With a logjam in both left field and the infield, as well as no serviceable Major Leaguer at catcher, it was clear coming into Spring Training that another move or two could be on the horizon for the White Sox. While players such as Ryan Hanigan and Jose Lobaton have come and gone from the trade market in recent months, Wednesday saw the first time the White Sox were attached to any sort of trade rumors for a catcher.
White Sox and Yankees could be a good match for a trade. Yankees need infielders, White Sox reportedly scouted Yankees catchers on Tuesday. — Chuck Garfien (@ChuckGarfien) February 26, 2014
The Yankees, of course, inked Brian McCann to a long-term deal this offseason and boast an abundance of Major league-ready to soon-to-be-Major League-ready catchers the White Sox could have interest in, including Francisco Cervelli, Austin Romine, J.R. Murphy and Gary Sanchez.
Sanchez is the most intriguing piece here. He’s been a Top 100 prospect for the past three seasons and was ranked No. 35 in Baseball America’s most recent edition. Here’s what BA had to say about the 21 year old:
Continued work at Double-A. Sanchez got on the right track in 2013, when his catch-and-throw skills started catching up to his bat, and the Brian McCann signing gives him more development time.
Sanchez is seemingly destined to reach the major league level by 2015, if not later. And while getting another young, top prospect could be a coup for the White Sox, acquiring him wouldn’t answer their catching questions for 2014 unless they think he’s more ahead of schedule than seemingly anyone else.
That’s not to say the White Sox shouldn’t acquire Sanchez if he were available and the price was right. But it’s highly unlikely any of the pieces that fit with the Yankees’ needs (Conor Gillaspie, Gordon Beckham) would do the trick to acquire him.
Similarly, Murphy isn’t an “immediate fix” kind of guy. He did have a short stint with the big league club late in 2013 and didn’t exactly stand out, granted in a small sample size.
The 22-year-old was a 2nd round draft pick in 2009 and Pinstripe Pundit has had positive things to say about him, including this snippet:
Like Sanchez, Murphy might be better served as a trade chip with McCann in tow. He didn’t hit much during his cup of coffee in the majors this season, but he thrived offensively at both Double-A and Triple-A in 2013. Murphy’s defense is well touted, too, increasing his value as trade bait.
Murphy is the No. 4 prospect in the Yankees’ farm system, according to Baseball America (Sanchez is No. 1), and would likely cost less than Sanchez as far as a potential trade goes. Whether what the White Sox are offering would be enough to pry him away, like Sanchez, is unknown.
As for Cervelli and Romine, both have had much more Major League experience than the aforementioned pair of prospects. Cervelli has posted a .271/.367/.710 line in 623 plate appearances across six seasons, while Romine has hit .201/.248/.279 in just 168 plate appearances across two seasons. The pair is currently battling for the Yankees’ backup catching spot behind McCann.
If the Yankees are content to stick with Cervelli as their backup, Romine would likely come cheap. But while his Major League sample size is still small, it’s hard to imagine he would be much of an upgrade over the Flowers/ Phegley pu-pu platter, at least in 2014.
Cervelli, on the other hand, has shown flashes of competence during his time mostly as a backup with the Yankees. His strikeout rate is at 15 percent for his career, including an impressive 33 BB/42 K line during a 2010 season in which he had more than half of his career at-bats. Compared to Flowers (34 percent strikeout rate during his career) and Phegley (19 percent strikeout rate, only four walks in 213 plate appearances a year ago), you can see an immediate improvement in that area.
Still, Cervelli is already 27, meaning if he’s going to become more than a replacement-level regular, he’s about out of time. He’s also out of options in New York so there’s a chance the Yankees could waive him if they opt to keep Romine or someone else as McCann’s backup going into the season.
Regardless, the pieces the White Sox could conceivably offer aren’t ones they’d likely regret losing in the longterm. Whatever the team believes in Beckham’s value, they could decide Marcus Semien is the second baseman of both the present and future, making him expendable. Likewise, with Jeff Keppinger under contract and Matt Davidson fighting to make the team out of camp, there doesn’t seem to be much room for Gillaspie going forward.
There isn’t a long-term solution at catcher waiting to be nabbed from the Yankees unless Sanchez or Murphy can be had. The odds of Cervelli becoming that long-term solution are minimal, but if the White Sox are able to nab someone who would A) be an immediate upgrade over Flowers/Phegley and B) has at least an outside shot of being a competent regular, you can’t fault the White Sox for exploring the idea.
Oh, and for what it’s worth Rick Hahn predictably downplayed any rumors when asked about it: