Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Catch Me If You Can

In the end, the Yankees had no choice. They ended up giving Jorge Posada a fourth year at $13 million in order to get the contract done. There were no good options in the free agent market and with the Yankees minor league prospects being at least two years away from being ready, they did the only thing they could.

Jorge has said from the beginning that he wanted to stay with the Yankees. He didn't even test his worth on the open market, because at the end of the day, he didn't want to wear another uniform. Now if the the Yankees had stuck to their three year offer, he may very well have listened to what the Mets had to say. Catchers don't have a great history of remaining very productive into their late thirties. In fact the history of catchers who have done that is exactly one player long, Carlton Fisk. That's it. The Yankees have their fingers crossed that Posada, who is coming off a career year (in which he hit 60 points over his career average), is going to join Fisk on that short list.

I've read the articles praising Posada as the heart and soul of team or the quiet leader or even a boarder line hall of famer. I've never thought of him as any of those things. I'm not even sure what being the heart and soul of a team means. He has certainly been pretty quiet and unless he turns into Mike Piazza in his prime over the next four years, then he'll be buying a ticket for Cooperstown like the rest of us mere mortals. Posada can also be a bit prickly with pitchers. Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina are just a couple examples of pitchers who preferred to have someone else behind the plate. He's a below average defensive catcher, who is not particularly adept at blocking balls in the dirt (see game 2 against Cleveland as an example). He has an above average arm, but overall his defense is not going to win you many games.

His defense is not the reason why he just got $52 million from the Yankees however. Posada has been one of the top offensive catchers in baseball for the past seven years. The Yankees are gambling that he can remain in upper echelon of catchers for at least the next couple of years. As we have seen by the Yankees inability to find a back up catcher for Posada, there is not an abundance of catchers who can hit. In fact, the other good offensive catchers have been locked up by their teams for years to come. Joe Mauer in Minnesota (who has been hurt quite a bit), Victor Martinez in Cleveland, Brian McCann in Atlanta are not available on the open market and won't be for some time. The Yankees have some young catchers in their system, but none are considered prime prospects and certainly none are ready for the majors.

In giving Posada a fourth year, the Yankees have no doubt put themselves in a situation where they will be paying for diminished production as time goes on. However, they did not have a realistic option. It was either pay Posada, or go into next season with a huge hole in the lineup. Given the fact that they already have a huge hole with the loss of Arod, they couldn't afford to lose Posada as well. Even at $52 million, the Yankees have to feel like it's money well spent.

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