The spring leading up to the 2022 campaign saw seismic changes to the Yankees’ catcher situation. For the previous five and a half seasons, they employed the most mercurial catcher in the league in Gary Sánchez, a player who looked equally capable of leading the league in home runs at some times and forgetting how to make contact with the baseball at others. After a turbulent half-decade of wondering whether he would finally put it all together and lock down the role as full-time backstop for the long term, the team cut bait, trading him to the Twins alongside Gio Urshela for Josh Donaldson, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and Ben Rortvedt.
The plan was presumably to have Rortvedt and Kyle Higashioka split catching duties, as the team had clearly changed their tune to prioritizing defensive prowess behind the plate rather than a catcher with pop. But then we learned that Rortvedt didn’t actually exist, and the Bombers had to scramble to avoid entering the season with just Higashioka and Rob Brantly on the catching depth chart. So, they sent out-of-options reliever Albert Abreu and minor leaguer Robert Ahlstrom to the Rangers for a relatively unknown backup catcher named Jose Trevino.
2022 Statistics: 115 games, 353 plate appearances, .248/.283/.388, 11 home runs, 43 RBI, 91 wRC+, +17 framing runs, 29.0 defensive runs, 2.3 bWAR, 3.7 fWAR
Born Jose Ramón Trevino in Corpus Christi, TX on November 28, 1992, the catcher grew up a lifelong Yankees fan before the Rangers drafted him in the sixth round of the 2014 MLB Draft. He made his MLB debut in 2018 and mostly shuttled between the majors and Triple-A his first three years in the league. He finally secured a permanent spot on the big league squad in 2021, splitting catching duties with Jonah Heim. He appeared in a career-high 89 games, slashing .239/.267/.340 with five home runs and 30 RBI.
Trevino also began to attract notice for his defensive acumen, as in only a half-season’s worth of games he finished with the fourth-highest framing runs of any qualified catcher. This was apparently enough to entice the Yankees when a vacancy at backup catcher opened with Rortvedt’s season-ending injury. Little did they know that this seemingly-nothing trade would yield them one of the best backstops in baseball.
The 29-year-old’s first hit was a single off Tanner Houck in the Yankees’ season-opening series against the Red Sox. But even though it took a few games for the bat to heat up, it was immediately apparent that the Yankees had a truly elite pitch framer on their hands.
Trevino rapidly endeared himself to fans with soft-spoken yet candidly thoughtful responses to questions and penchant for late-game heroics. His coming-out party was probably the May 24th contest against the Orioles. He started the night off with his first home run in pinstripes before adding another RBI on a single that drove in former Texas teammate Kiner-Falefa to tie the game in the seventh. Then in the bottom of the eleventh with runners on first and second, he roped a line drive to left for the walk-off victory.
Speaking about the moment after the game, an emotional Trevino sent his thoughts to the victims of the Uvalde school shooting — a community less than an hour from where he grew up — and also revealed that it was his father’s birthday. Jose “Bugé” Trevino passed away before his son made his MLB debut, and Trevino dedicated the moment to him.
“He always said, ‘ninth inning, down one, you need a base hit here to tie the game or win the game at Yankee Stadium,’” Trevino recounted. “He always said, ‘I’m preparing you to be a Yankee...’ It was definitely a special moment, that’s why the tears were there. It would have been awesome for him to be here, but I know he’s watching.”
The catcher’s next signature pinstripe moment came just two weeks later, and it’s just as goosebump-rising as the first. Facing the Cubs on June 11th, the Yankees were forced into extras where the game would continue for a further four innings. Pinch-hitting for Higashioka with a runner on first and second, Trevino lined a single up the middle to plate Joey Gallo and again win his team the game.
When asked about the moment after the game, Trevino shared that it was his son’s birthday. “He was kind of yelling at me,” Trevino told reporters, “asking if I won the game. It was for the birthday. He wanted the Yankees to win for his birthday.
“I don’t know what everybody believes in,” Trevino continued, reflecting on the emotional walk-off on his late father’s birthday the previous month, “But I know what I believe in. I believe that I got a little extra help every time something like that happens.”
All throughout the season, Trevino virtually redefined what the Yankees could expect defensively out of their catchers. His +17 Statcast framing runs practically lapped the field as did his 29.0 defensive runs above average per FanGraphs. These metrics were a huge part in why he finished the season as the eighth-most valuable catcher in baseball despite logging 60 fewer plate appearances than any of the backstops above him on that list.
While his elite framing was beginning to circulate around baseball circles, nobody could have expected his contributions with the bat. His 113 wRC+ through the team’s first 86 games was good for eighth among catchers with at least 160 PAs while his 2.2 fWAR placed him fourth on the same list.
The bat did cool off in the second half, with Trevino only managing a 77 wRC+ after the All-Star break (when he traveled to Dodger Stadium for the event), and went completely silent in the playoffs to the tune of an ugly 1-for-22. However, Trevino exceeded anyone’s expectations for the Yankees not only with his contributions behind the plate but with the rapport he struck with members of the pitching staff. At the end of the season, he won the AL Gold Glove for catchers and secured the first Platinum Glove award in franchise history as the best defender in the American League.
Trevino’s defense will continue to play as long as the automated strike zone remains in beta in Triple-A, thus giving the Yankees a plug-and-play catcher for the next few seasons. Not bad for a last-second addition.