There are currently three catchers on the 40-man roster and general manager Brian Cashman hasn't been in much of a hurry to add a veteran to the group.
It's not like there are must-have options left on the board in free agency. A.J. Pierzynski, formerly of the Chicago White Sox, is the best unsigned catcher out there, but he'll be 36 at the end of this month and would be nothing more than a stop-gap measure.
However, Pierzynski is coming off a career year, having belted a career-best 27 home runs for the White Sox in 2012. That means he is likely seeking better than stop-gap money and time on his next contract.
The other free agents who remain are nothing more than roster fillers; none of the group of Kelly Shoppach, Yorvit Torrealba, Brian Schneider, Humberto Quintero, Ronny Paulino, Henry Blanco, Miguel Olivo, Chris Snyder, Matt Treanor or Rod Barajas has any discernible upside at this point in their respective careers.
So it would appear, barring some sort of a move before spring training, that Martin's replacement will come from within. So who are the three candidates?
Francisco Cervelli, who turns 27 during spring training, became the forgotten man in the Yankee organization in 2012. After spending most of the 2010-11 seasons backing up the now-retired Jorge Posada, Cervelli was shipped to Triple-A coming out of spring training last year and wasn't heard from again until playing in three games and getting two plate appearances late in the year.
Cervelli has never been a power guy; his career triple-slash line in 562 plate appearances is .271/.339/.353 and he has just five career home runs. He regressed in 2012, hitting just .246/.341/.316 in 99 games at Triple-A. He's more suspect than prospect at this point.
Austin Romine, 24, missed most of the 2012 season after undergoing back surgery. But he is the youngest of the three candidates and has the most upside. He got 20 plate appearances for the Yankees in 2011 before his lost 2012 season.
Before the back problems cropped up in 2011 that eventually led to the surgery, Romine hit .268/.324/.402 in 497 plate appearances for Double-A Trenton in 2010 and was at .279/.343/.368 for Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before getting hurt in 2011.
Romine was a second-round pick in the 2007 draft and if he's fully recovered, he's the choice that makes the most sense for New York.
Chris Stewart, who turns 31 in February, came to the Yankees last spring after serving as a backup for the San Francisco Giants in 2011.
He was a .241/.292/.319 hitter in 141 at-bats in 2012 and that is actually an improvement over his career marks of .217/.281/.302. Stewart did most of his work last season catching CC Sabathia and is considered the strongest defensive catcher of the three backstops on the roster.
But he is the weakest of the three offensively and has to be considered nothing more than a backup at this point in his career.
The bottom line
Barring a disaster in spring training or manager Joe Girardi deciding that he prefers an older, more experienced player behind the plate, Romine would have to be the prohibitive favorite going into camp.
Regardless, the man who will replace Martin behind the dish for the Yankees will likely be nothing more than a placeholder for a couple of years while young Gary Sanchez develops in the minors.
Sanchez, 19, hit 18 homers and drove in 85 runs while playing at low-A Charleston and high-A Tampa last season and if he develops as projected, may be ready to assume the duties in the Bronx as soon as some time in 2014.
Phil Watson was a writer and editor at several daily newspapers for more than 20 years and is now a freelance sports journalist and radio commentator based in northern Michigan.
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