Yankees may have a problem brewing at catcher

kyle higashioka, yankees

The New York Yankees received a significant blow last week as they announced the season-ending injury of their starting catcher, José Treviño. He is set to be sidelined for the rest of the 2023 season due to a right wrist tear.

Treviño is renowned as one of the best defensive catchers in baseball, a trait prioritized over offensive prowess in this position by most teams.

Treviño’s Decline in Offensive Performance

It is plausible that Treviño’s production at the plate declined due to his enduring wrist injury since spring training. He ended the season with a .210 batting average and a .257 OBP, coupled with four homers, 15 RBIs, and a career-low 57 wRC+.

The Challenges of Replacing Treviño

Filling Treviño’s shoes will prove challenging, especially given the remarkable defensive value he exhibited over 55 games this season. His replacements may find it difficult to match his 49.9% strike rate and six catcher-framing runs, two of the best metrics in the game.

The Potential Replacements: Higashioka and Rortvedt

The Yankees’ roster includes Kyle Higashioka, a 33-year-old catcher boasting a .223 average, a .256 OBP, five homers, 25 RBIs, a 27.8% strikeout rate, and a 68 wRC+. However, Higashioka’s 47.1% strike rate and two catcher framing runs fall short of Treviño’s figures.

To cushion the blow of Treviño’s absence, the Yankees called up Ben Rortvedt, a 25-year-old catcher acquired from the Minnesota Twins two off-seasons ago.

Rortvedt has a .200 average with a .333 OBP across six games with the Yankees this year. Nevertheless, his performance with AAA Scranton saw him achieve a .286 average, a .395 OBP, six homers, 22 RBIs, and a 126 wRC+ across 29 games.

Although Rortvedt is also known for his defensive abilities, the Yankees’ pitchers may need time to adapt to his pitch-calling and framing style. Given Treviño’s excellent framing qualities, most of the Yankees’ pitchers favor him, which could create an adjustment period.

It’s also important to note that with Rortvedt getting promoted, the Yankees elevated catcher Austin Wells to AAA, an exciting development for the 24-year-old lefty hitter.

Trade Market Options for the Yankees

With Treviño sidelined, the Yankees might experience a downturn in pitching production. It wouldn’t be surprising if they scoured the trade market for a defensive catcher to enhance their position, especially given Higashioka and Rortvedt’s limited offensive abilities.

Potential targets for general manager Brian Cashman might include catchers like Austin Hedges or Yasmani Grandal, a power hitter at the position with veteran experience (suggested by The Athletic). Nevertheless, given the Yankees’ preference for defensive specialists, an offensive addition doesn’t seem to align with their usual strategy.

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