Late in the spring, just when it seemed like the roster might be set, the Yankees swung a trade to acquire catcher Jose Trevino from the Texas Rangers. New York had acquired Ben Rortvedt from the Minnesota Twins as part of their return for Gary Sánchez to pair with Kyle Higashioka at the position, but Rortvedt’s oblique injury means he’ll miss the start of the regular season. At the risk of needing to give a non-insignificant number of at-bats to the likes of Rob Brantly, Max McDowell, or David Freitas, the Yankees instead found a backup catcher with experience and, crucially, a lot of defensive chops.
2021 Stats: 89 G, 302 PA, 5 HR, .239/.267/.340, .261 wOBA, 64 wRC+, 0.6 fWAR.
FanGraphs Depth Chart Projection: 57 G, 224 PA, 5 HR, .240/.273/.365, .274 wOBA, 72 wRC+, 0.8 fWAR.
Trevino has spent his entire professional career to date with the Rangers organization, after they drafted him in the sixth round of the 2014 draft out of Oral Roberts University. The 2021 season was his career high in games played.
As is typical for a career backup catcher, Trevino does not provide very much on offense. He doesn’t really hit for contact or for power, and his entire stat line indicates that he’s a below average hitter. He had the same 2021 fWAR as Higashioka, who despite his spring power surge has no track record as a successful offensive player in the big leagues. Trevino’s had a negative offensive fWAR for every year of his career. His career high in home runs is five, and he’s never walked in more than four percent of his plate appearances.
Trevino’s value lies in his defense, particularly his framing abilities. The Sánchez trade felt felt like a repudiation of Sánchez’s particular style of play, and Trevino excels with the framing skills that Sánchez struggled with consistently. Baseball Savant ranked Trevino as the fourth-best framer in all of baseball. Higashioka ranked twelfth, while Sanchez was 55th. Trevino’s ability to “steal” strikes will certainly garner him the appreciation of the New York pitching staff.
However, Trevino does have a weaker arm than Higashioka or Sánchez, with a pop time that has been ranked in the bottom of half of baseball. He did throw out seven batters attempting to steal last season, which was two more than Higashioka did in his own backup role.
Trevino’s skills, paired with Higashioka’s, should hopefully mean no repeats of last season’s awkward situations where Aaron Boone kept insisting that Higgy was not Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher, even though Sánchez was very noticeably not catching during his starts. Trevino must impress with the pitching staff, otherwise his value is basically nil. Not having much of a preseason at all to work with the pitchers may have some effect heading into the regular season.
There is some question of what will happen when Rortvedt is ready to return from his injury, whenever that is. Trevino has one minor league option left, while Rortvedt has two, but I think Rortvedt would be much more likely to be sent to Triple-A — he still only has 89 career MLB at-bats, and his 2021 OPS+ was 41. It wouldn’t raise too many eyebrows if the front office said he still needs some seasoning — and, crucially, more regular opportunities to play — once he’s healthy. I don’t see the Yankees just jettisoning Trevino quickly unless he can’t muster anything at all on offense, or sees a sudden decline in his skills at catcher.
Overall, Trevino has his downsides, but he has much higher floor as a backup catcher than the options the Yankees had just a few days ago. If he helps his pitchers like his numbers say he should, he’ll likely stick around the roster. Fans shouldn’t expect to see much off his bat, but after the Sánchez era his defense skills might be a breath of fresh air.