Earlier this season the Yankees had a spring training battle between Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine to see who was best fit to be the back up for Brian McCann. Though the easy money was on the up and coming prospect Gary Sanchez. Austin Romine came to camp ready to play and put together a spectacular spring training and earned the spot to back up McCann.
Romine proved early in the season that he was the right decision as he batted .314 over the first two months of the season. The knock on Romine had always been his bat; however, we always knew that behind the plate he was an above average catcher who called a good game. June had proven to be a bad month for Romine as he only batted a mere .152, but bounced back with a solid month of July batting .276. To this point in the season the Yankees catching seemed to be rock solid. McCann was your every day catcher and Romine was doing a solid job backing him up.
Now, enter Gary Sanchez. When the Yankees called up Sanchez on August 3rd he went 1-4 recording his first base hit as a major leaguer. Never in a million years were the Yankees ready for what was about to happen. Sanchez ended up breaking almost every record out there for players who were making their debut. He has put together a month of August where he is batting .425 with 11 home runs and 21 runs batted in. The Yankees were most likely thinking that they would get a spark and that he could inner change with all three catchers, but nothing like this. Sanchez quickly became the every day catcher and they made Brian McCann the every day designated hitter.
At this point you now have three catchers on the roster for the Yankees, but McCann had been DHing most of the time. Austin Romine has struggled to get consistent appearances as a back up catcher. He has only started for the Yankees five times over the course of August and is batting a meager .182 in the month of August.
Brian McCann has not put together the season, or career that the Yankees had hoped to get from him when he was signed. Still though he has put up modest numbers at .234 with 16 home runs and 50 runs batted in, but at this point in his career you have to wonder how much his legs have left behind the plate. With Teixeira leaving this off-season and the Yankees releasing Alex Rodriguez they will have a vacant designated hitter position next season. The Yankees could use this to their advantage to make Brian McCann an emergency catcher, back up first basemen, but mostly full-time designated hitter. Brian McCann seems to have lost his ability to go to the other side of the field. On Saturday he proved that he could do it and he went 3-4.
You can never have enough talent at one position. Especially the catching position that is so tough on players; however, to add to the confusion on what to do enter Kyle Higashioka the 26-year-old who has had a break out season in the minors this season. Kyle is not only a rule 5 draft player this season, he is also due to be a minor league free agent this off-season if he is not added to the 40 man roster. This season he has batted .286 with 20 home runs and 76 runs batted in. He is a solid catcher, but he is not great behind the plate defensively. He has shown true power and a good approach at the plate this season.
The decision that the Yankees will have to make is probably going to come down to one of the following options.
Option number one: The Yankees trade McCann to make room for Higashioka. The problem with this option is that McCann could be valuable to have as a mentor for Sanchez, and could prove to have a better season if he stayed as the designated hitter without the daily grind of catching. Also, you will probably be hard pressed to find a team that would be willing to take McCann’s entire contract.
Option number two: The Yankees let Higashioka walk and change nothing. To me this is probably the most likely option to happen out of all of them. When someone puts together a season like this it would be hard for me to believe that the Yankees would just let them walk.
Option number three: The Yankees add Higashioka to the 40 man roster and do not make a corresponding move in the catcher position; however, I think that carrying four catchers on your 40 man roster may be too much. Especially with some of the 40 man roster issues the Yankees will be faced with here soon.
Option number four: The Yankees trade Romine. I presume that they wouldn’t get much for Romine, but I think that this may be the most likely scenario. If someone were to get hurt there is always opportunities to grab catchers that are good defensively.
My personal outlook on this is that the Yankees should deal Romine. While I do think that Romine has the potential to be a very decent catcher I don’t think that he will fit in the Yankees plans. There is always someone in the market that you can get at a really cheap price to be good behind the plate. With the numbers that Higashioka has put together in the minors this season I think he has to be given a chance to see what he has. He has shown a promise to hit with some powers in the next level. I really like Austin Romine, but I think that at this point the easiest decision for the Yankees would be that they let Romine walk.
Regardless, it should be interesting to see what the Yankees end up doing on the 40 man roster this season, but regardless they are set up very well for man years to come at the catcher position.