The Curse of Jerry Hairston, Jr./Eric Hinske:

Thursday, February 7, 2013

NY Times: Report Clouds the Picture on Yankees’ Catching

The Yankees’ thin catching corps was left more vulnerable when it was revealed Tuesday that Francisco Cervelli, one of the two leading candidates to be the team’s starting catcher, had visited a Miami clinic under investigation for dispensing performance-enhancing drugs.

Cervelli said on his Twitter account that he took no banned substances and was only seeking “legal ways” to heal a foot injury he sustained in March 2011.

Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said he could not discuss the issue because it was in the hands of Major League Baseball, but he said nothing had happened in the last 24 hours that would make him rethink the Yankees’ plans at catcher.

“We have Cervelli and Chris Stewart, with Austin Romine on the outside looking in,” he said.

Based on what’s come out so far, it doesn’t seem like there’s enough evidence that Cervelli will be suspended.  I don’t know if Cervelli or Stewart is the better option for primary catcher.  Cervelli projects to be the better offensive player, but Stewart has the edge defensively.  For the projections I have now (CAIRO, Clay Davenport, Marcel, Oliver and Steamer) Cervelli would project to be worth about 64 runs per 650 PA(.248/.318/.352) and Stewart would project to be worth about 61(.237/.304/.349).  Based on the defensive numbers we have for both, Stewart probably makes up the difference.  Cervelli projects to be worth about 2 runs worse than average over 130 games, Stewart projects at around 14 runs above average, with the appropriate small sample size issues for both.

The problem with losing Cervelli would be having Austin Romine on the big league roster when he’s likely to get sporadic playing time.  He’d be best served playing full-time in AAA in my opinion.

But I am guessing it will be a non-issue.

--Posted at 9:05 am by SG / 30 Comments | - (0)


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I wonder if any fantasy owner in the world will draft either of these guys.

[1] In a 30 team league, I guess some would would. maybe. probably not.

Well, I somehow double posted, more interesting: will people bother to draft ARod?

Is everyone as relieved as me that the Yankees will probably have Cervelli?

Please note, I’m being sarcastic.

If the 2013 Yankees season was a Star Trek movie, Cervelli and Stewart are like two ensigns you never heard of that are beamed down to the surface of a planet and vaporized in like 2 seconds.

[2] I admittedly know very little about fantasy baseball.  But if you need to have a backup at most positions, I imagine in a larger league whoever is declared the starter will be at least picked up - if not drafted - by some people.

[6] Of course one of them they could find later was imbued with mystical powers.  If those mystical powers happened to come from South Florida, will we complain?

[0] Sounds like MLB is going to take MONTHS to do this investigation.  So even IF they find enough to suspend Cervelli, I doubt it will be before June.  By then they should have an idea if Romine is ready for regular PT, if Murphey takes a leap and is worth skipping AAA, or who should be available on the trade market.

I’ll still continue to maintain that I think the catching talent - or lack thereof - is being overblown.  What are we expecting right now, 1 win out of the position total?  Yankees last year got 2.7 (fWAR).  In 2010 they got 2.4 (with Cervelli worth 1 win and Posada getting a lot of time at DH).  2009 was only 2.5.  1999 was only 1 win total (1.3 for Jorge, -.3 for Girardi).  1997 was 1.2 - Girardi primary starter worth .7.  And 1996 was 1.8 (though Leyritz played a lot of games all over the field).  The Yankees have had LOTS of winning teams in the 1996+ era, where they’ve had a group of catchers worth less than 3 wins, and a number worth less than 2.

Now I’ll hear arguments about how much better those teams were in other areas.  I’ll definitely concede that some of those teams clearly had more present talent and less injury concerns (in particular 1999 and 2009).  But I think if you were to go back and retroactively do CAIRO on some of those teams, they aren’t quite as good as we remember them.  Or didn’t project to be as good at least.  And of course that also goes to show that if they are upgrading in other areas, it counts just as much as upgrading at C.  Also, one of the advantages of having a weak catching tandem that is cheap, it’s the easiest position to upgrade later.

To me it really comes down to Jorge.  For about a decade, he was regularly putting up 4+ (a few years around 3.5) and occasionally 6+ wins.  Martin was seen as a barely acceptable stopgap (by many, not everyone), who was just holding fort until they got someone better.  Now that we don’t have that, anything less is considered complete failure.  But really, in the 27 seasons between 1980-1996 (pre-Jorge years), less than half (13) were 2 win seasons, and only 6 were 3+ win (3 of those by Mike Stanley 1993-1995).

Mike K, what about Gary Sanchez—any hope he gets to the bigs this year?

Also it is annoying to google him because Will Ferrell’s company is half the hits.

[11] No, sometime in 2014 is the best case scenario.

[11]  Personally I’d say less than a 5% chance.  He’s probably going to start at A+ again - with Murphy in AA.  I imagine the Yankees are hoping/expecting that by June/July those two - plus Romine - will be healthy enough/playing well enough that each moves up a level.  Even so, Sanchez will probably finish the year at AA.  With both Romine and Murphy ahead of him (Romine on 40-man, I think Murphy needs to be added next year), I don’t see the Yankees having a need to promote him at any time.  That’s still good of course, b/c depending on Romine and Murphey (and to a lesser extent Stewart/Cervelli) Sanchez has a chance to start 2014 in AAA which means he’ll likely show up sometime in 2014, if not until Sept.

