The Yankees drafted Jorge Posada in the 24th round in the MLB draft in 1990. Posada wasn't pegged as the franchise catcher, but as time went on and with a little help from current Yankee skipper Joe Girardi, Posada became a Yankee great. Things are a lot different now in the Bronx with the Yankees going through catchers more than Don Draper goes through secretaries. Since Posada retired in 2011 the Yankees have trotted out Russell Martin, Austin Romine, Francisco Cervelli, and Chris Stewart.
The current Yankees catching situation is bad, but who is to really blame for it? In 2009, Baseball America pegged four Yankee catcher prospects at the time in the Top 10 Yankee prospect list: Jesus Montero, Austin Romine, Gary Sanchez, and JR Murphy. It's amazing how much can change in such a short amount of time. Yankee fans were comfortable with Posada retiring in 2011 because most saw the depth in the minors and figured the Yankees were going to be in really good shape going forward without Posada. Who could blame them?
It's now 2013 and the top two prospects from that 2009 list are either on a new team or still getting mishandled by management. Brian Cashman traded away Jesus Montero for Michael Pineda last season in a deal that Yankee fans are finally starting to feel better about after a rough 2013 season that's resulted in Montero getting optioned down to Triple-A. The old cliche "hindsight is 20/20" applies here. However, at the time this deal was done most were still shocked that Cashman had actually just traded away the player most believed at one time to be the next Yankee long-term catcher.
With the Montero deal one might think Cashman had decided Montero's offensive abilities were never going to offset his defensive shortcomings behind the plate. The problem was that even if Montero couldn't be the every day catcher, why couldn't he serve the team's 1B/DH guy going forward? The Yankees offense didn't just get really old overnight. Trading Montero for Pineda wasn't a necessary move at the time, and as of July 22, 2013, I still don't think it was a move that should have been made.
After Montero's departure the catching situation for the Yankees looked like it would be a combination of Cervelli and Martin until Romine was ready to get his shot at being the next potential catcher of the future. That all changed this offseason when Cashman decided not to bring Martin back in what appeared to be a cost-cutting move; though, the Vernon Wells trade makes Cashman's decision to not bring back Martin for this season look even worse.
Cervelli has been injured for the majority of the 2013 season and Chris Stewart has been Girardi's guy all season. Neither are long-term options for the Yankees at catcher, but even with all the turnover at catcher the Yankees still, somehow, are still in better shape than most with potentially great catching prospects.
JR Murphy and Gary Sanchez, the other two members of that 2009 list, are both having great 2013 campaigns in the minors and while neither appear to be the complete package at the moment, both have the potential that Montero and Romine once shared years ago.
Murphy hasn't played the catching position long and is still very young at 22 years old, but he's currently on his way to having his best season yet in Scranton. Murphy's still got a ways to go on the defensive side of things, but his bat is certainly something to get excited about. If Murphy continues tearing it up in Scranton, a late season call up is a possibility.
Sanchez's offensive strengths mirror Montero's quite a bit as a middle-of-the-order potential power bat. The problem? Sanchez's issues also mirror Montero's behind the plate. Sanchez has a nice arm but he struggles to call games and doesn't move well, among other things that could lead to a move first base or the outfield down the line.
The Yankees catching prospect depth was once envied by teams around the league just a few years ago, but after talent management and development issues, the Yankees' catching issues are more volatile then ever. If Sanchez and Murphy don't pan out and the Yankees are left with nothing will that mean the end of Cashman and Girardi's time in New York? Maybe not, but it should.