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Thursday, November 29, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Martin departin'

By Wallace Matthews

What happened: Maybe Russell Martin really couldn't stand to be away from A.J. Burnett, because he up and signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates tonight. Exact terms of the deal are not known for sure yet, but we knew he and the Yankees were far apart in negotiations, and as GM Brian Cashman told Andrew Marchand, the Yankees never even got around to making an offer to their starting catcher for the past two seasons.

What it means: That right now, the Yankees starting catcher for 2013 is Chris Stewart and his backup is Francisco Cervelli, unless something changes between now and Opening Day. And you've got to figure it will.

What they are losing: A good defensive catcher with some pop in his bat who will never hit for average but has a decent on-base percentage and, even in the midst of a horrendous offensive season, managed to come up with a few big hits in 2012. More important, Martin was a deft handler of pitchers who was trusted by the staff to call a good game and to block pitches in the dirt. Also he was a mature and articulate clubhouse presence. Hard to replace all around.

What are the options?: Well, soon-to-be 36-year-old A.J. Pierzynski and Mike Napoli, a part-time catcher who does not seem to fit Joe Girardi's requirements as a defensive backstop, are out there on the free agent market, and Austin Romine, coming off an injury-riddled AAA season, will be in spring training with the Yankees hoping to prove he's ready for prime-time. And of course there's always Eli Whiteside, picked up in the off-season, signed to a one-year contract and promptly DFA'ed to make room on the 40-man roster for Andy Pettitte. Prospect Gary Sanchez is still a couple of years away.

What should they do?: You tell us. A.) Sign one of the free agents? B). Try to put together a trade package for a proven major-league starter? C.) Or try to cobble together a catcher out of the spare parts in the organization?

If you choose A.), which one, Napoli or Pierzynski? If B.), who are you trading and who do you expect to get back? (Don't tell me Buster Posey). And if C.), which of those four backups would you give most of the work to?