Do the Yankees have a secret plan at catcher?
Few people took the New York Yankees seriously when they suggested, early this winter, that they planned to go with a combination of Austin Romine, Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart at catcher in 2013.
The three combined for a total of 179 plate appearances in 2012, most of them coming from Stewart. He had just an O.P.S.+ of 67 to show for it, while Romine missed most of the season due to injury, and Cervelli posted a .657 O.P.S. at Triple-A. It is hard to imagine any of these three catchers providing minimally acceptable offense at the position, let alone collectively.
All three are gifted defenders. But that's just so much ground to make up.
And yet the alternatives for the Yankees are disappearing. Last season's incumbent, Russell Martin, signed a two-year, $17 million deal with the Pirates. He's a good defensive catcher, with a solid if unspectacular bat. And the decision by the Yankees not to match Pittsburgh's offer looms as one of the stranger ones of the offseason.
Still, that happened early in the offfseason. Surely general manager Brian Cashman had someone else in mind, right?
Well, the last free agent who could have replicated Martin's production is off the market now, with A.J. Pierzynski agreeing to a contract with the Texas Rangers. Pierzynski posted a 118 O.P.S.+ last season, and his career mark is 96. The Yankees reportedly didn't even make him an offer.
Nor does the standard reason for financial caution apply here. The Yankees are actively working to reduce their payroll liability for 2014, which might have played a part in letting Martin go rather than sign him to a two-year deal. But Pierzynski signed for one year, $7.5 million. He'd have had no effect on 2014.
What makes this inaction so odd is that in all other areas, the Yankees are going for it now, as they should. They have an older core, they managed to bring back pitchers like Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera on one-year deals, and both Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson are in the final seasons of their contracts. Kevin Youkilis signed a one-year deal as Alex Rodriguez insurance.
So why are the Yankees going with their odd three-headed catching arrangement?
Brian Cashman has come up with surprise trades and other moves before. With time remaining until spring training, another move is distinctly possible, whatever the Yankees are currently saying about how great Romine's defense is.
But there were some obvious-looking answers to their catching problem, and those are all gone now.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
Amar'e Stoudemire says he will be dominant when he returns, whenever that is.
The Mets have expressed interest in former Yankee Carl Pavano, among others, to take R.A. Dickey's spot in the rotation.
Ken Davidoff, who reported the budget to additional roster at $7 million earlier this week, now pegs it at about $10 million.
Long-awaited transfer David Laury had a huge game in his debut for Iona Thursday night.
Transfer guard Jamal Branch hopes to do the same for St. John's Friday night.