The New York Yankees enter the 2013-14 off-season with their sights set on re-signing Robinson Cano and upgrading their catching situation. So far, Brian McCann’s name has been at the top of the list and I wrote recently about Jarrod Saltalamacchia being a possibility. However, if the Yankees choose to try and stay under the $189 million luxury tax while upgrading their catching situation they could look at Dioner Navarro who is hitting the free agent market for the second time at age 30.
Yankees’ fans might remember Navarro since he did come up through their system and made his MLB debut with the team in 2004 at age 20. Navarro was traded that off-season to the Arizona Diamondbacks as part of the package that brought Randy Johnson to the Bronx. The Diamondbacks then flipped him the same day to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Shawn Green.
Navarro has never been an offensive juggernaut but is coming off of his best season where he slugged a career-high 13 home runs to go along with a .300/.365/.492 line. He doesn’t offer a ton of power but he does offer more offensive upside than Chris Stewart and is better defensively than Francisco Cervelli. If the Yankees wanted to save some money this off-season it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to bring in Navarro who could split the catching duties with Austin Romine or J.R. Murphy.
Catcher is one position that the Yankees are fairly deep at in their farm system. Their top prospect, Gary Sanchez, made his Double-A debut and faired pretty well. Sanchez could be ready for the Major Leagues in a year or two. Romine and Murphy have also shown promise behind and at the plate. Romine hit over .300 after the All-Star break and his defense was solid throughout the year. He should definitely be considered for a starting job if McCann isn’t brought in as a free agent.
Navarro doesn’t do one thing that stands out above his other skills. There is no shocking power. There is no blazing speed. He is a lunch pail sort who will play his heart out whenever he has the chance. The Chicago Cubs might be interested in bringing him back but if the Yankees came calling he might jump at the chance to return to the organization that gave him his shot as a 20-year-old.
Whatever the Yankees do they cannot afford to enter the 2014 season with a catching combination of Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli. While Cervelli did play well in limited time last year he has proven he can’t stay healthy and has been connected to Biogenesis. It could be time for the Yankees to move on. Even if the Yankees do nothing in free agency at catcher they should place Murphy and Romine ahead of Cervelli and Stewart on the depth chart just based on upside.
If the Yankees do decide to bring in a catcher, one who won’t break the bank, will play solid defense and can at least contribute offensively while not blocking the path, either through financial commitment or in playing time, of Gary Sanchez. It wouldn’t be surprising if Navarro comes back to the Bronx and the Yankees could certainly do a lot worse.