According to Michael Schmidt, the Yankees and Dodgers came close to swapping catchers on Wednesday, with the Yankees nearly acquiring Russell Martin for Francisco Cervelli. I said the following about Martin a few weeks ago:
Martin’s career has evaporated over the last two seasons, but he would likely represent an upgrade defensively behind the plate over every catcher that the Yankees have, and he still has some pop in his bat. He could take the Cervelli role in the 3-headed Yankee catching monster while allowing Jesus Montero to ease onto the roster slowly. If the Yankees get lucky, he could revert back to his old self and become an extremely valuable trade chip or allow the Yankees to explore trading some of their catching assets.
A deal could not be reached and Martin was subsequently non-tendered. Although I am sure the Yankees will pursue Martin now that he is freely available, he is likely to get offers from clubs willing to make him their everyday catcher. Regardless of whether he actually becomes a Yankee, Brian Cashman’s pursuit of him tells us a few things about the Yankees’ catching situation.
1) Jorge Posada is done as a primary catcher. He mentioned wanting to come to camp to compete for the starting job, but the Yankees’ search for another catcher suggests that if Montero does not win it, the Yankees are not comfortable handing the job to Posada. He will likely be treated as a backup catcher, getting 40 or so starts behind the plate while serving as the primary DH.
2) The 2010 season confirmed for the Yankees what many of us already knew: Cervelli is a backup catcher who should not be starting more than 50 or so games in a season. He is not good enough offensively or defensively to justify more responsibility, and was exposed by too much playing time in 2010. As such, the Yankees tried to acquire a catcher they could use as the starter should Montero prove to be not ready.
Failing to bring in Martin is not a huge deal, as the Yankees should be able to piece something together with their current catching options. But as the pursuit of Martin revealed, the Yankees are not particularly comfortable handing the position to Posada and Cervelli again if Montero ends up needing more minor league seasoning.
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