The Yankees are in need of a new back-up catcher to replace Austin Romine
It is already 2018 and the trade by the Yankees to acquire Giancarlo Stanton in December was a major acquisition. However, the team could still improve by making smaller scale additions to the team during the month of January or beginning of February.
The Yankees are set with starters at right field (Aaron Judge), center field (Aaron Hicks), left field (Brett Gardner), catcher (Gary Sanchez), first base (Greg Bird) and shortstop (Didi Gregorius). They are also all set in their rotation with five reliable starting pitchers in Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, CC Sabathia and Jordan Montgomery. They still might trade some prospects to acquire an established pitcher.
At second base, the Yankee could go with top prospect Gleyber Torres who likely would have been called up from Triple-A in July or August if he did not go on the disabled list. At third base, top third base prospect Miguel Andujar is currently on to top of the depth chart.
The Yankees should re-sign Todd Frazier to a one-year contract with an option for a second year to be the third baseman until Andujar can improve his defense. Frazier can be relied on to provide power as he hit 11 homers in only 66 games with the Yankees and in his 147 total games played with the Chicago White Sox and Yankees he hit a total of 27 homers. Frazier is very reliable defensively, a quality clubhouse presence and should be able to improve on his .213 average from the 2017 season.
Frazier could be unwilling to accept a one-year contract and if that is the case they could give him two years and trade him after this season or before the trade deadline in 2019. The Yankees could also explore signing another veteran third baseman but Frazier does seem to be the right fit.
An area for need for the Yankees is at the back-up catcher position. The 29-year-old Austin Romine has been the team’s back-up behind the plate for the last two seasons and his average in 2017 was significantly worse than it was in 2016.
The pitchers do say that he calls a good game behind the plate but the Yankees could use a catcher who can give the team a little more offensively when Sanchez is the DH or gets the game off. During the 2017 season, Romine, a native of Lake Forest, CA, hit only .218 in 80 games (229 at-bats) with two homers, nine doubles, 21 RBI and a low .272 on-base percentage.
He had a .242 average in 62 games in 2016, but Romine’s other stats were comparable to his stats from this season.
A catcher that the Yankees should target is Alex Avila, who will be 31 on January 29. The Florida native who went to the University of Alabama is entering his 10th big league season. He was a back-up in 2015 and 2016 and played in a combined 112 games for the Detroit Tigers and Chicago Cubs last season.
Avila is currently a free agent who offers some versatility as he can also play first base, which means he could also back-up Bird.
Avila’s best season was in 2011, when he played 141 games for the Tigers, who he played for in the first seven seasons of his career. In 2011, Avila was an All-Star when he hit .295 with 19 homers, 33 doubles, 82 RBI and a .389 on-base percentage.
The son of current Tigers general manager Al Avila had a .213 average with a .359 on-base percentage and seven homers in 2016 but in more extended action in 2017 when he played in 112 games (376 at-bats) he had a solid .264 average with 13 doubles, 14 homers, 49 RBI and a .387 on-base percentage. He gets on base a lot more than Romine and is a better all around hitter.
Avila also only committed three errors in 78 games played at catcher last season.