Hip, hip, contract evaluation

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The next time Jorge Posada plays in a game for the New York Yankees, he will be nearly eight months past his 37th birthday. The next time Jorge Posada plays in a game for the New York Yankees, he will expect to be the starting catcher with three years and $39.3 million left on his contract. The next time Jorge Posada plays in a game for the New York Yankees, the debate over his contract will have more than run its course.

But let’s begin. We start prior to last season when the Yankees were hesitant to sign either of their two veteran free agents-to-be to long-term contracts. Both Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada were due for a pay raise by the end of 2007, but the Yankees, rightly concerned about their ages, opted to negotiate after the season. While Rivera had a sub-par year (for him, at least), he was handsomely rewarded and has earned his keep this season.

Posada, on the other hand, starred in a whole different tale. Jorge had a career year in 2007, turning in an MVP-caliber .338/.426/.543 line and a 154 OPS+. Always valued for his bat, Posada really took his game to the next level, and the Yanks paid dearly for it. Jorge inked a four-year, $52.4 million deal and promptly injured his throwing arm during the first game of the season.

When the Yanks signed Posada to the deal, baseball analysts were surprised. Giving a 36-year-old catcher a four-year, $52.4-million contract is hardly a sound baseball move, but the Yankees, with their deep pockets, knew they were paying for one of the team’s key leaders and offensive movers. They knew that Posada, by the end of the deal, would hardly be a viable option behind the plate, but they also knew that Posada, due to an early-career platoon with now-manager Joe Girardi, didn’t have as much wear and tear on his legs as other 36-year-old catchers.

Today, Posada’s 2008 is a far cry from his 2007. He managed just 234.2 innings behind the dish and just 195 plate appearances. His throwing, sapped by a seriously damaged shoulder, was impacted, and his power was nearly gone by the time he opted for season-ending surgery. The .268/.364/.411 is well below Jorge’s normal production levels.

Already, critics of the Posada deal are howling about the Yanks’ wasted money. What team in its right mind would ink a 36-year-old catcher to such an exorbitant deal? This injury, they say, is just indicative of things to come.

Now, I admit that a four-year deal for a catcher may not have been the wisest, but I believe, for now, that line of thinking to be spurious. Posada injured himself in a way no one expected and in a way not usually associated with aging catchers. He threw out his shoulder. It happens to outfielders and pitchers. It could happen to Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez tomorrow.

The real question concerning Posada’s deal will come in his recovery. If the doctors can clean up his labrum and if he can rehab himself back to full strength, then the deal will have looked bad for one year. If he can come back and hit, all will be forgotten. His value, after all, lies in his bat. But if this injury impacts the rest of his career, then we can bemoan the contract.

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  • http://knickerbockerchatter.blogspot.com Bruno

    He’ll be the Opening Day 1B in ’09 and beyond. Molina/C of the future behond the plate.

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos

      Doubt it. He’ll be behind the plate in April 2009. The point of this surgery is to get him healthy and full strength, to CATCH. And, 2009, our 1B will probably be either Giambi or Teixeira.

      I wouldn’t be at all shocked to see him at first in 2010, though.

      FWIW:

      2009 FA Catchers:
      Rod Barajas
      Henry Blanco (contract option)
      Johnny Estrada
      Toby Hall (contract option)
      Adam Melhuse
      Mike Redmond (contract option)
      Ivan Rodriguez
      David Ross (contract option)
      Javier Valentin
      Jason Varitek
      Vance Wilson
      Gregg Zaun (contract option)

      2010 FA Catchers:
      Josh Bard
      Henry Blanco
      Ramon Castro
      Toby Hall
      Ramon Hernandez (contract option)
      Jason Kendall
      Victor Martinez (contract option)
      Benji Molina
      Jose Molina
      Miguel Olivo
      Mike Redmond
      David Ross
      Brian Schneider
      Yorvit Torrealba (contract option)
      Gregg Zaun

      • Setty

        I agree with your line of thinking about ’09. However, if Giambi or Teix is our 1B in ’09, how would you not be surprised to see Jorge at 1B in ’10?

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

          If Teixeira is our first baseman in 2009, Jorge sure as hell won’t be playing at first in 2010.

