I swear, I didn't edit this picture at all.
Outside of those 21 home runs, which are always nice... especially coming from your catcher, Russell Martin stunk with the bat. When it comes to a slash line of .211/.311/.403 there's just no way I can sugar coat things. Batting .143/.143/.143 in the ALCS , after a line of .176/.300/.412 in the ALDS, doesn't help matters either.
Russell did bat .258/.347/.539 in 102 plate appearances in September/October, which is a line I'd take out from him in 2013. I don't mean because it's a great batting line, but to be honest we're talking about a guy that hits in the bottom 3rd of the Yankees batting order. And if the Yankees continue to have an effective offense like they've had for years, then they won't need anything more ("wanting" more is a whole other thing).
So I can take a catcher that's an average hitter, especially when you consider that Martin seems to work well with Yankee pitchers. You can't argue with results, and outside of Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia (non-reliever version), the pitching staff was fantastic. They had a 3.86 ERA and 3.98 FIP in 2012, both of which were good for 5th in the American League. And when you have a team that scores the 2nd most runs in the league (only behind the Rangers by 4), chances are you're going to win a lot.
Unless, of course, you forget what that wooden stick that says "Louisville Slugger" is for.
But why not see what's out there? I mean, if the Yankees can acquire somebody better, then why the hell not? So here's the list of free agent catchers, along with their 2012 triple-slash, home run total, fielding percentage, caught stealing percentage, and some notes. I split up each group into "No", "Maybe", "Yes, but unlikely to be available", and "Yes".
Rod Barajas - $3.5m club option
.206/.283/.343, 11HR, .992 Field%, 6% CS%
-the batting average stinks, the OBP stinks, the HR total isn't bad but not enough to say "wow, FP is normal, and CS% is awful. In a word "NO"
Henry Blanco - $1.24m mutual option
*21 Games .188/.224/.281, 1 HR, .992 F%, 26% CS%
Even assuming his option is not picked up, his career triple-slash is hardly news worth (.227/.291/.367). Combine that with average fielding and throwing and I'll pass.
.282/.337/.374, 2 HR, .993 F%, 19% CS%
His BA and OBP were much higher than they were in the previous 3 seasons. If I thought he could replicate that season I'd say "yes", but at 32 years old I'm not that optimistic. His FP is average, and his CS% is below average, so I'm going to walk on by.
Jose Molina - $1.5m club option
.223/.286/.355, 8 HR, .993 F%, 33% CS%
His 2011, in which his slash line was .281/.342/.415, was definitely not his normal season. Those numbers in 2012 are actually right in line with his career averages, making me say "nah".. regardless of his above average CS%.
Miguel Olivo - $3m club option
.222/.239/.381, 12 HR, .993 F%, 31% CS%
Although I think he could up those numbers a bit, it wouldn't be enough for me to take a strong look at him. In fact, outside of an outlying season in which he hit 23 HR in KC, and a higher than normal BA in COL of .269, he's a below average catcher. Chris Stewart is about what to expect, and I don't think anyone wants to see somebody like Stewart play regularly for the Yankees.
*only 20 games .254/.266/.302, 0 HR, .993 F%, 17% CS%
Looking at his '10 and '11 numbers, one should expect him to hit a bit better than he did in 2012, but not by much. Certainly not enough to overlook his low CS%.
*43 games .232/.257/.341, 1 HR, .993 F%, 35% CS%
He's never been a full-time player, not playing more than 88 games in any of his 10 MLB seasons, and his batting line is pretty much in line with his career averages. Outside of having a better arm, Chris Stewart would be a better choice than Quintero.
.256/.321/.449, 9 HR, .992 F%, 44% CS%
The only reason I do not see him as an option is the fact that he's averaged only 57 games over the last 4 years in Atlanta. And going into his age 36 season, I have serious doubts about him holding up as a reglar catcher for around 130 games.
