The New York Yankees watched Russell Martin sign a two year deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday, thus officially beginning their search for a new starting catcher. The Yankees have a few prospects in the minor leagues expected to handle the everyday duties behind the plate in the near future, including Austin Romine, but, as with Jesus Montero, New York appears in no rush to hurry them up to the big leagues.
As of now, that leaves the Yankees with Chris Stewart or Francisco Cervelli as the everyday catchers, which will not sit well with Brian Cashman or and of the Yankees’ brass.
New York will most likely go after another free agent catcher this offseason. Almost any of them will be able to replace Martin’s .211 batting average in 2012, but very few will be able to match his home run total or defensive prowess behind the plate.
One who may be able to come the closest, however, is A.J. Pierzynski, most recently of the Chicago White Sox. After having one of his best seasons in 2012, Pierzynski will look to cash in one more long term contract at the age of 35, especially as the White Sox shift more toward a youth movement. He would certainly fit in in the Yankees’ locker room, bringing a passion to the game and a fire to the clubhouse.
Defensively, Pierzynski may not be mentioned in the same category as someone such as Martin, but he is also nowhere near as poor behind the plate as some may lead you to think. He calls a good game and has worked well with some younger pitchers. Going to a staff with veterans including C.C. Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda may actually make his job much easier than it has been helping youngsters figure out how to pitch in the big leagues.
In the end, it will all boil down to how much Pierzynski is seeking, as well as how much the Yankees are willing to pay for a veteran catcher to bridge the gap while some of their top prospects are still learning the game at the minor league level. Martin signed for $17 million over the next two years in Pittsburgh. New York may be willing to give Pierzynski a similar type of deal, possibly even adding a third year, but they are not likely to go much beyond those numbers.
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