It’s settled. Barring a last-minute addition, the Yankees will enter the season with a catching tandem of Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart.
That became the reality this afternoon after prospect catcher Austin Romine was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre among a series of roster cuts. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said back in January that he expected Romine to begin the season in the minors, so the move doesn’t come as a big surprise.
Romine, 24, went 2-for-8 with three RBI and a run scored in six Grapefruit League games. Sending him down is the right move for his development, as he was limited to just 31 games last season due to a back injury and has only appeared in 26 games above Double-A (including five with the Yankees in 2011), but there figures to be plenty of clamoring for his callup if he gets off to a hot start and Cervelli and Stewart are as underwhelming offensively as most expect.
Free agent outfielder Michael Saunders has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Royals, the team announced Friday. While the move comes just two days after Saunders agreed to terms with the Pirates, he allegedly asked for his release after the club acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson in a multi-player swap with the Rays on Thursday.
After earning his first spot on an All-Star team in 2016, Saunders followed up a solid campaign with a career-worst performance in 2017. The 31-year-old split the season between the Phillies and Blue Jays’ camps, batting a combined .202/.256/.344 with six home runs and -0.7 fWAR in 234 plate appearances. Although he remained healthy throughout the year, with no sign of the lingering hamstring strain that has plagued him on and off since 2013, he wasn’t productive enough to merit a full-time role on either roster.
With Dickerson slated for a starting role in Pittsburgh, it was unlikely that Saunders would have commanded anything other than a backup role in 2018. Now, however, he’ll compete for playing time amid a slew of outfield options, including Alex Gordon, Cody Asche, Jorge Bonifacio, Tyler Collins and Paulo Orlando.