We don't have a catcher, we have pieces of catcher. Chris Stewart has the defensive abilities, Francisco Cervelli has the...energy? Austin Romine has the youth, and Bobby Wilson has the
facial hair. None of these players can really hit. Maybe Romine, but I don't think even he knows for sure yet. Brian Cashman believes that the 2013 catching team is already on the roster, but it's going to take more than these guys to replace even Russell Martin's production.
The free agent selection has become absolutely barren. Kelly Shoppach just signed a $1.5M deal with the Mariners and Brian Schneider has retired. Probably because no one likes Brian Schneider. These might very well be the last words ever written about Brian Schneider. That leaves these remaining winners who could possibly improve/do nothing for the current roster. There is Rod Barajas, Miguel Olivo, Chris Snyder, and Matt Treanor. Some I wouldn't have a problem signing as backup catchers, others I wouldn't have a problem never seeing again.
This leaves a trade as the only way to possibly put a useful backstop on this team. The Angels have this guy, Hank Conger, who they seem to really dislike. He was made out to be a big deal, and yet he's still a fringe major leaguer, not because of his talent level (.300/.385/463 in Triple A), but because of the amount of games he's been allowed to play in (79 across three years). I think it would take only Eduardo Nunez and a prospect to pry him loose.
Though he might not be the answer as a starter, the Yankees should ask about George Kottaras. He has been on the move this offseason, having been signed by the A's, DFA'd by the A's and then once again signed by the Royals. He can hit right handed pitchers fairly well and could be effectively platooned with someone like Cervelli, who might improve if only allowed to face left handers, since he has a 125 wRC+ against them. The Royals need young pitching and I think Adam Warren might do the trick.
There are several teams that have older players sitting in front of their catcher of the future. If the Yankees target these guys it won't take much to get what they want. Kurt Suzuki, Nick Hundley and Ryan Hanigan could all be had, but the question is do we want them?
Kurt Suzuki, counterpart to the Nationals' Wilson Ramos, is no threat with the bat. He has a career 87 wRC+ and was even worst than his career line in 2012, but he still managed to have a positive WAR for the season. If the Yankees like defense so much, Kurt Suzuki should be looked into. Over the last two years Kurt Suzuki stacks up pretty well against Russell Martin on a defensive front. Suzuki has 5 Stolen Base Runs Saved, while Martin only has 2 and 0.9 Catcher Blocked Pitches against Martin's -2.1. Again, this does not alleviate our need for a bat, but if we're going to need one catcher who can field, but can't hit, I'd rather it be someone like Suzuki who can have some success at times, over someone like Chris Stewart, who will be awful at all times.
I thought Nick Hundley would be an easy catch since Yasmani Grandal makes him disposable to the Padres. He also had a disgustingly bad season in 2012, so it probably wouldn't have taken much. Then Grandal decided to get suspended 50 games for using PEDs. I bet he and A-Rod were in the same state once. Now Hundley is a necessity to San Diego, at least until Grandal can come back. We would either need to wait until then or offer a catcher back that could fill the spot for the time being. A prospect and a Cervelli would not be a terrible investment. Hundley is still one year removed from his .288/.347/.477 season, so the potential is there.
The Reds' Ryan Hanigan is a much better option than he is at first glance. Since he's keeping back Devin Mesoraco they might be inclined to trade him and free up space. Hanigan has always been a good defender, but 2012 was a crazy year for him: 6 Stolen Base Runs Saved, 7 Defensive Runs Saved and 5.2 Catcher Blocked Pitches. If he's putting up his best defensive year at 31, age shouldn't be a problem for him. Offensively he doesn't have much power and has a 97 wRC+ to his name, but he also has a 12.1% career walk rate and a .370 OBP. He's also put up at least a 2 WAR season from 2010-2012. This guy is much better than you would think.
If Brian Cashman decides to be bold and use his ninja skills to acquire us an awesome, young catcher, it could be one of Wilin Rosario or Carlos Santana. The Rockies could trade Rosario because they've been one of the worst teams in the league and Rosario has been pretty bad against right handers (73 wRC+ vs. 192 wRC+ against lefties). The Indians could trade Santana before he starts getting expensive in order to get a nice haul that could go a long way in rebuilding their team. I'm not sure the Yankees are the team that could provide such a strong group of prospects, but crazier deals have been made. Neither of these trades sound very likely because teams tend to hang onto young, cost controlled players, even if the Yankees don't like to.
So this is where we are. Scraping the bottom of the barrel or scraping the bottom of other peoples' barrels. I feel like this could have been avoided. I don't know who to blame, the Steinbrenner money stoppage or Cashman's lack of urgency. Probably both, because there were plenty of things that could have been done before we came to this. I'm sorry, but this whole thing is just silly.