Originally written on Mike Silva's New York Baseball Digest  |  Last updated 11/9/14

I reached out to a good friend in the Giants organization who had this to say about new Yankees backup catcher Chris Stewart:

Chris Stewart is not only a fine guy, he does crossword puzzles. He can catch and throw but there is no bat. He will be a nice addition to the Yankee Clubhouse and will never be a trouble maker. He’s a great guy but a backup catcher, at best.

Mike Silva adds:

I understand the Yankees concerns about catching depth in the organization. They were counting on Austin Romine to be Francisco Cervelli‘s minor leaguer backup, but his back appears to be something that could keep him out a significant portion of the season.

The issue I have with this deal is that Cashman traded a decent middle-relief pitching prospect in George Kontos for a backup catcher with a career OPS of .563. Stewart wasn’t good enough to stick around the Yankees his first stint in 2008.

Kontos struck out over a batter per inning and posted a 2.62 ERA at Triple-A in 2011. The Yankees are extremely deep in the middle-relief department, but you can see how quickly that could change with an injury or two. Kontos might be someone they wish they had back at some point this season.

To be fair, Stewart had a great season behind the dish in 2011 (39% CS rate). I believe your backup catcher must be solid defensively, as the bat is less important.

If the Yankees signed a Stewart-type as a non-roster invitee and awarded him the backup job, that’s fine. To trade a decent live arm- albeit one that is a middle reliever- seems to be an overpay.

They already have Gustavo Molina, who appears to be a similar type of player they could have stashed at Scranton.

Even more interesting is how Cervelli will respond at Triple-A.  Some veterans can embrace a demotion as a challenge, and go down to the minors and tear the cover off the ball. Others sulk and “big league” their teammates, spending every minute being miserable they are riding buses in various outposts instead of staying at five-star hotels and riding charter flights.

If I were the Yankees, how Cervelli responds would tell me if he is worth sticking around the organization long-term. I don’t think anyone seems him more than a career backup, but I am big on attitude, and this certainly is a major test in that department.

If they want me to prove that I can catch in the big leagues, I’ll go and prove it, that I have to be here,”Cervelli told reporters after hearing the news. I am sure the Yankees will be watching how serious he is about that statement.

The big winner here is Kontos. Remember how NYBD contributor Joe Delgrippo always says the worst place to be for a young player is the Yankees 40-man roster. Kontos is finally free of that prison sentence and can get an opportunity to actually pitch in the big leagues.


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