(Courtesy of the AP)
(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)
With things heating up at the GM meetings and the Yankees being reported as the early favorites to land Brian McCann, Cash shed a little light on where the team's thoughts might be relative to the backup catcher position next year. Talking to reporters yesterday, Cash said the Yankees will "absolutely" tender a contract to Francisco Cervelli this offseason. Cervelli is in his first year of arbitration eligibility and MLBTR pegged him at an even $1 million for his projected salary next year, hardly a drop in the Yankee payroll bucket.
Whatever new deal the Yankees offer Cervelli will be in that range and Cash's stated commitment to make the offer should end any speculation about his future with the team after an injury and PED suspension-plagued 2013. It should also come as a sign that the Chris Stewart era behind the plate is over, and regardless of what happens with McCann or any of the other free agent catchers on the market, that's great news.
It's not Stewart's fault that he sucks. It's just that he sucks. He became an even more watered down version of himself when Cervelli's injury forced him into the everyday starting role this season and that unsurprising outcome makes the Yankees' decision to retain Cervelli over him easier. Sure, they'd probably like to wash the stink of steroid connections off themselves, but they also need to upgrade at catcher in a big way and a potential tandem of McCann and Cervelli is a big upgrade over Stewart and Cervelli. Shoot, even Austin Romine and Cervelli is probably an upgrade over Stewart and Cervelli, albeit a much smaller one.
Cervelli will be 28 when next season starts, he still has a much higher offensive ceiling than Stewart while offering comparable defensive value, and he has the always important advantage of being a homegrown player. Joe certainly seemed to have a soft spot for Stewart as a scrappy, tough defensive catcher or whatever, but before Stewart came along that role was Cervelli's and it was a role that got him a lot of support in the clubhouse. With all those things working in his favor and with Romine and J.R. Murphy on the 40-man roster as well, there just isn't room for Stewart anymore.
Cash was quick to point out that bringing back Cervelli will not alter his attempts to upgrade at catcher on the free agent market, saying the team will still "explore if we can improve offensively at that position and see where that’ll take us." That exploration still comes second behind rebuilding the rotation on the offseason priority list, so even if McCann or somebody else doesn't end up in pinstripes, the Yankees have their catching safety net in place. A duo of Cervelli and Romine would still be a far cry from where the team would like to be at the position, but it would be a slight upgrade over the 2013 catching situation. If the other major areas of need on the roster are addressed, even a slight upgrade at catcher would be a vast improvement over last offseason.