Jobu might have another solution to the Yankees’ catcher dilemma.
So… I know we’ve covered the Catching scenario already, but that doesn’t mean new faces can’t arise (for some reason the world doesn’t revolve around Jobu’s Rum yet). Last time we explored external catching targets, i spoke about Brian McCann and Carlos “Chooch” Ruiz. This time, let’s cover a different strategy the Yankees could use, and a guy they could use to run the point.
The first time around, we touched upon the 2013 catching situation and discussed what went wrong and some options for next season, including Brian McCann, whom we dedicated an entire post to last week. The Yankees basically have three options at catcher. The first is to sign a big money free agent to take over the role full time. This is risky because they’d be committing a ton of money to a 30+ year old player at the most physically demanding position in the game. The second is to hand it over full time to a combination of Austin Romine and J.R. Murphy. This is risky because I don’t think you can say for sure that Romine and Murphy could handle the role at such young ages.
The third option, which is kind of the focus of this post, is to bring in a veteran to split time with the one young catcher they feel can help them the most next year. This is how the Yankees broke Jorge Posada into an every day role in the late 90s, with Joe Girardi acting as the torch-passing veteran presence. Being that Girardi is the manager now, I think this is a possibility he could really execute well. I think this is my favorite option, and there’s a guy out there I’d like to see the Yankees go out and get if they choose this option.
First of all, I think I choose Romine to be the youngster they break in this year. While Murphy had an impressive season at AA and AAA last year, I think he could use a little more minor league seasoning. The Yankees had to rush him to the bigs because of Romine’s concussion last year, or we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. To me, Romine has proven all he can prove at the minor league level and is old enough, and experienced enough, to get that shot. He spent almost the entire season as Chris Stewart’s backup last year (after Cervelli’s injury), and I think he can handle the rotation just fine. If he hits even decently, he’ll be fine in a 50/50 or 40/60 platoon.
The guy I think the Yankees should consider bringing in to be Romine’s veteran guide is a guy Yankees fans should be familiar with, and that’s Dioner Navarro. The Yankees originally signed Navarro as a 16-year old out of Venezuela way back in the year 2000. He rose quickly through the system and made his Bronx debut at just 20 years old 2004. As you can probably guess by his early big league debut, Navarro was once the Yankees top prospect. He had all the potential in the world, but the Yankees ended up dealing him, with Javier Vazquez and Brad Halsey to the Diamondbacks for Randy Johnson. Navarro’s stay in the desert would only last a few hours, as he was traded to the Dodgers the same day.
Although he was named the Dodgers’ opening day starter that April, he eventually fell out of favor and was traded to the Rays about a year and a half later. He struggled in 2007, but made the All-Star team in 2008 and led the Rays in hitting (.295). After that, he pretty much fell off the face of the earth, or at least his talent did. He lost his starting job to John Jaso and eventually signed with the Dodgers again. They cut him in 2011, and he spent 2012 bouncing around the Reds. Last year, he signed with the Cubbies and was handed the backup catcher role. You see, the Cubs were looking to break in rookie catcher Welington Castillo, and they wanted a veteran to help pave the road for the youngster.
Navarro embraced the role, and had probably the best offensive season of his career, even though he only played part time. In 89 games, he slashed .300/.365/.492 and hit a career high 13 homers while driving in 34 runs. He even had a 3-home run game (that’s what the top photo is of)! That gem came on May 29, against the cross-town rival White Sox. It was the first multi-homer game of Navarro’s career, and easily the best day of his life.
Although it’s doubtful that he’ll have that same kind of year again, I think he proved to the world that he can be a serviceable Major League catcher if he’s used correctly. He’s a decent defender who calls a good game and, at just 29 years old, isn’t a big injury risk either. You can probably get him for a one or two year deal at this point, and he might cost the Yankees less than a tenth of what a guy like McCann will cost. I’m not sure the Yankees need to be committing a lot of years to a catcher at this point anyway. They have Romine and Murphy about ready for big league jobs, and the system is stacked with catching depth like Gary Sanchez and Peter O’Brien.
Why not reunite with Dioner?
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