New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman acquired catcher Chris Stewart from the San Francisco Giants for reliever George Kontos. Stewart, 30, is out of options so to make room for him on the roster the Yankees sent catcher Francisco Cervelli down to AAA. This will be Stewart’s third go around with the Yankees as he appeared in one game for them in 2008 after having spent parts of 2008 and 2009 with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.
Stewart is a very capable defender behind the plate, although his one game with the Yankees was less than memorable as he allowed one stolen base and failed to get in front of two wild pitches that could easily have been scored as passed balls. Last season he served as the Giants backup catcher and appeared in 67 games and collecting eleven extra-base hits (8 doubles and 3 home runs) in 162 at-bats. He managed just a .204/.283/.309 AVG/OBP/SLG line last season. Stewart’s value has always been his defense.
George Kontos, 26, made his Major League debut last summer with the Yankees allowing 2 runs across 6 innings. He also managed to strike out six. Kontos has a live arm and relies on the strikeout, averaging a strikeout per inning over his six-year Minor League career, and fly ball to get his outs. Granted, Kontos was never going to be an all-star reliever but he could have been a very capable middle innings guy who could throw 2-3 innings at a time if needed.
This deal makes little sense for the New York Yankees. They give up a power arm for a backup catcher a week after claiming Craig Tatum off of waivers from the Baltimore Orioles. Austin Romine, who was supposed to be the starting catcher at AAA, has missed all of Spring Training and is out indefinitely with back issues and the Yankees felt they needed catching depth. However, there is no way Chris Stewart, who would have likely been put on waivers and passed through, is worth a young power arm like Kontos.
Francisco Cervelli, who has served as the Yankees backup catcher since 2009, was sent down to AAA because he had options. However, Cervelli is much better than Stewart overall. Cervelli, who can sometimes have small adventures trying to throw out runners, is still worlds above Stewart offensively, posting a .272/.338/.354 slash line while performing well behind the dish. Cervelli loses the battle of the backup catcher without even knowing there was a war to fight for it simply because he has options and Stewart doesn’t.
Essentially what the Yankees have done is trade a young power arm in Kontos for a backup catcher who can’t hit while moving a fairly good backup catcher who could hit and field to AAA. No matter how hard I try I still can’t wrap my head around this one. This might go down as one of the more curious moves Cashman has made as general manager.