Poll: The Starting Catcher

King: Ichiro tired of waiting, now talking to multiple clubs
Olney: Yankees have interest in Nate Schierholtz
(Mike Ashmore)

Whether they want to admit it, the Yankees were dealt a significant blow when Russell Martin spurned their non-offer for a two-year pact with the Pirates. By no means is Martin a star behind the plate, but he’s a league average hitter who can play above-average defense at the catcher position. He’ll be close to impossible to replace in this market if you’re willing to look beyond the meager batting average.

“We do have placeholders there,” said Brian Cashman the other day when asked about his catching situation going forward, which sounds like something straight out of the “Bubba Crosby will be our center fielder” playbook. “We have people that can handle and run the game. The offense is an area that, currently with what our roster provides, will be a downgrade from what we’re used to. But the most important aspect of those games is (defense).”

The Yankees have more than two months left in the offseason to scour the free agent and trade markets for a replacement catcher, but right now their internal solutions consist of some has-beens and never-wases. Each has some kind of strength and many negatives, so let’s quickly review.

Frankie Cervelli
Cervelli, 26, is easily the most accomplished big league hitter of the team’s internal options. He’s produced a .271/.339/.353 batting line in 562 plate appearances while providing mostly below-average defense. Cervelli always seemed to have a knack for the poorly-times passed ball. The Yankees obviously don’t think much of him, otherwise they wouldn’t have sent him to the traveling circus known as Triple-A Scranton for all of last summer.

Austin Romine
Of the four players in this post, the 24-year-old Romine is the only one with a real chance to be a long-term piece for the Yankees. He missed the start of last season with a back problem and only has 106 unimpressive plate appearances above Double-A to his credit. In 870 plate appearances at the Double-A level, he’s a .276/.336/.392 hitter. Romine is a generally considered a solid defender.

Chris Stewart
Last year’s backup, Stewart is a .217/.281/.302 hitter in 394 big league plate appearances. He’s considered a very good defender by the Yankees but I was a little underwhelmed last year. Poor hitting has a tendency to inflate a catcher’s defensive reputation, and that’s sorta what happened with the 30-year-old Stewart. That doesn’t mean he’s bad, but he’s not elite.

Eli Whiteside
The new-comer to the group, Whiteside is a .215/.273/.335 career hitter in 537 plate appearances. The 33-year-old is another defense-first type, but I have no idea how true that is because I haven’t seem him play much. The Yankees have already removed him from the 40-man roster, so I guess he’s at the bottom of their internal catching totem pole.

* * *

Let’s face it, there is no good solution here, especially if you’re looking for any kind of offense. The Yankees will take a very big hit in backstop production if any of these four gets regular playing time next year. Is one better than the rest? Maybe.

If the season started today, who should be the starting catcher?
Total Votes: 2885 Started: December 2, 2012 Back to Vote Screen
King: Ichiro tired of waiting, now talking to multiple clubs
Olney: Yankees have interest in Nate Schierholtz
  • Duke

    Where’s the other option?

    • kyle higashioka

      Sorry….I was in the bathroom.

  • jjyank

    I voted Romine. Ideally I would not pick anyone, as Romine probably needs more seasoning after his generally lost 2012. But at least there’s some theoretical upside there, which can’t be said of the other internal options.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Romine so eragant thinking everyone will eat for him

      • jjyank

        Is that why so many people spell his name “Romaine”?

      • MannyGeee

        What kind of seasoning does one put on lettuce anyhow? In this case wouldnt we say that Austin needs more…. dressing?

        I’ll be here all week, be sure to tip your waitresses..

    • Jacob

      I voted romine just because the birthmark on his face makes him look like a scrapper

  • NunEEE Tunes

    Starting catcher is not on the current roster right now.

  • bacciagaloop

    God this sucks

  • Francesa

    Carlos Santana.

    • Cano fan #1

      I like your comment.

    • Preston

      Yeah, switch hitter with power and a ton of walks would be nice,but the Indians have him signed long term with an option for 2017, so they both don’t need to trade him, and would be able to ask for a lot. It would probably take Sanchez and Williams plus 2-3 arms, Phelps and Marshall maybe if they prefer impact guys or Hensley and Campos if they want higher upside. I don’t know, that’s a lot to give up, and Santana only played 100 games at Catcher last year, so we’ll still be seeing a lot of Stewart/Cervelli/Romine/Whiteside. That’s a lot to give up.

