SAN DIEGO — After backing up the injury-prone Gary Sanchez the past three years, Austin Romine likely won’t need injuries to increase his playing time this coming season.
Romine, 31, signed a one-year deal worth $4.1 million with the Tigers on Thursday. The move ended a 13-season relationship with the Yankees, who took Romine in the second round of the 2007 draft.
Where Sanchez, who has been on the injured list with lower-body injuries four times in the last two seasons, was clearly the Yankees’ No. 1 catcher, Romine won’t be a backup in Detroit.
Romine, who has never been a No. 1 catcher in the big leagues, will likely get that chance since the Tigers’ catching duo of 27-year-old Grayson Greiner and Jake Rogers, 24, are inexperienced and haven’t hit in limited playing time.
A career .239 hitter with a .647 OPS, Romine improved at the plate the last two seasons, when he batted .262 with 18 homers and 77 RBIs and posted a .730 OPS in 74 games. Adding to his value was the Yankee pitchers liked working with him and his leadership qualities.
Kyle Higashioka is the only other catcher on the Yankees 40-man roster. Long a favorite of the Yankees’ analytic wing of the front office for his defensive ability, especially framing pitches, the 29-year-old Higashioka has played in 56 big-league games since 2017 and has hit .164 (24-for-146) with six homers and 17 RBIs.
In 70 games for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last year, Higashioka batted .278 with 20 homers and 56 RBIs and posted a .929 OPS.
The Yankees lost right-handed pitcher Rony Garcia to the Tigers in Thursday’s Rule 5 major league draft and four players in the Triple-A segment.
Garcia, 21, was a combined 4-13 with a 4.01 ERA in 25 games (24 starts) with Single-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton. In 130 ¹/₃ innings Garcia allowed 115 hits and struck out 129.