The Yankees don’t need major changes at the moment. They have the best record in baseball (16-6) after about a month. The rotation is humming, the bullpen is buzzing, they have four legitimate options in the outfield, and five everyday players to shuffle around the infield.
But they need a starting catcher.
Trading Gary Sanchez wasn’t the wrong move, but there needs to be another one coming. The Kyle Higashioka-Jose Trevino platoon isn’t cutting it. Not by a longshot.
For years, Yankees fans convinced themselves that Higashioka could be an everyday catcher because he’s solid defensively and Sanchez was as frustrating as any player on the team. Higashioka is not a starting catcher — not even close to one.
Despite his three-RBI night in Kansas City over the weekend, Higgy can’t cut it as an everyday starting catcher. He has a sub-.400 OPS this season, but this isn’t a case of a small sample size. This is simply who he is as a hitter.
Outside of 16 games in the 2020 shortened season, Higashioka has never recorded an OPS over .750 for a season (which is considered average). In fact, his .595 lifetime OPS tells the story of his career at the plate.
The six-year veteran has a decent glove, but it’s not exceptional to the point where he needs to slot in as the everyday starter. In fact, Gerrit Cole’s willingness to throw to Jose Trevino is proof enough that there isn’t a significant drop-off defensively — if there is even one at all.
Trevino doesn’t hit enough to warrant everyday duties. Either would be fine as the backup, but general manager Brian Cashman needs to be aggressive as the trade deadline approaches.
The trade market doesn’t materialize this early in the season, but Cashman can start making notes of potential trade partners.
The Yankees are off to Toronto after a weekend series against the Royals. It’s tough to envision the Royals and Salvador Perez ever parting ways, but there is no way Kansas City is in the playoff hunt this year. Will they eventually send Perez to a contender where he can compete for another World Series?
My gut says no, but it can’t hurt to keep an eye on the seven-time All-Star.
Willson Contreras is a step down from Perez, but he is a more realistic option. The Chicago Cubs are in full tear-down mode and Contreras is one of the last guys remaining from that 2016 World Series team. He can handle a pitching staff and has decent pop in his bat (lifetime .806 OPS).
It’s also worth highlighting the history between the Yankees and Cubs. They made a blockbuster deal to send Aroldis Chapman to Chicago in 2016. In 2021, the Bronx Bombers took advantage of the rebuild at Wrigley Field by snagging Anthony Rizzo and re-signing the lefty in free agency.
Contreras is a free agent at the end of the year and could fit that same mold as Rizzo — winning player who brings an edge to the clubhouse.
As for other options, these guys aren’t at the level of a Perez or Contreras, but they could be available options as the trade deadline creeps up — Mitch Garver (Rangers), Carson Kelly (Diamondbacks), or Sean Murphy (Athletics).
Cashman’s offseason is looking a lot better with one month in the books. Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s hot start is vindicating the decision to pass on one of the marquee shortstops in free agency. Isiah Kiner-Falefa is making it much easier to wait for Anthony Volpe or Oswald Peraza to mature in the minors.
The Yankees don’t have that same luxury at catcher. No. 4 prospect Austin Wells is only in High-A ball and has an ETA of 2023 for the big leagues. In other words, he’s not coming to save the day this season.
That’s why it’s imperative that Cashman step up to the plate and acquire a difference-maker behind the plate. The Yankees are a clear-cut championship contender, but that doesn’t mean they should be content with what they have behind the dish.