I’ve long been a fan of the idea of having two above average catchers on your team. It’s something that you often see in college baseball but doesn’t always make its way up to the big leagues. That’s probably more due to the lack of good catching in baseball rather than teams not wanting to do it, but either way, the short and long term benefits of having two good catchers has always been intriguing to me. On that note, the Yankees could have an opportunity to employ exactly that if they were to sign free agent catcher and former Chicago Cubs All-Star, Willson Contreras.
While the odds they employ this strategy are slim, their reported interest in Sean Murphy at least suggests the idea of a two-catcher system is not completely out of the cards. In fact, I’m reminded of the late 2000s when the club had two great catchers, one offensive oriented and one defensive oriented. Jorge Posada was on a great stretch of hitting year in, year out for the Yankees for about a decade and worked in tandem with historically magnificent catching wizard, José Molina.
Molina was the backup, but his defensive value made sure the team didn’t skip a beat. That could be the potential role for today’s starting catcher in Jose Trevino. Don’t get me wrong, Trevino is more than suitable as a starter in today’s league. His 3.7 fWAR on the year is among the leagues’ best backstops and better than Contreras’ 3.3 mark, but if the Yankees are looking to upgrade the offense at the position to match the history of catchers who have been incredible hitters for the franchise, then they can push Trevino to more a 1b role alongside Willson, who gets most of his value from offense.
Contreras is coming off a career best 132 wRC+ in just under 500 plate appearances and has a career mark of 118. He did significant damage in a lineup with only a few offensive threats and he was the focal point for pitchers when facing his team. In the Yankees lineup, he would most likely slot in the bottom third behind a combination of Giancarlo Stanton and Gleyber Torres. He would extend the lineup deeper than it was this past season and wouldn’t have the pressure to catch every game with Trevino being as reliable as he is. It’s certainly a mix up that would be surprising, but it can’t be completely ruled out.
With the rumors of Contreras also considering playing left field and removing some of the stress that comes along with being a full-time backstop, perhaps his fit with this team makes even more sense. A combination of left field, catcher, and designated hitters could be great for a team that is constantly looking to give players days off. The more versatility, the better for everyone. In the past, I would say the Yankees don’t have the security to take on the risk of a player dabbling with another semi-new position, but with Harrison Bader’s incredible range and presence in the outfield, the Yankees can afford to take on some defensive risk for offensive upside.
Like I said, this is pretty unlikely to happen, but when writing these posts and considering the ways the player at hand could actually be signed by the Yankees, I like to consider the realm of events that could make the potential move possible. Basically what I’m thinking is, how would the dominoes need to fall for this player to be a fit? In this case, it would be the Yankees employing the two-catcher system and Contreras dabbling in the outfield and taking up some DH at-bats. Given he probably won’t cost any more than $80 million, I don’t think this is completely out of the cards.