*34 games .225/.289/.348, 2 HR, .992 F%, 32% CS%
Even if he'd hit a few more HRs being a lefty and playing at YS, it wouldn't make up for his really low BA and OBP. His defense isn't bad by any means though, making him a backup catcher at best.
.233/.309/.425, 8 HR, .993 F%, 33% CS%
Nothing about Shoppach excites me. He doesn't hit well in BA, OBP, or SLG, while his defense is average.
Chris Snyder - $4m mutual option
.176/.295/.308, 7 HR, .990 F%, 22% CS%
Although Chris isn't as bad as his 2012 numbers suggest, if you think he can bat .271, and get on base almost 38% of the time like he did in 2011, then you're nuts. Top that off with below average fielding catcher and I wouldn't let Snyder pay the Yankees to be their starting catcher.
.227/.293/.330, 4 HR, .993 F%, 22% CS%
He's another catcher that I think had an unusually poor 2012, meaning that he could up those numbers a bit. But seeing as how he'll be 34 next season, and is an average defensive catcher at best, I wouldn't give Yorvit a second thought.
.211/.311/.403, 21HR, .994 Field%, 24% CS%
Although I think he could raise those numbers to respectable levels, I don't see them going so far up that I'd really want him back in pinstripes in 2013. However, those numbers aren't bad for a catcher, and he does seem to have a good rapport with Yankee pitchers. I wouldn't bet against him returning, but he's not somebody that I'd jump on as a free agent either.
.278/.326/.501, 27 HR, .993 F%, 26% CS%
Although he hit quite a few more HR in 2012 than he has in every other season, being a lefty I don't think that total would go down that far thanks to the short porch at YS. The improvement across the board over Martin makes me think he'd be a good option to take over catching duties for the Yanks in 2013. He's hardly my favorite player in MLB, though, which gives me pause. But you can't argue with the stats.
Yes, but unlikely to be available
Carlos Ruiz - $5m club option
.325/.394/.540, 16 HR, .992 F%, 34% CS%
Although he's unlikely to come close to those 2012 numbers, his career slash line is .275/.363/.418, and along with solid defense I think he'd be a good addition to the Yankees. The problem is the Phillies are likely to exercise that $5 million option, as he's been way more valuable than that the past 4 years. The only chance he'd be a free agent would be if Sebastian Valle hit better than the .218/.232/.397 he put up with AAA Lehigh Valley.
.227/.343/.469, 24 HR, .994 F%, 21% CS%
I believe Napoli could raise his BA and SLG a bit, making him a strong candidate. And he's not as bad a defensive catcher as some make him out to be, although he throws out fewer runners than the league average. I'd give him a strong look.
I said a "strong" look, not a "stern" look.
After the 2010 season, Victor Martinez got a contract for 4 years and $50 million (AAV of $12.5m). In 2011 VMart had hit .302/.351/.493 with 20 home runs. Napoli had four more home runs, but Martinez was the better overall hitter. Mike is also a year younger than Victor was in his free agent year. In all, I'm betting Mike will command about the same that Victor got.
On the other hand, Russell Martin is probably looking at a three year contract at most, and for much less than $12.5 million per season. Looking at the 2 year/$6.4 million contract Ramon Hernandez signed during the last offseason, after he'd hit .282/.341/.446 with 12 HR in 2011, I'm guessing that Martin is looking at a 3 year contract for no more than $22.5 million (AAV of $7.5m, which is what Russ made in 2012).
So the question is this... Russell Martin for 3 years/$22.5 million, or Mike Napoli for 4 years/$50 million? I'm taking Mike Napoli, especially if the Yankees are able to swing a trade to replace Nick Swisher, allowing them to save a few bucks there and spend it on an upgrade behind the plate.
I've written a lot about the austerity budget, but it still seems weird looking out for the Yankees' wallet.
Oh, and one last thing... Gary Sanchez should be MLB-ready in a few of years, after spending half this season in high-A Tampa. So Gary would likely be able to get some part-time work with the Yankees as a backup catcher to Napoli, before possibly taking over the starting gig when Mike's contract is up.