12/3 UPDATE: Geovany Soto re-signed with Texas.

Welly, welly, welly, welly, welly, welly, well. The Eli Whiteside Era has arrived. To what do we owe the extreme pleasure of this surprising signing? For those who haven’t been keeping up, here’s a quick recap on how we got here:

1) The Yankees use their political connections to bilk taxpayers out of hundreds of millions of dollars to finance their new privately-owned stadium. They then proceed to price regular fans out of said stadium, preferring to generate huge revenue streams from corporate luxury boxes.

2) The new corporate digs jack up the value of the value of their franchise and vastly increase the Steinbrenners’ already heady wealth. The Yes Network by itself is valued at $3 billion, and the Yankees sell at minority stake in the network so they have some cash on hand — in case they a few hundred million more dollars in a pinch.

3) The Yankees tell their fanbase that they won’t be reinvesting that money, instead choosing to purposely downgrade in rightfield — despite the fact that they could retain Nick Swisher at a very good value. The mainstream media shrugs its collective shoulders and gives the Yankees a free pass.

4) Russell Martin and Ichiro Suzuki basically announce to the world that they want to come back to the Yankees so much that they will return to The Bronx for a below-market-value contract. Brian Cashman says he’s interested in them both, but that pitching has to be his first focus. So, he doesn’t even have time to tell an intern to shoot their agents a text.

5) Cashman manages to negotiate his way through a grueling, labrynthian process to fill the pitching holes. It helps that Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera all tell him very early that they are going to come back to the Yankees on one-year deals. But the negotiations are so complex and time-consuming that he has no time in the day to send Ichiro or Martin’s agent a Facebook PM with some ballpark figures.

6) As Ichiro starts rethinking his allegiance to the Yankees, Martin bolts to sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates — a team that has gone 20 straight seasons without a winning record.  The Pirates bowled Martin over by offering an ARodesque contract for TWO(!) years at $8.5mil per. Martin will have to manage to be about a win and a half above replacement to be worth his contract, and that’s in both year one AND year two.  He has added 1.7- 5.9 WAR each year of his career, so perhaps he can somehow jump this bar. The Yankees never make an offer. The MSM reports: “Ooh, that’s kinda interesting. Ah well.

The Steinbrenners have a funny way of doing whatever it takes to win, don’t they?

So, here we are. Cashman told the press that “more likely than not,” the Yankees will go with the players currently on the roster to fill the catcher spot. That includes Eli Whiteside (16 wRC+ last season), Chris Stewart (a career-high 65 wRC+ last season) Francisco Cervelli (89 wRC+ last season… in AAA), and prospect Austin Romine (89 wRC+ last season …in AAA …in the 17 games he was healthy enough to play there). The Yankees may be charging some of the highest ticket prices in baseball, but a lot of those seats are going to have their view obstructed by the giant double-middle-fingers Cash is throwing up at Yankee fans.

None of the above options are viable starting catchers for a serious World Series contender. Mike Napoli would be a nice upgrade, but the Yankees aren’t doing upgrades this year. AJ Pierzynski isn’t particularly good, and if another team offers him two years, that would blow the Yankees out of the water. There is one decent option and Cashman ought to be willing to outbid every other team for him: Geovany Soto.

The Texas Rangers non-tendered Soto, making him a free agent. They weren’t willing to pay him the $5-6 million he was likely to receive in arbitration. That gives you an idea of his market value, so he should fit into the Yankees’ single-mom-with-kids budget. It also gives you an idea of the season he had in 2012 — .271 wOBA,  62wRC+, -.6 fielding runs, .5 WAR. Geo Soto is not Mike Napoli with the bat, and he’s not Russell Martin with the glove. But he is better defensively than Napoli, and he has the potential to be better than Martin on offense (career 102 wRC+).

Soto’s .222 BABIP tied RussMart for the 2nd worst BABIP in MLB (min 300 PAs). His 21% line drive rate says he’s due for a nice rebound. The Yankees need to do their homework on Soto’s medicals, as injuries seemed to have held him back in recent years. But, he has always had a good eye (career 11% walk rate) and solid pop (career .189 ISO) for a catcher. He has the same career wRC+ as Martin, and he’s reached offensive heights that surpass anything Martin has ever achieved. Soto posted a magnificent .387 wOBA as recently as 2010.

That doesn’t represent Soto’s true talent level, and he can probably only be counted on to catch 3 out of every 5 days. However, that would mean about 100 games in 2013 where you don’t have Eli Whiteside and company helming the Yankee battery.

It is a sad and infuriating commentary on the state of Yankee fans’ expectations, but Geo Soto is the best we can hope for now.