Mailbag: 2011 Catchers

Mailbag: No Cliff Lee
RAB Live Chat

This time we’ll take two mailbag questions and answer them together.

What will the Yankees do about the DH situation next year? Montero/Posada/Veterans only? Or a FA signing?

Are there any catchers available this off-season that can help bridge the gap to montero and allow Posada to be a full time dh? surely cervelli isn’t the best option?

There is, I think, an ideal scenario that involves Montero, Posada, and Cervelli behind the plate in 2011. It might not come to fruition, so the Yankees should have a backup plan, but with those three on the roster I think they can manage both the catcher and DH spots.

Posada and Montero could simply alternate between DH and catcher. That would allow Montero time to develop behind the plate at the major league level without becoming overexposed. Using him as DH in half of his games will also help keep him fresh throughout the season. The same goes for Posada. He’ll turn 40 next August, and while he’s been generally durable we have seen him wear down a bit, especially early in the season, during the last two years. Alternating them, but keeping their bats in the lineup, seems like the best situation for the club, at least on offense, in 2011.

Since one of the catchers will be DHing most days, Cervelli also plays into this equation. His role would be reduced, in that he’d be a true backup catcher who plays about once a week. If the team feels that he’s better off catching A.J., then he can catch every fifth day. That would give either Montero or Posada a full day of rest once every 10 or so days, which will also keep them fresh. Jorge probably has a bit more to gain from this setup. The Yankees could also maximize Cervelli’s value by having him play third base an the corner OF positions in winter ball. He wouldn’t be there a lot, but he seems capable of playing at least third. That would mean more roster flexibility, which is important if the team is going to carry three catchers.*

*Though it’s not really three catchers. It’s more like two catchers and a DH, except two of the catchers happen to rotate between DH and catcher, rather than having one set at each position.

At many points this season we’ve ragged on Cervelli, though it wasn’t totally fair. At this point in his career he’s a backup catcher, and given his lack of pop at the plate it’s difficult to see him developing into a true starter for a first-division team. We should instead direct the criticism towards the Yankees. With Posada unable to catch every day they needed a better backup catcher than Cervelli. With this plan they will have just that, and they’ll continue to challenge their best prospect at the same time.

If the Yanks would develop Montero’s defense by having him play full-time in the minors, a veteran backup might be the best path. I doubt they’d take it, though. Chances are they’d just go with Posada and Cervelli with designs on calling up Montero mid-season. Still, you could make a case that someone like Ramon Hernandez, John Buck, or even Miguel Olivo would be better in the expanded role the Yankees will require. It’s not likely, but if they don’t think Cervelli will get any better they might decide to go with one of these free agents instead.

Mailbag: No Cliff Lee
RAB Live Chat
  • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

    I love mailbag-Friday. Wouldn’t mind seeing this anytime there are enough worthy questions.

    • Joe Pawlikowski

      It’s fun doing it, too. It’s like an in-depth chat.

    • Betty Lizard

      ITA that the Mailbag is a great feature. I’d love to see mailbag features any time.

  • mike c

    i’d rather see the yankees acquire a strong defensive catcher than have cervelli again next year

    • Ted Nelson

      Cervelli’s reputation in the minors was as a strong defensive catcher, so I think there’s still some hope he can improve and/or this season was a bit of a fluke.

      • Antonella

        sorry but not true. Cervelli was doing aweful at the minors. he suffered from major injuries including, the most famous one, in his wrist. his numbers in minor leagues are terrible. he actually impressed us a lot by doing fairly well at the mlb. iagree he should never be a starter and I hate his attitude.

  • vin

    I, too, love the idea of the catcher/dh’s. However, it’s all dependent upon Montero’s ability to hit in the big leagues. If he gets called up (or makes the team out of ST), and he struggles like he did early this season then a major wrench has been thrown into the works.

    Hopefully he mashes, but if he doesn’t, it’ll be interesting to see how long his leash is (especially given that he turned it around this season).

