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Yankees Potential Free Agent Target: Alex Avila

Should the Yankees pursue an upgrade at backup catcher?

Chicago Cubs v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

If you’re a staunch Austin Romine supporter, you might not like what’s coming next. Granted, I do wonder what makes one a “staunch Austin Romine supporter” but that’s not the point, we can talk about that later. The truth is Austin Romine is simply not that good. At anything, really. Yes, he was okay when Gary Sanchez missed time in the beginning of 2017, but outside of that, he was a non-factor.

It’s unfair to have great expectations from a backup catcher, but it’s also reasonable to expect the backup catcher to not be completely useless. Romine can’t hit worth a lick and his defense is “meh” at best. Though they tendered Romine a contract for 2018, doesn’t mean they can’t do better. What other options are out there?

The biggest name that jumps to mind is Alex Avila. He was traded from the Tigers to the Cubs this past year and currently finds himself a free agent. In an ideal world, he’d find a job for himself as a starting catcher for a contender and he’s surely capable of doing that, but his main priority at this point in his career is winning.

He’ll be 31 going into the 2018 season and he’ll have played in exactly one playoff game since 2014. When he entered the league, he joined a Detroit Tigers team that was an annual contender. The Tigers have since fallen off the face of the Earth, which is how he ended up on the Cubs, but his priorities are clear. And it goes without saying he’d provide a clear upgrade over Romine.

On the season, Avila hit .264/.387/.447 with 14 home runs, which was good for a 119 OPS+ and 124 wRC+ in 112 games. Compare that to Romine who hit .218/.272/.293 with two home runs that amounted to a 49 OPS+ and wRC+. Backup catchers aren’t expected to hit well, but Romine takes that to an extreme.

Defensively, Romine doesn’t do anything great either. He has a measly 10% caught stealing rate, while Avila catches 27% of potential base stealers. People think Romine’s some defensive wizard compared to Gary Sanchez because he’s only allowed four passed balls to Sanchez’s 16, but he’s really not. Fact of the matter is that Romine really does nothing well and if the Yankees have a chance to upgrade their backup catcher, they should take it.

The only real downside to having Avila on the team is that the people who believe Gary Sanchez shouldn’t be the Yankees’ catcher will have more of a reason to call for Sanchez to DH or move positions. Considering there were people who literally that Austin Romine should start a playoff game for the Yankees, I can only imaigne what having Avila on the team would do for that. Fortunately, the only person whose opinion on the subject matters has made his stance clear.

One thing is clear: Gary Sanchez is the Yankees catcher and he will be for the foreseeable future, as he should be. That doesn’t mean that the Yankees couldn’t use an upgrade when it comes to spelling Sanchez. If someone like Avila wants to play for a contender and is willing to be a backup for a real chance at winning, the Yankees seem like the best place to accomplish that dream.

Okay, NOW we can talk about what makes someone a staunch Austin Romine supporter.

*Season statistics provided courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.