Via Ken Rosenthal: The Blue Jays have claimed Eli Whiteside off waivers from the Yankees. New York claimed the backstop off waivers from the Giants a few weeks ago, then re-signed him to a new $625k split contract about a week ago. The Yankees designated him for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot for the recently-re-signed Andy Pettitte. Toronto assumes Whiteside’s entire contract with the move.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
The Yankees have signed catcher Eli Whiteside to a one-year contract to avoid arbitration, the team announced. The deal will pay him $625k in the big leagues and $200k in the minors. MLBTR projected a $600k salary, so pretty darn close.
Whiteside, 33, was claimed off waivers from the Giants earlier this month. He’s another no-hit (career 65 wRC+), all-glove backup catcher type, which the Yankees have a few of already. Whiteside is out of minor league options, so he’ll have to pass through waivers to go down to Triple-A next year. Just as a reminder, one-year contracts for players with less than six years of service time are not guaranteed. The Yankees could release Whiteside in Spring Training and would only have to pay him a fraction of his contract.
The Yankees have claimed catcher Eli Whiteside off waivers from the Giants, the team announced. Since they finished with the best record in the AL and have last waiver priority on an NL player, I suspect they’ll slide him through waivers again to get him off the 40-man roster.
Whiteside, 33, is a terrible hitter (65 wRC+ in 537 plate appearances) and really is no better than someone who gets called up in case of injury or as a third catcher in September. If he sticks with the organization heading into next year, he’ll likely serve as Austin Romine‘s backup and mentor in Triple-A.