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With Jose Trevino returning, let him be the workhorse

The spring acquisition has been one of the elite catchers in the game, and should be the undisputed starter.

MLB: Game Two-Minnesota Twins at New York Yankees Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Y’know how, every once in a while someone comes along, that you didn’t know you needed in your life until they were there? Maybe it’s that friend you stumbled into at a college party who for the last 20 years has helped you move and been a godparent for your child, maybe it’s that really amazing professor that put you on a completely different path in life. For me, that person is Jose Trevino.

In February if you had asked me who Jose Trevino is, I probably could have guessed he was a baseball player since I don’t know why random people would ask me about whether I recognize a specific name unless it was about baseball, but that’d be it. Now, I think he’s an indispensable part of the Yankee roster, and frankly should have played in more games:

Trevino’s one of the five or so most valuable catchers in baseball, despite playing 15-20 games fewer than his contemporaries like J.T. Realmuto, Sean Murphy, Will Smith, and Alejandro Kirk. Part of this is that he doesn’t necessarily hit as well as those other guys — Smith, for example, has played 18 games at DH because he has a wOBA 50 odd points higher than Trevino — but he should be behind the plate more.

Part of this playing time problem is due to bad luck — he was clearly playing through at least one injury, if not multiple, in August — and happy news, the birth of his child this weekend necessitating his time away from the field. With his return coming tomorrow against Boston, and the team in much more a division fight than we’d all like, he needs to assume a starter’s workload down the stretch.

There are 21 games left this season. It’s very rare that teams ask their starter to catch a day game after a night game, and there are three such games left this season — next Sunday at Milwaukee, the 24th versus the Red Sox, and October 1st against the Orioles. Those three, plus one of the games in the doubleheader in the Rangers series, go to Kyle Higashioka. If the division or homefield are decided, we can give Higgy the final game of that Rangers series.

The remaining games, 16 or 17 of them, need to have Jose behind the plate. Every win matters with how the Yankees have seen their division lead get whittled away, and not only has Trevino been one of the most impressive surprises of this Yankee season, but Higgy has seen a pretty significant step backward.

He’s still a capable framer, although he’s gone from one of the best in the game to merely good — even on a per-pitch basis, he’s been worth about three runs per 3000 pitches. If you take the per-pitch rate of the five best framers in the game, they’re worth about 11 runs per 3000. He has gotten much better at controlling the run game — his 43 percent caught stealing rate is by far the best of his career — but both the framing and his offensive stagnation make him the platonic ideal of the backup.

Then there’s that other side to Trevino, the one that’s harder to prove. He just seems to get pitchers in a way that most catchers don’t. In four months, he’s ascended to the level of Adley Rutschman or Yadier Molina, where his relationships with his staff seem to be more important, and more beneficial, to the team’s success than quantifiable metrics — but those metrics, especially defensively, make him one of the three or four best catchers in baseball. The Yankees need a workhorse, and for the final weeks of the season, need to let Trevino work like a horse.