  • Betty Lizard

    This poll encapsulates perfectly the state of my Yankees-fan life now.
    (Off to brush up on my understanding of the circles of Hell.)

  • Beamish

    Unless someone thinks Romine will be irreparably damaged by coming up early and maybe struggling he is the best option of the four to deliver anything other than a barely mediocre season.

  • Mike HC

    Run Cervelli and Stewart (don’t know Whiteside at all) out there for the first half of the season and hope Romine is ready to take over in the second half of the season.

    Whether by trade or free agent, the Yanks clearly need to bring in one or two guys with more offensive potential though.

    • OldYanksFan

      This is probably what WILL happen.
      Now that Martin is gone, I would rather accept a below average Catcher, amd put more money (the $7m they saved) into RF.
      Since Romaine had so few games played last year, I can’t see him starting the season with the big boys. He would just have to kill in the Spring, and that might not even do it.

      We can live with Stewart and Brains for a few months.
      Offense from RF is more important then trying to get Good D and decent offense from our Catcher.

      Better get used to this.
      In 2014, with $100m tied up in CC, ARod, Teix, Jeter and Robbie, you can’t expect above average players at all positions. They Yankees are going to need to field a bunch of kids to keep payroll in order until 2017.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    I voted Chris Stewart. In other news, I can’t believe I just voted Chris Stewart.

    • Pat D

      Neither can Chris Stewart.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        He won’t hit, but I don’t think any of the other options will either and I trust him more defensively, defensive catcher myths notwithstanding.

        I’d be willing to get Romine in there as much as possible, but I don’t trust his back and I sure as hell am not handing him a starting spot unless he has an otherworldly spring.

        • Pat D

          Well, don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos.

          And by Kodos, I mean Cervelli.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            The only person happy about the possibility is my mother-in-law.

            • Pat D

              I’m certainly not happy about it.

              I’d prefer Romine suddenly become a top prospect again, but I see little chance of that.

            • MannyGeee

              is this your mothers wife? I am assuming your wife is Italian and that her mother loves Frankie because he looks like a guy from the “Old Country”…

              Or you married way above your age and your MiLaw is senile.

              • Robinson Tilapia

                Ha! My mother-in-law is big on the gritty underdog types. She still asks what Bubba Crosby is up to.

  • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula

    Considering Romine missed almost the whole season and then didn’t hit at all in AAA and the AFL when he returned, it’s pretty unrealistic to expect him to be starting catcher. Maybe by the 2nd half but even that’s a reach.

    I gotta believe the starting catcher isn’t on the roster as if today.

    Martin wasn’t elite but I think it was a mistake not to offer him something close to the 2/$17 that signed with the Pirates. He was worth 5.2 WAR the last 2 years and I think that underestimates his value considerably If you buy into the pitch framing data.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I don’t *think* the starting catcher is on the roster either, but I also think there’s a non-zero chance Chris Stewart is it.

      • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula

        I’m sure it’s a non zero chance. They obviously like him more than Cervelli so he’s probably front runner out of the 4 choices Mike mentioned, as scary as that is.

        • Jacob

          I would much rather see cashman try to catch for the team himself than see stewart as the starting catcher. But a platoon with Stewart and Romine cannot be that terrible, can it?

          • jjyank

            Why Cashman? Fuck man, Girardi is still in shape. Player manager!

            Kind of sad that I’m only half kidding. He might be better than Stewart.

            • Jacob

              Haha honestly he probably would be, sign me up. ACTUALLY I think Joe Torre is looking good for 70, he was an awesome catcher lets get him

          • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula

            I would think that Even the most optimistic person couldn’t expect much from Stewart and Romine.

            • Jacob

              I don’t at all trust me, but better than just stewart himself even if only a little

  • http://www.twitter.com/matt__harris Matt :: Sec110

    Tough poll, because I don’t think any of these guys are the answer.

    I voted for Romine only because he has the most upside.

    That being said, I’d rather the Yanks explore a trade (obviously).

  • Zack

    THe Pirates were willing to go to three years and $25 million. No way were the Yanks going to overpay like that.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I actually thought they would. They didn’t.

    • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula

      I read the Pirates offered him 2/$17 million or 3/$21 million and he chose the shorter term deal. I could be wrong but I never saw 3/$25 million.

  • Wil Nieves #1 Fan

    Wil Nieves.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      The definitive answer, Gene.

  • Yankee Fan 1

    Voted Romine. Missing Jorge like crazy right now.

