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The Yankees’ lack of catching depth may cost them in 2018

The paltry options behind Gary Sanchez was always a concern, but now it’s been thrust into the light following a DL trip.

MLB: New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Greeks often wrote tragedies surrounding a character’s hamartia, or flaw. This weakness forms the core of a lot of familiar stories, like Oedipus’ impatience at the crossroads. The key is that the flaw has to be something the character either caused themselves, or could have been corrected. Otherwise, it loses its tragic impact. For the Yankees, the shocking lack of real depth at catcher might end up being the organization’s hamartia.

Gary Sanchez, as of yesterday, is officially on the 10-day disabled list. Groin strains almost always take longer than just 10 days to overcome, and then rehab is protracted by a couple of games in the minors to brush off any rust. Best-case scenario for Gary means he’s probably back in pinstripes in three to four weeks. In that time, the Yankees are going to have to find out how to survive with such meager catching depth.

Austin Romine is the immediate successor to the starting role, and some people may be encouraged by his once-hot start to 2018. I hate to be the destroyer of Romine Hope, but a sudden great month isn’t really a new thing for the career backup:

Romine kind of does this every year; he has one great month that is encouraging and full of all the things you want in a hitter, and then almost immediately returns to being, quite literally, one of the worst hitters in all of baseball. For all the very valid criticism Sanchez has received for his offensive woes in 2018, his 97 wRC+ on the season is a staggering 34 points better than Romine’s career mark. Austin is a capable backup, but I’m frightened of the idea of him starting any more than about a game a week.

Sadly, the options behind Romine are almost non-existent. Kyle Higashioka is a 28-year old who’s never been able to succeed at the major league level. After some promising minor league campaigns, he self-immolated at Scranton-Wilkes Barre this year. He’ll back up Romine for now but is essentially a warm body. Behind him, there really isn’t anything internal for the Yankees, since Ronald Torreyes isn’t going to be putting on shin guards any time soon.

The only other option is external candidates. The good news is, catching depth is relatively inexpensive. The Yankees sent Erik Kratz to the Brewers earlier this season for the ubiquitous player to be named later, and Curt Casali went to Cincinnati for cash considerations. Neither of these guys are glamorous options, of course, but they’d probably both be better than Higashioka. They would also be easy to jettison when Sanchez comes back healthy. All this is to say that it wouldn’t be difficult to acquire a viable short-term backup catcher, all other things being equal.

That last bit is the hangup, though, in that all things are not equal. Teams know the Yankees are struggling with catching depth, and they know how desperate the team is to gain an edge over the Red Sox. Catching depth will never cost a team the farm, but with the Yankees having suddenly entered a seller’s market, the cost would be more than it would have been over the offseason, or in April as minor league rosters were finalized. That’s going to take time and possible prospect resources away from the other serious improvements the Yankees need to make, including around their starting rotation.

The lack of real catching options behind Sanchez has been an observable flaw in the Yankees’ system for a while. Brian Cashman’s hand has been forced to correct it, and quick, and the team tries to deal with the loss of an All-World player.