Analyzing the back-up catcher situation

John Ryan Murphy

When camp opens on Friday, a new competition begins for the catching position. The Yankees already have their starting catcher in Brian McCann, but the Yankees need a back-up catcher in case an injury occur to Mark Teixeira (where you can easily slot McCann at first) or McCann himself. The original back-up catcher was slated to be Francisco Cervelli, but the Yankees traded him to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the beginning of the offseason in exchange for Justin Wilson, who the Yankees envision as bullpen depth. The Yankees have two back-up catchers vying for the position: John Ryan Murphy (who saw a bulk of playing time with the Yankees last year) and Austin Romine (a player who’s bat hasn’t capitalized for the Yankees of yet). These two are to battle in Spring Training for a role. But who would be better qualified for the role?

John Ryan Murphy:

Murphy has been the favorite to win the back-up position, but the Yankees want Murphy to battle it out against Romine in order to secure his spot. While Murphy had so-so numbers with the Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (.246/.292/.397 with 6 HR’s and 28 RBI’s in 51 games), he did a decent job when the Yankees needed to replace Cervelli for a month due to injury (.284/.318/.370 with 1 HR and 9 RBI’s in 32 games). Murphy was reliable and knew how to call a decent game and if he makes the team, he could learn a thing or two on perfecting his craft from McCann.

Austin Romine:

Like Murphy, Romine has been a so-so hitter in the minor leagues (.242/.300/.365 with 6 HR and 33 RBI’s in 81 games) but what separates Romine and Murphy is their Major League experience. Murphy has proven when he gets on a roll, he’s capable of hitting Major League pitching. Romine had a significant chance in 2013, but didn’t hit for average or power (.207/.255/.296 with 1 HR and 10 RBI’s in 60 games). Romine then only played seven games with the Yankees in 2014 (.231/.231/.308 with 0 HR and 1 RBI) and was once again so-so. If Romine wants to win the back-up catching position, he has serious competition in Murphy, but will Romine succeed in getting the role?

Barring a blockbuster trade between now and the beginning of the regular season, I wouldn’t be surprised if John Ryan Murphy won the back-up role. He seems to have a slightly better bat than Romine and can call a decent game, but if he wants the job he’s going to have to prove it to the Yankees front office when he comes into camp on Friday.

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24 Responses to Analyzing the back-up catcher situation

  1. Austin Romine is out of options so the Yankees either have to use him as their backup, trade him or release him. I know that everyone prefers Murphy, but I expect Romine to get the job because of this. That is unless Romine looks especially awful in ST while Murphy kills it. Or the Yankees find a trade partner that wants Romine. Cashman always likes having extra options around in case of injury.

    • Ollie says:

      I agree , Romine gets the back-up job and Murphy gets most of load in AAA at least! It is also possible that if McCann is injured Murphy could be brought up to start!

    • I agree as well. Backup catchers are a valuable commodity, so I would hate to see them lose Romine on waivers. I think the team wants to give Murphy the job, but they won't lose Romine for nothing. Believe we will see a trade, so Murphy can back up McCann and Sanchez can play every day in AAA.

      • YankeezFan says:

        Trade, with who for who… i doubt any team in the majors has any interest in Romine, and we wont get much back in return either. Just send Romine to AAA and see if he clears waivers, he as a decent prospect a couple years ago but dosnt have much in trade value any longer. Murphy can learn much more from McCann than he can at AAA.

        • mick says:

          Agree, YankeezFan. Romine has not yet proven he can hit MLB pitching, as has often been stated. However, his defense has not been anything special, either. He's only a decent catcher. However, I too, expect Romine to get the nod, in the hopes that he may catch lightening in a bottle, thus building a little trade value. I have no doubt, at this time, of Murphy being the better prospect, and almost ready for a fulltime gig.

  2. ZJP says:

    Austin Romine is a great hitter and at first was a better catcher than Francisco Cerville

    • Fred Stanley says:

      Austin Romine is a GREAT hitter ??…where did you get that info ?

    • mlblogsnewyorkyankees13 says:

      I looked at Romine's stats. Minor league numbers are so-so. His Major League numbers are terrible. Murphy showed more promise as a Major League back-up catcher.

    • hotdog says:

      Romine had promise years ago when Montero was coming up but I don't see him in the Yankees future regardless of waivers…i think the Yankees should put the right man in the right job…if we lose Romine, so be it…

  3. Cadave says:

    I like both Rromaine and Murphy as backup catchers, but if McCann goes down let's find out what we have and make Sanchez the starter.