  • Victor Sharma

    Giovanny Soto people.!

    • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula

      Probably the best of the remaining FAs excluding asshole extraordinaire Pierzinski.

  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    I voted Luis Torrens. Granted, he’s just a 17-year old with no official at bats as a pro, but why not?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Petey O’Brien is very angry at you right now.

      • Preston

        O’Brien’s been kind of a bust so far, Murphy is younger and been more productive at a higher level, if he started off hot at AA and we had a black hole at C, I could see him getting an agressive promotion to the big show.

  • John Battaglino

    What is the status of Victor Martinez?

    • Pat D

      Another injured, aging guy who, ya know, can’t catch.

      • Laz

        and is still under contract by Detroit for another year.

    • MannyGeee

      cant catch. Couldn’t catch even before he was grossly overpaid by detroit.

  • dan gen

    placeholders,budget,189,bottom feeders,outbid by the pirates,189,piece it together………………….yet,charge 1,500 for a legends seat….

    • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula

      They’d have to roll out the team from “Field of Dreams” before I’d pay $1500 for a seat.

  • Tim

    Posada will be back. Lol

  • Jacob

    Raul Ibanez, I heard catching was like riding a bike

  • Jamey

    This poll is like asking hungry people which piece of discarded food found in the dumpster they’d like to have for dinner. “Well, the half eaten hot dog was furthest from the used kleenex….”

    • Jamey

      Yes. Romine is the half eaten hot dog in this scenario.

    • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula

      That’s pretty funny. I was thinking this poll is like asking if you’d rather catch Chlamydia, Gonorhea, Genital Herpes or Syphilis.

      • MannyGeee

        Fransisco “the Clap” Cervelli

  • Curt and Bernie

    Why not fill the “offensive void” martin’s departure created by spending the money we would have needed to keep him on a rf? We can suffer through below martin-level hitting at the plate if we can get better production in right. The way I see it, Cervelli/ Romine and Swisher (just for arguments sake) is better than Martin and Dickerson.

    • Mike HC

      I agree that the Yanks optimally bring in one more regular, offensive minded player, whether it is at catcher or rightfield. It is starting to seem more likely that will be a rightfielder.

    • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula

      Makes sense though the options, at least in free agency, are pretty limited unless they’re gonna bring back Swisher.

    • https://twitter.com/MattMontero1 matt montero

      That’s exactly what I was thinking.

  • Steve (different one)

    Cervelli’s numbers surprised me. Now, doing it full time is another thing, and there is the defense of course, but if you could guarantee me that Cervelli hits like that, the Yankees could probably live with that for a year. Sign Shoppach to back up an get a little more offense from the position.

  • Rich in NJ

    Cervelli in April, with the hope that Romine stays healthy and gets going in AAA, ready to step in sometime in mid-May to early June if he is going well, unless Romine has a very productive ST.

    • Rich in NJ

      Of course, if Cervelli plays well, they can re-evaluate as facts dictate.

    • Oahoea

      If the season started today, i think it would have to be Cervelli or Stewart on opening day regardless of how Romine performs in ST. He’s just not the level of prospect whhere he doesn’t have to prove himself in AAA to be a starter, let alone a starting catcher in the big leagues.

      • Rich in NJ

        You could be right. I guess it might depend on how much they really want him to be the catcher of the (near)present/future, and how ready they think he is.

  • Oahoea

    can’t they get away with a Kottaras/Shoppach platoon?

  • Chris Widger

    Geovanny Soto has to be worth a flier. A one-year, incentives-laden make-good-or-go-home contract. Cervelli is never going to hold up than long, and Stewart’s a decent-hitting pitcher.

    • Oahoea

      The guy went .196/.253/.338 in 150 ABs in TEXAS. there has to be better options…

      • Chris Widger

        He’s 29. He’s two-years removed from being a middle of the order bat. Clearly last year was a catastrophe but Russell Martin looked well cooked as well before we got him.

        • Oahoea

          It’s different..Martin was coming off an injury, and even in half a season in 2010, he at least put up a .347 OBP and that was in dodger stadium. Granted, he had shown signs of decline in 2009 too when he played a full season, but Martin was dealing injuries throughout the course of both those years, Soto has just been plain bad for the past 2 years. There are better options.

          • Chris Widger

            Actually his 2011 is a dead ringer for Russell’s 2012.

