Francisco Cervelli isn't coming back as fast as everyone thought. Yankees catchers are hitting .225/.299/.320 this season, but .200/.284/.235 in the last month; worst in the league. The organization has taken a mostly wait-and-see approach when it's come to this team and injury, which is why Kelly Shoppach and Ramon Hernandez have signed elsewhere and Miguel Olivo is still out there. Unfortunately, the setback means the Yankees still need someone who can bring life into the lineup at the catcher position, and that someone should be JR Murphy.
Brian Cashman recently stated:
It's not like we're missing any opportunities...If you're looking at a catcher, then probably a guy we'll focus on is J.R. Murphy more than anybody else. He's doing great. I'm not saying we'd do anything, but if you're looking at alternatives, that's the most realistic one we got.
If they were going to make any kind of move it would be to call up Murphy, not acquire someone. By acknowledging that the current options aren't working and he would be an improvement, it could only be a matter of time before Cashman pulls the trigger. Austin Romine has hit .136/.149/.182 this season while Chris Stewart is hitting .224/.325/.254 and they have combined for an 26 wRC+ in the last month. It would be difficult for Murphy to not be an improvement over that.
The consensus about him has always been that he can hit, but he's a work in progress behind the plate, but he's made great strides this season to show that he can at least be an average defensive catcher. He has also upped his offensive game in 2013 to hit .268/.352/.421 with six home runs in 211 plate appearances before getting promoted to Triple-A. He's hit even better since the call up, hitting .282/.366/.479 with three home runs in only 82 plate appearances. It looks like he's ready and what better time to call up a prospect than when they're on a hot streak?
Murphy has a 43% caught stealing rate in 2013 with 32 out of his 41 would-be base stealers getting thrown out. Romine has only thrown out 14% and Stewart has thrown out 41%, neither having thrown out over 20 base stealers.
If the Yankees aim to compete in 2013 they will need Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Curtis Granderson. If they're planning to go for it then they need to make an upgrade at the catching position as well. Calling up Murphy would not be a waste of a team control year because he would be helping the team win right now. The Yankees are in the middle of a playoff race, so this isn't going to be a lost year. If they bring him up, they'll just have to make sure to play him and he could easily take over the starting catcher job.
Unfortunately, getting him on the roster would require the Yankees to lose some precious assets. They could option Romine down, but then they would have to DFA someone in order to get him on the 40-man roster. Maybe they can designate Romine and no one will bother to claim him.
The Yankees need to stop sitting around and waiting for their injured to return. Waiting for Jeter and A-Rod has given us Jayson Nix and David Adams every day, so let's not keep waiting on Cervelli. The Yankees need to act now before they miss an opportunity.
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