    • Chris

      He struggled early this year, and then everything worked out, so I don’t see how him struggling would throw a major wrench into the plans.

      If he really doesn’t hit (or Posada or Montero get injured) then the Yankees will look for a DH at the deadline.

      • vin

        “He struggled early this year, and then everything worked out, so I don’t see how him struggling would throw a major wrench into the plans.”

        If Cashman plans on using him at DH 3 times a week and he struggles in the big leagues, then there’s a pretty sizable hole at the DH slot. Also, either Posada or Cervelli will have to catch more.

        The whole concept is affected if Montero doesn’t hit.*

        * I do think he’ll be a fine hitter in the big leagues.

        • JobaWockeeZ

          If Montero fails miserably and doesn’t heat up later on which I find unlikely then you can have Cervelli catch full time and have Jorge DH catching on occassion. If Montero heats up he plays more if he doesn’t then there’s the deadline.

    • Phishin’

      Montero was also coming back from a season / offseason of injury which I believe contributed to the slow start…though I have nothing to prove that with

  • seimiya

    Playing devil’s advocate, why (since you don’t mention him here) do you think V-Mart is a bad fit for the Yankees? There’s a moderately-priced catcher with some pop in his bat coming into free agency. Is it because

    a) we’ve got plenty of first basemen, so that would kick off some of his effectiveness?

    b) he’s probably more accustomed to being an everyday catcher than a backup?

    Also, who know who else is a pretty good defensive catcher and a free agent? Jason Varitek. Yep. I said it. Granted, I actually laughed while typing this, but you have to admit it would be the the funniest, most pathetic, interesting thing to happen to the Sox since Johnny Damon.

    • Steve H

      More a than b, but also a c. He’d cost too much in terms of years and dollars. His value as an strong offensive catcher is already here in terms of Posada and in the future Montero. If V-Mart came here on a 1 or 2 year deal I could see it working, but he’d just cost too much, he’s aging, and he’s poor defensively. Plus, if V-Mart were a full time DH (with Tex he won’t be 1B), his bat doesn’t play nearly as well as it does behind the plate.

    • vin

      This reminds me of the thought people had a few years ago when they wanted Nomar as the Utility Infielder. He was still a viable player at that point (fell off quickly thereafter though). Not sure how moderately priced VMart will be. He is among the best hitting catchers in the game. I’d be shocked if he makes less than 10 mil/year.

    • JobaWockeeZ

      Unneeded and will be too expensive unless they miss/pass out on Lee. Jorge is even better than him offensively and a wash defensively. Plus Vmart too has some injury concerns doesn’t he? I’d pass if somehow he’s a FA.

    • MikeD

      Varitek’s defensive skills have eroded. He’s better than V-Mart, but that’s not to say he’s all that good anymore. Pass.

  • seimiya

    Whoops, got so distracted talking about Red Sox catcher that I forgot to mention how much I love mailbag friday.

  • JobaWockeeZ

    Damn I missed my own question with the Cliff Lee thing…

    But for this topic those 3 would be wonderful with let’s say Cervelli catching 30 percent of games, Jorge getting 40 percent and Montero getting 30. When does Montero come up? I say late April.

    • The Three Amigos

      Well this is the big question isn’t it. When does Jesus get called up. I say the Yankees who are in no rush/no desperate offensive need to promote him beginning next season, start him at AAA, let him heat up and bring him up June 1. To start his clock late. Most players this isn’t a problem for the Yanks, but with his projections this makes the most business sense in the long term and probably short term as well, since you want him to come up on fire, not slowly.

      • Chris

        you want him to come up on fire, not slowly.

        Obviously it would be better for him to come up hitting well, but there’s nothing wrong with struggling early. Plenty of young players have come up and struggled early on then adjusted and started hitting.

