Yesterday the New York Yankees acquired veteran catcher Chris Stewart from the San Francisco Giants in exchange for right-hander George Kontos. While the transaction itself wasn’t anything special, it did result in a roster move that shocked Yankee and baseball fans alike. Following the trade, New York announced that Stewart would be the club’s backup catcher while Francisco Cervelli was being optioned to Triple-A.
The move came as a surprise for Cervelli, who was evidently told throughout spring training that he would break camp as the team’s reserve backstop. Though upset, Cervelli was professional about the situation, noting that he would simply have to go back down and prove once again that he’s a major league backup.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman confirmed Cervelli’s ability, but said the decision came down to what’s best for the team. Austin Romine, viewed as the Yankees third catcher, has been dealing with a lingering back injury. Because of this, Cashman and New York’s front office wanted to add healthy depth before the start of the regular season.
So why not just send Stewart down to the minors? Cervelli has proven his abilities as a backup in New York and has been significantly better than Stewart at the plate.
This almost certainly would have happened if Stewart had any options remaining. He doesn’t and Cervelli does. Thus Cervelli is the one that got demoted.
Kontos, the player the Giants received in exchange for Stewart, is a 26-year-old right-hander. The reliever made his major league debut last season, logging six innings over his seven appearances while allowing two earned runs, striking out six and walking three. Over his six seasons in the minors, Kontos maintained an ERA and WHIP of 3.33 and 1.222 with 9.0 SO/9 and 3.0 BB/9.