The Tigers made an upgrade at the catching position as the Winter Meetings were wrapping up on Thursday, signing longtime Yankees backup Austin Romine to a one-year, $4.1 million deal, per WFAN’s Sweeny Murti. The New York Post’s George King III was the first to report that a deal was close.
Austin Romine agrees to 1-year, $4.1M with Tigers. His brother Andrew played there 2014-17.— Sweeny Murti (@YankeesWFAN) December 12, 2019
Romine, who just turned 31, has seen action with the Yankees over eight of the last nine seasons, serving as part of the Yankees’ primary catching tandem for each of the last four, as well as in 2013. While Romine is a .239/.281/.366 career hitter, he’s progressed quite a bit at the plate over the years and posted a career-best .281/.310/.439 slash line with eight homers over 240 plate appearances in 2019.
Romine should have an opportunity to receive more playing time in Detroit, as the Tigers’ primary backstop in 2019, Grayson Greiner, posted a miserable .202/.251/.308 slash line with -1 defensive runs saved. 24-year-old Jake Rogers, a rather highly-regarded prospect, made his debut down the stretch but struggled to a .125/.222/.259 line in the majors. While it’s fair to argue that the Tigers should be patient with those young catchers rather than adding a veteran to play for a team that may lose 100 games, Detroit GM Al Avila declared this week that it’s time to “build it back up,” and one of the most important factors in putting together a competitive roster is having a catcher that the pitching staff can trust. Romine should be that guy, and he’ll be ultra-important for a Tigers staff that skews so young.
It should be interesting to see if things are at all awkward for Romine in Detroit; he was the central figure in a massive Yankees-Tigers brawl back in 2017, and while a large chunk of Detroit’s roster has turned over in that time, the player with whom he initially fought — Miguel Cabrera — is still around and under contract through 2023.