From the moment that Russell Martin signed his two-year, $17 million contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates it became apparent that the New York Yankees had lost a very stable piece of their team. No, Martin is never going to hit for a high average but he does supply whatever team he is playing for with an above-average amount of power and very good defense behind the plate.
The Yankees could have chosen to go after a replacement for Martin through free agency but they inevitably allowed the top two free agent catchers, A.J. Pierzynski and Mike Napoli, to sign with the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox, respectively.
The team then announced that they were going to go with their in-house options of Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart and Austin Romine. They did bring in former Los Angeles Angels catcher Bobby Wilson to add some competition but he didn’t even crack the squad.
Romine has some upside but it was determined early on that he would not be considered for an Opening Day roster spot. So that left the Yankees with a not-so-intimidating catching duo of Cervelli and Stewart. Cervelli looks like he will get the majority of the starts for the team with Stewart playing two or three times a week.
All in all, with Cervelli and Stewart splitting the duties the Yankees are most likely going to get production somewhere along the lines of .260 AVG/7 HRs/65 RBIs from their catching position.
Had they brought in Napoli after it was determined that he had his chronic hip injury, they could have not only have gotten him for a cheap one-year, $5 million deal but they also could have stolen him from their biggest rival. Napoli is currently hitting extremely well for the BoSox and is on pace to produce a slash line that figures to look something like .265 AVG/30 HRs/110 RBIs, which would obviously be an upgrade and a steal.
Not only that but it also would have been on a deal that fits into the Yankees’ budget plans for 2014. The only downside would be the defense that Napoli brings to the table is below average and a downgrade from Cervelli/Stewart. However, Napoli would most likely be filling in for Mark Teixeira at first base while he recovers from his wrist injury, making the defensive downgrade less of an issue.
It is always nice to look at these situations with the knowledge of how things played out and you can’t really fault Yankees GM Brian Cashman for not jumping all over Napoli last winter. The point is, in hindsight it would have been nice had things gone differently.
Chris Ronca is a New York Yankees writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter; @ChrisRonca.