In 2013, one the many holes the New York Yankees had was at catcher. After two years of stability with Russell Martin following the retirement of longtime receiver Jorge Posada, New York had a glaring hole at a position they have depth in the lower ends of their farm system. As we saw, New York did not want to get into a bidding war over Martin, who hit .224 in his two seasons in the Bronx, so Martin skipped town for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the Yankees were left with a tandem of Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart. Cervelli ended up getting injured, and the hole at catcher only deepened for the Yankees, whose catchers hit only eight home runs in 2013.
Presumably, that will no longer be the case, as New York has signed longtime Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann to a five-year $85 million contract. McCann, who will be 30 on Opening Day, averaged 20 home runs in nine seasons in Atlanta, and has six straight seasons of 20 or more home runs, and has hit at least twenty home runs in seven of his nine career seasons. McCann does have a small durability issue, as his career high in games played is 145, and always seems to be injured, which is always alarming for a catcher. Regardless, this is a very smart deal by the Yankees, for now and for years to come.
First off, as previously stated, the Yankees actually have depth at catcher in their farm system, though none of these catching prospects seem to be ready. Austin Romine, who came up in the wake of the Cervelli injury, hit only .207 in 60 games with New York, and is starting to waver as a legitimate prospect or if he is destined for a backup role at only 25. New York’s big name prospect behind the dish, Gary Sanchez, is still in the lower ends of the Minor Leagues, and is still a few years away. What the McCann acquisition does is solidify the Yankees catching situation by bringing in an established name who is still relatively young and will probably hit very well in Yankee Stadium, with McCann being a left-handed hitter and the short porch in right field.
McCann’s agent had also stated that his client is open to playing first base as well as being a designated hitter at some point. If that is true, and not just an agent trying to make his client more enticing, then the Yankees have a first baseman for the tail end of McCann’s deal. It will probably take another year or two for the Yankees catching prospects to develop and separate themselves from the rest of the pack, and Mark Teixeira‘s contract runs through 2016. If the prospects develop as the Yankees expect, then in a few seasons, McCann will move to first base, Teixiera will walk away and the next great Yankees catcher will man the catcher’s mask.
This signing by the Yankees does not just fill a huge hole the Yankees had at catcher, it also allows them positional flexibility for the next few years. It also does not block any prospects the Yankees may actually want to keep. It’s a deal for the now and for the future.