Thursday, December 27, 2012

Yankees' Commitment To Catching Defense Nothing New

(Hey look!  Good defense!  Courtesy of Getty Images)

Some time has passed since the shocker of Russell Martin signing with the Pirates, almost 1 month to be exact.  And in that time, the surprise factor of the move has barely worn off and the calls for the Yankees to make a trade or sign another catcher have continued to pour in from fans and writers alike.  The general consensus is that the underwhelming offensive trio of Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart, and Austin Romine isn't going to cut the mustard, and there's been little that the Yankee brass has said to change that perception.  Yesterday, Mike Eder of TYA wrote a piece on Romine's defensive skills and the high evaluation he's gotten from Mark Newman on those defensive skills that could signal good things for Romine's future in the organization.

While Newman's comments on Romine might not be surprising coming from someone on the Yankee payroll, they are consistent in terms of the emphasis the organization has put on defense behind the plate in recent years.  And as Mike pointed out, that commitment to defense could have been the deciding factor in letting guys like Martin and A.J. Pierzynski go and sticking with what the Yankees have.  It's frustrating given the team's apparent willingness to take an offensive hit at the position, but if this is the path the Yanks are going to take in 2013, they at least have to be commended for staying consistent in their decision making.

Matt Diaz Is Better Than Nothing (Slightly)

He may not have played in 100 games in 3 of the last 5 seasons; he may not have posted a wRC+ above 100 in each of the last 3 seasons; he may not even be completely healthy.  But in signing Matt Diaz to a Minor League deal yesterday, the Yankees at least gave themselves another option to find a right-handed platoon outfield bat, and the more options the better right now.

As first reported by Mark Feinsand, the Yanks signed the 34-year-old Diaz to a non-guaranteed MiL deal with an invite to Spring Training that gives him the chance to earn up to $2 million if he makes the team out of camp.  Diaz is far removed from his best year in 2009 (.383 wOBA in 125 games), and has had major problems with his thumb, but reports are that he's feeling better and swinging a bat.  He posted just a .268 wOBA and 64 wRC+ in 118 PA with the Braves in 2012, but managed a .269/.329/.410 line against left-handed pitching (.320 wOBA) and still has a .324/.364/.498 career slash against southpaws.

He's absolutely not a full-time player anymore, and he could very well be washed up after all the thumb problems the last 3+ years.  But Diaz is the type of low risk/high reward veteran bat the Yankees have had success with in recent years.  It worked with Marcus Thames in 2010, it worked with Raul Ibanez in 2012, so why not take a chance on Diaz for 2013?  If he gives the team anything it's a good move.  If he doesn't, the Yankees cut bait and lose nothing.