Yanks sign Mo, but now need a catcher

The Yanks and Mariano Rivera reached agreement on a one-year contract worth $10 MM + incentives on Mo’s 43rd birthday yesterday.

It’s expected that the 2013 season will be Mo’s swan song.

But the Yanks now need a catcher. Russell Martin, who hit .211-21-53, OPS+ 92, has signed a two-year contract with Pittsburgh, leaving the Yanks with Francisco Cervelli (who spent almost all of last year in AAA), untested Austin Romine, who missed most of last year with a back injury, and Chris Stewart, Martin’s backup last year.

Stewart hit .241-1-13, OPS+ 67 in 55 games last year. Romine, 24, was 3 for 19 in 2011 in a brief callup with the Yanks, but got into just 31 minor league games last year due to his back injury, hitting .243-4-15. It’d be a stretch to suggest he is ready.

Cervelli, who’ll be 27 next year, hit .246-2-39 at AAA last year. In 490 MLB at bats, Cervelli is .271-5-71, OPS+ 84.

Martin only hit .211 last year (and spent most of the year in the .180’s), but it’s still a dropoff.

Gary Sanchez, who’ll be 20 soon, is far from ready. He hit .290-18-85, and could be the catcher of the future, but he hasn’t played any games at all above High-A.

So do the Yanks trade for a catcher?

The two free agent catchers out there are Mike Napoli, 31, who is more of a hitter than a catcher. Napoli hit .227-24-56 last year for Texas, OPS+ 110 (but wags (like me?) would say his low average/high HR would fit in with the Yanks’ lineup). He had 30 HR for Texas in 2011, has postseason experience (10 RBI in the 2011 WS). But his defense isn’t good. He is a .259 career hitter with a very good OPS+ of 126. However he doesn’t seem to fit defensively, as Girardi, a former catcher known for his defense, would want someone in the same defensive mold as himself.

The other free agent catcher is A.J. Pierzynski. Pierzynski hit a career high 27 HR his past season, .278-27-77. OPS+ 118. His average year is more like .284-13-60, OPS+ 96. He, like Napoli, has postseason experience (and, in his case, a WS ring from 2005), but I don’t see his personality (he can be grating) fitting in with the Yanks.

The Yanks said that they didn’t have the money to compete with Pittsburgh on Martin’s deal. Like one friend stated on his blog, read that again.

It’s too bad Brian Schneider isn’t five years younger. Schneider comes from my hometown, and is a lefty bat. But he hasn’t played regularly since 2008. Since then he hasn’t played in more than 59 games in a season, and has hit just .214. Schneider, a fine defensive catcher, if he were 31 instead of 36, could have platooned with Cervelli until Romine is ready. But even if he were in his prime, and gave you 100 games, the best you would expect from Schneider would be .247-8-40 or so.

Maybe the Yanks force-feed Romine now into the starting role, but I doubt it. But instead of getting the year in AAA he needs, Romine could be force-fed into the backup role. But as of now, I see Cervelli #1 and Stewart #2.

That could change over the next few months. It most likely will, but who would be the new catcher? In any case, it appears that that new catcher would just be a stopgap. But you never know.

No, I don’t see Posada (41) coming out of retirement. Remember that Jorge hasn’t caught regularly since 2010, and his defense in the last few years of his career was highly suspect.

But considering the age of this team, with Jeter, Mo, Pettitte, A-Rod, Kuroda, and possibly Chavez and Ichiro, Jorge would fit right in, wouldn’t he?

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