Monday, January 20, 2014

Where have you gone, Jorge Posada?

While everyone awaits the winner of the Tanaka sweepstakes, the uncertainty surrounding the current occupant of the catching position is being overlooked. Over the years, Yankees fans have been treated to watching a number of great players in that spot: Yogi Berra, Thurman Munson, Elston Howard, Bill Dickey and Jorge Posada just to name a few.

As Posada’s era was nearing its conclusion, Yankees brass set their sights on Jesus Montero as the heir apparent. As we waited for Montero to mature into that role, Russell Martin succeeded Posada as the Yankees new everyday catcher in 2011. He seemed to be in that position for the foreseeable future, since he was in the middle of a career renaissance. At the time, Martin was coming off two injury-riddled seasons with Los Angeles Dodgers.

Neither Montero or Martin ended up being the next great Yankees catcher, as Martin signed elsewhere last offseason and the team grew disillusioned with Montero. The Yankees viewed Montero’s defensive play as a liability and then flipped him to the Mariners for a chance to grab Michael Pineda. The front office believed Pineda would blossom into a star. However, history has shown that Yankees/Mariners trades don’t really work for the team. Remember when George Steinbrenner traded a future perennial all-star (Jay Buhner) for a player he perceived to be better (Ken Phelps)? 

As we look back, it is safe to say that Martin was a pit stop between great Yankees catchers. The next “great” Yankees catcher – Gary Sanchez – is still in the minor leagues and is not expected to be major league ready for a few years anyway. The Yankees, at one point, viewed Francisco Cervelli as the successor to Posada, but clearly his career has been relegated to back up catcher. While he did win the starting job last year, he failed to solidify himself as the starter. Injuries and suspected PED use have also played a factor in how Cervelli’s career has turned out.

Austin Romine, one of players who Cervelli beat to gain the starting job, has not reached his true potential yet. Romine was named the Yankees fourth best prospect heading into the 2009 season but has yet to play a full season with the big league club yet. He has competed for the starting catching job in every spring training since 2011, but never won the job and started the year in the minor league teams.

Ineffectiveness at the position as well as prospects not living up to their “hype,” has led the Yankees to turn to Brian McCann. Cashman has said that McCann is the “next great Yankees catcher.” Based on his career thus far with the Atlanta Braves, it seems as McCann will be able to hold down the fort and be one of the great Yankees catchers for this generation. And then hopefully Gary Sanchez will follow in his footsteps once he is called up to the big leagues. We’ll just have to wait and see how this all turns out.

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)