          • Setty

            Right, that’s exactly my point. And I highly doubt Giambi will accept a one year deal b/c I’m sure someone will offer him at least 2 on the FA market. Unless you’re assuming Giambi to be the everyday DH in ’10 and Jorge be the 1B.

            • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos

              Sorry, let me clarify.

              In 2009, I think our 1B will be either Giambi or Tex. If I had to put money on it, I’d put money on Giambi, because I think he WILL accept a one year deal, and I doubt we end up with Tex, particularly if he’s traded this week to the Angels or DBacks. So, my whole “I wouldn’t be shocked to see Posada at 1B in 2010″ was along that line of thought.

              But, if we ended up with Tex instead of the ‘Stache, then yes, of course Posada wouldn’t be at first, he’d be DH’ing. I just think scenario A is more likely than scenario B.

              Either way, though, Posada is opening the new ballpark behind the dish.

        • Ivan

          I am wary giving out big money Mark Texiera.

          • A.D.

            I agree, at least he gives the gold glove defense even if his bat slows

  • Adam

    if we throw in a tommy john surgery for good measure, can he come back throwing harder???

    • A.D.

      Imagine if Brackman comes back throwing harder…..scary

  • pat

    if this was a team like the rays or marlins where money matters this would be terrible. Fortunately this is the yankees and money doesnt really mean shit. There were absolutely no other options for starting catcher when we signed him.

    He is not blocking any prospects for the time being and has been the bederock of our team for like 15 yrs or so.I know youre not supposed to pay a player for what hes done but i think in this case an exception can be made. hes just keeping the spot warm for autin or jesus.

  • Anthony M

    I won’t argue that the Yankees overpaid. The fact that other people on the team are paid for doing absolutely nothing (ahem…Pavano) means that no matter how the Yankees management would like to pay for talent the fact that people like Pavano exist on the teams means they have to overpay for anyone that is decent.

    In John Feinstein’s, Living on the Black, he wrote about a conversation between Mussina and Cashman when Mussina was renegotiating his contract. Cashman gave him a figure under $10 million and all Mussina had to say was, “You’re not going to pay me less than Pavano.”

    Cashman laughed and gave him what his current salary, above 10 a year.

    With that being said, what would have been the better move? Posada is in a class of catchers that, in the AL, might only be occupied by Joe Mauer. A smart catcher with power is harder to find than LaTroy Hawkins strike zone.

    Either way, the Yankees had no option. He was the best available talent and they had to pay for it. As far as I’m concerned this is a non-issue. It was the only move to make.

  • http://thefinalseason.blogspot.com/ Mike

    Guys,

    Dont hate on Jorge, he busts his rear for the team, always produces and is the real captain of the yankees. He had a monster year last year and hopefully he will be back and ready for 2009

    http://thefinalseason.blogspot.com/

    • radnom

      If we were really so blown away by your comment that we wanted to go to your crappy blog having your name as the link is good enough. Stop spamming.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

        Play nice. We’ll take care of the issue of URLs in comments.

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos

      You know, I was about to crack on you by saying that most real grown-up type blogs have words on them and not just pictures/videos… but then I noticed you misspelled both “derriere” and “Sabrett” (even though the friggin sign is clearly visible in your video)… so nevermind.

      Stick to pictures, dude.

  • Rich D

    I’d rather pay 52M for something than the alternative without Posada, nothing. Another damning indictment on the Cashman era as the Yanks have produced no major league caliber catchers during Posada’s and Cashman’s reign. $52M is the price you pay for such incompetence. The same argument applies to 1st base, 3rd base, SS and the outfield (with the possible exception of Melky). David Parrish, anyone? How about a CJ Henry, a Denny Walling, a John Ford-Griffin, or even an Eric Duncan. How about an Andy Brown or Tyrell Godwin.

    Thank goodness the yanks have a deep checkbook.

    • Setty

      What kind of an argument is this? Jorge has been a top 3-5 catcher in baseball for a decade. Why would Cashman have needed to produce a Major League caliber catcher in his tenure here when he had one of the best in the game?