  4. While it's certainly not fair to condemn Romine after just 167 major league at bats it is troubling to see him hit so poorly in AAA (.243/.303/.365 in 403 at bats). I agree with Ollie, though, if McCann gets hurt then I wouldn't be surprised to see Murphy as the starter.

    Gary Sanchez is not ready, btw. Catchers don't usually jump levels unless they've been outstanding. Sanchez hit just .270/.338/.406 in AA last season. While those aren't terrible numbers for a catcher, I don't see him suddenly hitting the cover off the ball to push a promotion.

    That does bring up a good point tho — if Sanchez and Murphy are both in AAA the Yankees are going to want them both to get as much playing time as possible. Maybe Cashman will start getting more aggressive in looking to deal Romine.

    • mick says:

      Rob, for who, or what? I agree Sanchez is not ready, and rarely do players prove to be better at higher levels of play. However, Frankie Cervelli always played better at the MLB level than in the minors. As crazy as it seemed, he was only average in the minors. No reason to expect him to play as he did for the Yankees. I'd love to deal Romine to Seattle for King Felix, but I just don't see the deal happening. Was that the deal we missed because we would not include Nunez in the deal? Damn it.

      • Felix Hernandez is not available on the trade market and if he was Romine would be the 4th or 5th prospect included. He certainly would not be a deal breaker one way or the other.

        The Yankees also never missed out on a trade for Felix Hernandez. As far as I know, Seattle has never had serious talks with any teams at any point that involved Hernandez.

        The deal you are thinking of was with Seattle and involved Cliff Lee back in 2010 before he was a free agent. As part of a larger package, the Yankees wanted to include David Adams, but Seattle wanted Eduardo Nunez. Cashman thought that an already strong package was too strong if Nunez was included as the Yankees regarded Nunez as the better prospect of the 2. Keep in mind this deal also include other prospects including Jesus Montero and Lee would have just been a 2 month rental because of his clearly stated desire to return to Philly.

        • mick says:

          Rob, thanks for refreshing my memory. It was for Lee. However, my sarcasm was meant to show that often the Yankees have failed to pull the trigger on trades that would've been advantageous in the long run. Lee, already had his bags packed, and was ready to come to New York, however. My point was simply that the Yanks have sat patiently waiting for players to develop when the trade for the here and now may have been the better move. All in hindsight, of course. Look at he killer B's, for example. The Yanks could've been much better had they traded them while prospects.

          • The Yankees are doing halfway decently with the Killer Bs. Brackman was a bust, but the Yankees should have seen that coming. He was a raw prospect that missed a lot of developmental time after Tommy John surgery. Banuelos they traded for 2 major league relievers that will be cost effective for the next 4-6 years. And Betances has turned into a pretty decent reliever. Getting production from 2 outta 3 ain't bad.

          • mick says:

            Ok, Rob. At this point, the Yanks have gotten nothing from Banuelos. There are two relievers who have joined the team, but have produced nothing. Hopefully, Carpenter and Shreve can contribute. But, if you are gonna pick on every post, you will be very busy. Brackman was drafted with an injury. An elbow, if memory serves, but might've been his shoulder.The fact is, it was a poor choice. His armwas blown before he got to minors.

  5. I know someone who has met romaine several times. He says that romaine is far too cocky for someone who has done so little. Just saying.

  6. Robert Rufa says:

    It may not mean much, but Romine is 26 and Murphy is 23. Although I would prefer to see Murphy get the job, all things being equal it may make more sense to give it to Romine–at least to test his value. Murphy can afford to spend another year in AAA–and if McCann goes on the DL he can be brought up.

    • Absolutely. Murphy hasn't played a full season in AAA yet. Letting him do so wouldn't be a terrible idea. What do you do about Sanchez though. He really should be in AAA getting as much playing time behind the plate as possible.

  7. Tom says:

    Neither one of them will ever remind anyone of Munson but my feeling is that I would rather have a catcher who hits .235 and hits 158 HR but is a great defensive player and throws runners out than one who hits .260 with 20 HR's but makes understanding what DH's are all about. So the question is which of these guys will be the better defensive player.
    And BTW, if Romine is sent down he will be claimed by another team but it is what it is.put up or shut up time for Austin.

  8. Tom says:

    I meant 15 HR's not 158. Sorry

  9. I agree Sanchez is not ready, and rarely do players prove to be better at higher levels of play. However, Frankie Cervelli always played better at the MLB level than in the minors. As crazy as it seemed, he was only average in the minors. No reason to expect him to play as he did for the Yankees. I'd love to deal Romine to Seattle for King Felix, but I just don't see the deal happening. Was that the deal we missed because we would not include Nunez in the deal? Damn it.

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