Re-Sign or Let Him Walk: Chris Stewart
After letting Russell Martin sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates last offseason, the New York Yankees went into Spring Training with a pair of catchers battling for the starting job — Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart. The Yankees really liked Cervelli, and he even decided against playing for his country in the World Baseball Classic so he could focus on winning the starting job with the Bombers.
Cervelli seemingly beat out Stewart for the starting job to open the season, though both players were getting starts behind the plate, switching off every few games throughout the first month of the season, up until Cervelli took a foul ball off of his right hand, putting him on the DL for a couple of months, eventually turning into the rest of the season when he began dealing with elbow problems, not to mention being suspended 50-games by MLB for connections to the Biogenesis clinic on South Florida.
Stewart took over the role as the Yankees’ everyday catcher, and he ended up playing in 109 games for the Yankees in 2013, the most games by far for one season in his entire major league career — his previous high was 67 games when he was with the San Francisco Giants in 2011.
Getting a full season worth of at-bats in 2013 didn’t do much good for him. He only hit .211 with 4 home runs and 25 RBIs. The Yankees knew that weren’t going to get much out of their starting catchers in 2013, but were always able to count on the good defense that Stewart brought with him.
He’s obviously not a Gold Glove caliber catcher, but he was good enough to call games and block the ball when he had to. Ideally, the Yankees would have wanted Cervelli behind the dish all season — and would even want his bat over Stewart — but he still did an OK job at handling the catching duties.
Decision: Let him walk. The poor plate production is just too much to watch for another season. Cervelli should be back and healthy in 2014, Austin Romine also showed some ability behind the plate — he also showed he can’t hit — this past season in his role as the back-up catcher. Let’s not forget that the Yankees also have JR Murphy in the system, and their top overall prospect, Gary Sanchez, is also a catcher, though he’s only played a handful of games past Single-A.
Of course, too, the Yankees will be on the lookout for a catcher on the free-agent market. Brian McCann seems to be at the top of their list, though the bidding on him could reach as high as $120 million over six-years. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Carlos Ruiz and AJ Pierzinski are all going to be free-agents this winter, too.
Gavin Ewbank covers the Yankees for Baseball Hot Corner. Follow him on Twitter, @GavinEwbank2013.