Brian McCann is the best acquisition the New York Yankees have made thus far this offseason. The slugging left-handed catcher should see his power numbers increase with the short porch in right and will hopefully revive a pitching rotation that (except for Ivan Nova) was in taters by the end of the 2013 season.
One of the greatest advantages of McCann coming to New York is the designated hitter. He’ll be 30 years old next February, which means his body will probably not be able to withstand the physical toll of catching every day. The ability to rest him while simultaneously keeping his bat in the lineup will be a godsend to Joe Girardi and will help McCann stay healthy.
Projected lineups for the Yankees likely have either Alfonso Soriano or Carlos Beltran as the DH. But when McCann inevitably DH’s, who is going to be behind the dish for the Yankees?
Francisco Cervelli is one option. He was Russell Martin’s backup in 2011 before being demoted to Triple-A in 2012. After Martin signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cervelli was set to be the starter in 2013. Then he fractured his hand in April, underwent surgery, and was placed on the 60-day DL. Then he was implicated in Biogenesis and suspended for 50 games.
Cervelli brings great defense, but not much of a bat. In 2011, he batted .266/.324/.395 with four home runs and 22 RBIs in 43 games. Those are pretty solid numbers for a backup. If he can show the same production in 2014, the job will likely be his.
Nevertheless, I believe Austin Romine deserves to be the backup if for no other reason than he’s never been linked to PEDs. Beyond the moral argument, Romine performed well as the backup in 2013. I realize he batted .207/.255/.296 on the year with one home run and 10 RBI, but after getting used to the Major League level, he batted .333/.385/.500 in July and .303/.400/.455 in August. He’s also two years younger than Cervelli and not as injury prone.
J.R. Murphy is another catcher who got a look last year and the end of the season. He has the unbelievable honor of being the last man to catch Mariano Rivera. Like Rivera, he won’t be playing in the Majors in 2014, or at the very least, not on Opening Day. The 22 year old will probably start the season in Triple-A.
One of the greatest advantages of McCann coming to New York is that he can DH and delay the wear and tear of catching. But that means the Yankees will need another backstop to step up when McCann needs a break. As of now, it looks like it will be either Cervelli or Romine. Personally, I’d go with Romine.