It was an unexpected move that brought Chris Stewart to the Yankees. Francisco Cervelli seemed to have locked down the backup catcher role and the man whom was traded way in the Stewart deal, George Kontos, seemed poised to help the Yankees in the bullpen this season.
It was a move that shocked Yankees fans. It even angered some who had come to grow fond of Cervelli. However, after the first month of the season it seems like most people overreacted. Cervelli is not an especially good catcher, even as a backup, and Stewart, who is certainly no Babe Ruth, has filled the role just fine.
The biggest thing is that Cervelli really isn’t that good. He is a poor defensive catcher, prone to mental lapses on the field. He is also very weak with the bat. He has a career .338 OBP and .692 OPS, serviceable for a backup, but certainly nothing to worry about.
This season he has been even worse. Cervelli has a pathetic .276 OBP and .533 OPS through his first 18 games at Triple-A. Now maybe he is sulking and not playing up to expectations, but that is a bad sign. Now more than ever he should be busting his ass to put up solid numbers to show the Yankees they made a mistake. Instead, he’s showing them why it might have actually been a shrewd move.
As for Stewart, he seems to be settling in fine as CC Sabathia‘s personal catcher and he wasted no time in showing why he has a reputation as a superb defensive catcher. His .278 OBP and .572 OPS look eerily like Cervelli’s numbers, but like Cervelli, he seems to have a knack for timely hits. So if the offense is a wash, the defense surely makes a big difference then.
There is also Kontos to consider, or Cody Eppley, who was the pitcher the Yankees grabbed off waivers to replace him. Eppley has already gotten into four games with the Yankees and has been solid. 5.1 innings is too small a sample size to even draw the smallest conclusions from, but he shows promise and his 10.3 K/9 in his minor league career is not nothing.
So in reality, this move seems to have paid off for the Yankees. It’s nothing major, but it did improve the Yankees defensively behind the plate, something Joe Girardi cares a lot about. At the same time they were able to replace Kontos effectively with a pitcher who may well have slightly more potential (although neither is in danger of becoming the next Rivera).
These are the type of moves that Brian Cashman excels at and often goes overlooked by fans. Hopefully it continues to look like a solid move by the end of the season.