The Yankees signed a free agent yesterday and there's a good chance you've never heard of him. They gave 32-year-old catcher Carlos Corporan a minor league contract with an invite to spring training likely included. Obviously, he will be a non-factor, but the signing is more than just about him.
Drafted back in 2003 by the Brewers, Corporan made a brief cameo appearance in 2009 before leaving for the Diamondbacks. He didn't reach the majors again until 2011, this time with the Astros. He spent four years there and hit a meager .224/.285/.349 as the backup catcher, mostly behind Jason Castro. He was traded to the Rangers before the 2015 season for pitching prospect Akeem Bostick, a former second-round draft pick from 2013. He only managed to hit .178/.244/.299 with Texas and now he's signed with the Yankees.
What could make a team give away a second-round pick for a backup catcher who can't hit? Pitch framing! It turns out that Corporan might be one of the better framers in baseball, according to Beyond the Box Score, or at least he was pretty good in 2015. Pitch framing has been all the rage for a few years now and the Yankees may have been one of the first teams to discover the value of stealing strikes. If you look at the list included in the article I linked, you'll see that several of the catchers listed have been linked to the Yankees at some point. Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart, and Russell Martin were obviously former Yankees. They wanted to sign Tyler Flowers this offseason, they previously employed Bobby Wilson, and they once claimed drew Butera off waivers. The Yankees love collecting glove-first catchers and Corporan is another among them.
Now, the way this affects the Yankees is slight, but also kind of important. Maybe. Corporan will, of course, give Gary Sanchez another catcher to compete with in spring training, but it also makes Austin Romine expendable. They added Romine to the 40-man roster at the end of last season and now they're kind of stuck with him, since he no longer has any options. They could simply designate him for assignment and see what happens (he's made it through waivers before), but if they gamble and lose, they won't have a Triple-A catcher as a backup in case of injury. With Corporan, the Yankees can let all parties go through spring training and then decide what to do at the end. If they want Romine in the majors, Sanchez starts the year in Scranton and they jettison Corporan. If they want to go with Sanchez, they can DFA Romine, knowing that if he's claimed off waivers, the Yankees have Corporan to play in the minors.
None of this is extremely important to the success of the 2016 Yankees, but the deal could end up being somewhat important to the final construction of the Opening Day roster. That's kind of interesting, at least.