The New York Yankees have six catchers on the 40-man roster, meaning they will have to either trade or expose some of them to signing elsewhere. The team already lost infield prospect Andres Chaparro, who signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks after being stuck in Triple-A.
The Yanks are expected to promote Austin Wells to a prominent position in 2024, potentially taking over the starting catcher job. Wells has been working diligently this off-season to improve at the Yankees’ facilities in Tampa, hopefully compounding on his small sample size of success toward the end of the 2023 season.
Wells played 19 MLB games, hitting 229 with a .257 OBP and 97 wRC+. However, the final two weeks of the season were fruitful, seeing him hit 289 with a .304 OBP, .667 slugging rate, including four homers, 10 RBIs, and a 161 wRC+.
If the Yankees can get even average offensive production from the catcher position, it would be a significant increase from what they had prior. The expectation is that Jose Trevino will maintain his role as a defense-first option who can platoon with Wells. Trevino may end up as the primary catcher for ace Gerrit Cole, but Wells Drew some positive reviews as a defensive player despite major concerns about his quality behind the dish at the MLB level.
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The Yankees Are Set For Some Changes At Catcher
With Wells and Trevino expected to be the primary starters next season, veteran Kyle Higashioka is expendable. The Yankees refrained from non-tendering Higashioka, a reality Lou Trivino and others were unfortunate enough to experience, but he is still available via trade, and general manager Brian Cashman has already indicated that teams have been knocking on the door.
The 33-year-old is entering his final year of arbitration and has an estimated $2.2 million salary before becoming a free agent in 2025. He’s tallied 10 home runs for three consecutive seasons with a .236 with a .274 OBP and an 86 wRC+ this past season. He’s a fine offensive player and can hold his own defensively, making him a fringe starter for some teams.
In fact, he may end up being utilized as a starter in another club. In a position that is weak across the league, the Yankees have a surplus of talent, which is a good problem to have.
Cashman may be looking for bullpen support in exchange for Higashioka or a prospect with some upside. Ideally, they could find a decent relief pitcher with underrated stuff the team can develop, similar to Clay Holmes and Ian Hamilton.
Hashioka may not have a realistic chance of cracking the roster after spending the last few seasons as the primary backup, meaning they will have to offload him at some point.