelli (he’s a big fan favorite), he’s not a power hitter. The same goes for Chris Stewart. Although Stewart is an amazing defensive catcher, he doesn’t have the pop in his bat.

Brian Cashman believes that the answer to the catcher situation could possibly already be on the team, but with players like Cervelli, Stewart, Romine and new Yankee (who is currently in the process of clearing waivers) Eli Whiteside, I don’t see a legitimate starting catcher in the Yankees organization. 2014 is a year away Cashman. Time to take out your wallet and make a deal for someone for this year, no matter what it takes.