            • Jacob

              No not at all, soto was a devalue to his team in all ways in 2012, martin still got on base and hit 20+ homers while providing sbove average defense behind the dish

              • Ted Nelson

                Check the years in the comment you responded to again

      • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula

        He only has a .222 BABIP last year and the previous 2 seasons has a wOBA of .317 and .387 so there’s hope improvement.

        • Preston

          Low BABIP’s don’t always mean bad luck. I would post a very low BABIP in the big leagues, because in the rare case I got the bat on the ball it would definitely be a slow roller. His struggles in 2009 seemed like BABIP noise, in 2011 and 2012 he just seems like a different player.

    • G

      In no world is a 65 wRC+ decent hitting, regardless of position

      • Ted Nelson

        You seem to have missed the joke

  • Laz

    I would pick Cervelli, BUT give Romine a very good chance at winning the starting job in ST. Whiteside and stewart really don’t hit nearly enough.

  • Robert

    Hal and his siblings are speaking.The message we are not spending our money. Get used to it…..

    Anyway looking forward to the Kids…Romine is a good start!!!

  • Chris

    I voted Stewart, because I would not make Romine the starter at this point. If he’s healthy, I’d use him as the backup and slowly work him into more and more games (assuming he’s not floundering in the backup role).

    • G

      Why? That gives him fewer PAs and therefore less chance to develop. There’s a chance that he’s better than Stewart right now, but we won’t know unless we try him out.

      • Cris Pengiucci

        Being a backup doesn’t necessarily mean playing once a week or so. They could split the time 3 games to 2 or something like that. It gives him time to adjust while providing veteran presents (or whatever Stewart would give). If Romine does well or Stewart struggles, flip the roles.

  • ton lon ton

    give the kids a chance. bring up romine and sanchez. we are done with big contract players.

  • dan gen

    cano for posey…I can dream

  • Rooting for U.S. Steel

    I’m not taking a stand on Pierzynski. But there’s an interesting article on his personality: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2012/writers/ben_reiter/08/23/pierzynski/index.html.

    Granted the writer cites batting average and RBI total as examples of his worth. But focusing on Pierzynski’s rational for acting as he does – regardless of whether or not you buy into it – might give some additional fuel for discussion.

    • Chris Widger

      The one thing the Yankees have right now is a good clubhouse dynamic. Yes, that hasn’t helped them hit their way to a World Series since 2009, but the last thing you want is adding a blowhard lightning rod like Pierzynski, regardless of if he’s on your side or not.

  • G

    Romine is the only one with any sort of higher ceiling, so there’s really no reason to not see what he can do

  • Ross

    Gotta think Cash has something up his sleeve … This position might be filled via trade rather soon. Hopefully, a right handed power hitting outfielder comes with him.

  • http://www.twitter.com/mattpat11 Matt DiBari

    Besides the passed ball problem, *I* could steal second base off Frankie Cervelli.

    Standing up.

    And because the throw would have sailed into left field, I would then be on third base.

    He’s just not a major league player.

  • Chris Widger

    Are people serious with the ‘bring up Sanchez’ stuff? The kid’s enormously talented, and unlike Montero can actually catch, but wasn’t he benched not all that long ago for maturity issues?

    And Romine hasn’t played significant ball above AA. Which he didn’t exactly light up.

    Like, I love the idea of the Yankees giving the kids a shot, but I’m not handing Melky Mesa the right field job because he’s not old and decrepit.

    I’m banging Soto’s drum pretty hard, and that’s in part because I was always a big fan of him when he was a Cub, but seriously, assuming it’s a one-year high incentive deal, why wouldn’t the Yankees give it a try? He has massively more upside than any of the current options, even assuming Cervelli doesn’t crumble with regular playing time.

  • bobby valintino

    Tebow time! put him in

  • Brian in MA (formerly NH)

    If we had to start the season right now with one of these guys, i would have to say Cervelli by default. He has more than a handful of big league PAs, and is at least a non-zero hitter. Catcher defense matters, definitely, but we lived with Posada behind the dish for years because he could hit pretty well. Romine needs ABs in AAA (maybe could work his way up by June or July…if he can stay healthy that is) and Whiteside and Stewart are pretty much zeros with the bat.

    Of course, most catchers can’t hit very well, and even “elite” guys with the bat tend not to stick around behind the plate very long. Most recent guys i can think of who were elite hitters at C and stayed there late in their career are Posada and Piazza. Most guys end up moving off the dish in their late 20s or early 30s to try and preserve the bat.