Of course, he’s sounding like a special talent.  So there’s always some small chance that he puts up a .350/.450/.650 line in the first 6 weeks forcing a promotion to AA, and then continues to hit (say .300./400./550) and they push him to AAA at mid-season, and - if he continues to hit - force his way onto the roster.

I think the best case of course is if Yankees’ top 3 catching prospects all play well enough to move up one level by mid-season, and move up a level the following season (Romine starting, Murphey backup, Sanchez AAA).  Technically it’s better if Sanchez forces his way on this year but not likely, so best case is if all are playing well and demand time, b/c then the Yankees have viable catchers AND a valuable trade piece or two.

[12] I think he has to be added to the 40-man in 2015, so I’d say 2014 would be when he’ll likely make his debut.  Probably added to 40 man roster in Sept of that year, since he’ll have spent at least a half-season at AAA that year, if not more.

[13] I doubt the Yankees would promote him to the MLB this year even if he were hitting like AA Nick Johnson because he still needs to work on his catching skills.

[15] My assumption was he was also showing sufficient skills at catching as well.  Maybe 5% is a bit too high even, but I think it’s a non-zero chance.  Just highly unlikely.

Personally I think the non-40 man catcher who will get promoted sometime this year is Murphy.  I expect he’ll be at AAA by mid-season (someone above him will get hurt and he’ll be doing well enough to earn a promotion), and then when we hit September even if a catcher is doing well enough to keep the starting job, Murphy will still be better than the 3rd string catcher so they’ll call him up to serve that purpose.

[16] Murphy could be a valuable trade chip next offseason, he’s sort of the forgotten C prospect, sandwiched between Romine and Sanchez.

Murphy could be a valuable trade chip next offseason

Or more than that.  Depending on how Romine works out and how fast Sanchez develops, Murphy culd be a trade piece, could be a starter for a year or two (Romine backup or traded, or cut for that matter), or could be a long-term backup.  Heck, I wouldn’t be upset either if Murphy plays well enough to make SANCHEZ the trade chip. 

If Murphy is looking like a 3-4 win catcher and Sanchez we’re starting to feel comfortable is a 5-6 win catcher…Sanchez could then also be the key piece in a Mike Stanton trade (for example).  I don’t think you trade Sanchez for Stanton (year or two from now) if Sanchez is 5-6 wins (projected) and Murphey/Romine are 1 win.  If Murphey/Romine are 3-4 win I think you trade for Stanton.

[19] Don’t let facts get in the way of a good story!

[20] I just like typing and saying Giancarlo.


Agreed, Giancarlo is amazing in every respect.  The Mike Trout of names.

I agree with Mike K. in [10].

I also wonder if their internal quantitative analysis that Cashman talked about recently has Chris Stewart pegged as a super plus defender or something, because they seem to have gone out of their way to acquire him and keep him around.

I agree with Mike K. in [10].

I also wonder if their internal quantitative analysis that Cashman talked about recently has Chris Stewart pegged as a super plus defender or something, because they seem to have gone out of their way to acquire him and keep him around.

Wow, the M’s just extended King Felix!

Seven years/$175 million (including the remaining two years/$39.5 million left on his current deal)!

Dang, the MLB must be making some damn good money!

(10) Referencing 1980-1996 to support your argument that it’ll be ok is sort of counterproductive.

That said, Cervo/Stewart are about a win and Martin was about 2. Certainly not the biggest crime of the offseason, but some people can’t help but fit it to the frugality narrative. We were out bid by the Pirates (they say.)

[25] If you look just at the extension, he’s getting the same AAV as ARod over those 5 years, I believe.

[26] I did think of that, that those years were fairly barren.  My main point though was that it isn’t as easy as it seems to get a 3+ win catcher.  Obviously those years weren’t all bad either, as they won more games than any team in the majors in the 1980s, had 3 playoff appearances (1981, 1995, 1996) made two WS (won one), and had several other years where they were one of the better teams in baseball.

[27] .. and several year were they were absolutely terrible.  Easy conclusion to draw, from all historical data, is that having a good catcher is a good thing, which means having a bad catcher is probably not a good thing if you want to win the WS. We don’t have a good catcher.

[28] IDK if that follows.  From 1996-2009 - 14 season that included 13 playoffs, 7 pennants, and 5 World Series victories - I’ve already listed several years where their catcher’s have been underwhelming - sometimes downright poor - and for the most part the Yankees were a winning team, sometimes winning the series 2 of the 5 series in fact their ENTIRE catching crew was worth less than 2 wins.

I don’t think there is any magic to having a good catcher.  You want to accumulate as much talent as possible, in all areas.  I don’t think having a poor catcher and great 2B is any worse than having a poor 2B and a great catcher.  Sure, it’s best to have above-average players at every position.  But even with the poor catcher, they’re ~90 wins.

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