The New York Yankees have to divert whatever attention is left from all the Cliff Lee drama, but there is no denying the painful disappointment still lingers.
Losing Kerry Wood to the Chicago Cubs was unexpected, but the signing of former Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Russell Martin gave the first ray of hope thus far in this offseason.
Why is signing Russell Martin such a positive? For two reasons:
1. From veteran Jorge Posada to top prospects Austin Romaine and Jesus Montero, as well as current back-up Francisco Cervelli, Yankees have a plethora of uncertain players to fill the catcher position. In 2009, Posada, with 16 seasons and 39 years of age under his belt, had it all catch up to him. Cervelli was a productive hitter at the start of last season, but like Posada couldn’t hold runners on base, throwing out 14 percent of attempted basestealers. That's only one percent difference from Posada, who never was known for his throwing arm, but who made up for it with his power bat. Martin brings a big upgrade defensively, throwing out potential basestealers at a 31 percent clip for his career, and 39 percent last season. Adding Martin to the mix gives the Yankees necessary breathing room to bring up the two up-and-comers, Romaine and Montero, at an acceptable pace.
2. Russell provides General Manager Brian Cashman room to dangle Romaine and Montero as trade bait; with the hopes to fill the spot left open by Lee. It is no secret that the Yankees need to attain another starting pitcher to finalize the rotation. Word is that Andy Pettitte is actually going to return in 2011. Pettitte’s return brings reinforcement because the Yankees can afford to wait for the best trade before the season’s July 31st trading deadline. A retired Pettitte would leave another vacant spot that could be Sergio Mitre's--God-forbid. No matter what, Martin gives the flexibility and Pettitte allows for patience. This could result in a better option down the road, as there are always teams that want to unload by the All-Star Break.
Martin doesn’t come without concern. Even as a two-time All-Star with the Dodgers who ranked atop all NL catchers in 2007, hitting .293 with 87 RBIs and 19 home-runs, there is cause for worry.
Martin’s production declined in 2008, followed by a season-ending hip injury in August of 2009. He does tend to draw a lot of walks at the plate.
Martin seems determined to get back to the hitter he was at 25, making him a young 27, which means Cashman is bringing a baby to the Bronx. Plenty of room to grow considering skipper Joe Girardi and bench coach Tony Pena were both successful catchers during their playing careers.
GM Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner know that many things have to happen before and during the 2011 season to keep the team on top.
Cashman has asked Yankee fans to remain patient, a tall tale to petition for of such an eager group.
I don’t think Yankee fans have a better option. Still, a lot of trust has been earned with the recent 2009 season, and the Yankee fans always believe their team is good to go. That is because the players won’t accept anything else.
In the words of new Yankee catcher Russell Martin:
“Talent doesn’t go away. I know that I can hit. I just want to get back to that consistency.”