        The value of having Montero catch/DH in April and May >>>>>>>>>> any benefit gained by having him get hot before coming up

        There is a case to be made to delay bringing him up because of his arbitration clock, but I don’t think it’s convincing. The Yankees haven’t shown any indication that they base their roster decisions on a players arbitration clock, and most other teams faced with a similar situation bring the player up to start the year (most other teams would probably have brought Montero up this year, so the sample size is actually very small).

        • The Three Amigos

          True, but the Yankees have not had a position player come up with this much hype and projection in a long time. There is definitely something to be said for waiting the 2 months, to save millions on the back end. It seems like too smart a decision not to pursue. Especially considering, the season he just finished at AAA (finishing with surgery) and with Romine most likely starting at AA

  • UncleArgyle

    I’m a fan of the Jorge/Montero/Cervelli DH/C medley. A Thames/Thome DH platoon would be good/cheap as well, but then theres no real MLB opening for Montero.

  • ash

    no love for austin romine? does he eventually replace cervelli and make him expendable.

    • JobaWockeeZ

      Mailbag: 2011 Catchers

      Romine completely halted production at the second half of the year in AA. He still needs time. He’s got a remote chance at best in coming up to the bigs in 2011. That doesn’t mean it’s a lack of love for Romine.

    • The Three Amigos

      Romine most likely starts next year in AA again, so he is at least another year off most likely 1.5/2 years off.

  • masonflint

    instead of signing a solid backup catcher (i.e., buck, olivio), i would like to keep the posada/cervelli combo (maybe w/ montero thrown in there as a dh/c) and go after a legitimate backup 3b/whatever else…decent bat who could play a little 1b maybe some outfield..could be a more pressing matter at this point.

  • Frank

    No one has mentioned the possibility of Montero being traded this off season, perhaps as part of a package for a young starter. The Yanks already were willing to move him for Lee in July. If that were to happen, I’d like them to get Buck. Also, I personally think the Yanks should stay with Cervelli as a backup. He is nowhere near the defensive liability many of you are making him out to be. And someone mentioned Posada catching about 40% of the games next season. I don’t see that happening. He needs to be the primary DH/3rd catcher.

    • MikeD

      Buck sucks.

      I think there’s little chance he can repeat his BA (the power has always been there), but his biggest problem is plate discipline. Even while producing his highest batting average, his OBP is still barely above .300. His career OBP is .300. So we do get more HRs from Buck compared to Cervelli, but we sacrifice 60 points in OBP. This is not the Yankee way.


      • Zack

        Not to mention Buck will be looking for a multiyear deal.

      • Craig

        buck will be coming off his career year never buy high always buy low ala swisher

    • Zack

      There’s no Lee/Halladay who are in their contract years this offseason- that’s who Cash offered Montero for. And you’re not going to move him for just a good/decent starter, so you’d have to go after someone who’s under contract for multiple years, which means it would cost a number of prospects. That’s why people see it unlikely to deal Montero, especially when Lee is available just for money and a draft pick.

      • Craig

        who would be for montero involved in a deal for josh johnson?

    • Ted Nelson

      You can mention the possibility, but it’s pure speculation. I don’t know that anyone else here is looking for the Yankees to enter the season with 7 proven ML starters, as you said was a must in a previous thread…
      I don’t know that the Yankees are actively looking to ship Montero out for whatever young starter is available. Cliff Lee is a pretty special pitcher.

  • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops

    Is the mailbag the permanent replacement for the podcast?

  • LemdaGem

    Cervelli’s BA w/RISP is significant enough to keep him as THE alternate catcher to “Sado”. As much as the hype surrounding Montero would make the average fan salivate for the 2011 season, catching is the most difficult position in baseball AND the most overlooked. Cervelli calls a great game, communicates well with pitchers, keeps hitters on their toes and can set up a defensive play when its necessary.
    Given time and enough games, Montero may eventually surpass Cervelli,
    but realistically, we’re looking at two or three seasons down the road.