Making a change at Yankees catcher in search of offense

Al Bello

Offensively speaking, Chris Stewart has been horrible. Given the number of weak spots the team already has in the lineup, the Yankees really need to think about making a change at catcher.

The Trade Deadline has come and gone, and the Yankees still have the same number of holes to fill as they did before the deadline passed. One of those holes is catcher. The team voluntarily downgraded at the catching position during the offseason, and to no one's surprise it has been a problem from the word "go." The major culprit here is Chris Stewart. Given the number of weak spots, the Yankees need to consider making a change from Stewart at the position.

There have been a number of surprises this season, but Chris Stewart being awful with the bat is not one of them. The 31-year-old is hitting .225/.298/.290 with a 63 wRC+ in a career-high 230 plate appearances. Oddly enough, or I guess unsurprisingly enough, his 2013 comes close to matching his career line of .219/.287/.298, 61 wRC+. You would think numbers like that would warrant a replacement.

Now, when you're continuing to put a bat that provides offense at a rate nearly 40% below league average in the lineup, the replacements are probably not very good. That is sort of true, but not quite. Austin Romine is a candidate to replace Stew, but the former is hitting just .198/.225/.279 with a 31 wRC+ in 91 PA's. Normally someone who has a 31 wRC+ shouldn't be in a Major League lineup. However, after a brutally cold start (.132/.145/.176, 71 PA's), Romine has picked it up of late (.444/.500/.667, 20 PA). Yes, 20 plate appearances is nothing, but Romine, compared to Stewart, has some upside. Once a Top 100 prospect according to Baseball America, Romine can provide solid defense as well as some stability with the bat. He deserves a longer look.

Another option could be JR Murphy. Murphy has done a good job since being promoted to Triple-A, hitting .297/.368/.457 for the RailRiders in just under 40 games while also making strides with the glove. He may or may not be ready at this moment, but he appears to be close. At the very least, a promotion in September could be in order. At the same time, he isn't currently on the 40-man roster, so for now that's not a guarantee.

Believe it or not, the Yankees did try to go outside the organization to acquire an upgrade. They attempted to trade for Carlos Ruiz from the Phillies, but for some reason he was not available for trade. Ruiz, although hitting just .248/.298/.293 (62 wRC+) in his age 34 season, would have been an upgrade from Stewart simply because of his recent track record prior to this year, but alas.

With all this said, it seems pretty obvious that the Yankees are keeping Stewart in the lineup because of his defense and the way he handles the pitching staff. I get that, but he has really stopped hitting (.086/.135/.143 last 39 PA's entering Wednesday's play) and Romine has heated up at the plate. Since the Trade Deadline has passed, it will be more difficult to obtain an upgrade, thus the team might have to turn to internal sources, and at the very least, that starts with Austin Romine to replace Stewart.

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