    • steve (different one)

      actually, the Yankees HAVE produced a catcher who just happen to blossom into an all-star the very year Posada’s contract would have expired.

      his name is Dioner Navarro.

      if George wasn’t so hell-bent on having Randy Johnson, he’d still be here.

      • Setty

        Damn great point Steve, wish I thought of that in my original post

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos

      Do you know how hard it is to “produce” a major league caliber catcher? Do you know how lucky you have to be? Most teams don’t have a good one, just a passable one. The truly great catchers are highly valued and usually go at the top of the draft, like a Mauer, McCann, Saltalamacchia…

      And ironically, we DID produce one. His name was Dioner Navarro. We traded him to Arizona to get Randy Johnson… not sure you can blame that one on CashMoney.

      • A.D.

        Actually we traded him to LA to get Randy Johnson, but point is still there.

        • ChrisS

          Well, in a roundabout way, yes. Technically, he was first traded to Arizona.

          As part of the deal, Podesta traded Shawn Green for Navarro. Depodesta was then fired after the season. Ned Colletti then sent Navarro packing for Toby Hall and Mark Hendrickson, with Russell Martin taking over the full-time catching duties.

        • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos

          … Randy Johnson has never played for either of the LA teams.

          We traded Navarro to the D-Bags. They then later traded him to the Dodgers for Shawn Green, and the Dodgers traded him to the Rays for Toby Hall and Mark Hendrickson.

          (The Dodgers are stupid.)

          • A.D.

            Yeah, I know, Navarro was traded the same day, for some reason I though it was actually a 3 team trade, not an immediate flip

            • A.D.

              and I was incorrect for that thought

        • http://riveraveblues.com Mike A.

          Dioner, Javy and Halsey to Arizona for RJ. Dioner was traded to the Dodgers the next day, I want to say for Shawn Green.

      • steve (different one)

        right, unless you are the Pirates and pass on taking a franchise catcher and going with the college RELIEVER instead.

        • http://riveraveblues.com Mike A.

          Hey, Danny Moskos is a starter now! Any why would they pass over him for Austin Romine anyway? ;)

  • pat

    ok 15 might have been too much more like 10 or 11 my bad

  • Ivan

    Funny thing is, he ight still have a better year than Varitek.

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos

      That’s a given.

  • Heck

    For heaven’s sake man, lets not speak of Jeter and Arod shoulder injuries… You have to give George Boring that deal, the mets were close to signing him, which would have left a deep hole in their lineup and defense that the Yankees could not possibly recover from… wait a minute…

    But seriously,the Posada deal is also a reflection of the Yankees current situation, opening a new stadium, tons of contract $ coming off the books in 09, and the desire to have Posada around to catch and groom “the big three”. As you say, the Yankees value Posada as a leader and now his ability to manage games. If anything his contract reflects their lack of faith in Giambi and Moose, a freak injury to Phil Hughes, and rushing IPK to the BIGS… The Yanks were sure that they would not want to sign or extend Giambi or Mussina, but now those decisions are not so clear now after monster years from both so far.

    Bottom Line… You have to give Posada that deal, you have to figure that he would be injured for some portion of the deal given his age and the length of the contract. Although he was ineffective for this season, he still tried to bust his ass out their playing and in the end will only miss 3 months. Also this will allow him to come back earlier… I only hope they don’t rush him back…

  • Will

    Another thing to think about with this whole injury, while it makes the contract bad for this year, it does have the added benefit of giving him a year off from killing his legs. Advocates of the deal, as was just pointed out, say how he has far less wear and tear on his legs (key for hitting as well) then a normal 36yr old catcher. Well, on the dimly bright side, he just got pretty much a whole year off now. If everything is fixed to 100% in his arm, he could be more productive in years 3 and 4 then he would have been if he played this whole year.

    Now, I’d rather have had this injury never have happened and never have to find out if thats true, but oh well thats the hand we were dealt, or shoulder as the case may be

  • ChrisS

    Well he did have shoulder/labrum surgery in after the season in 2001, and 36 year old players aren’t as spry as 25 year old catchers. But there wasn’t anything else on the market. I can’t blame them for the contract and Jorge is a team guy. He was rewarded for his service to the Yankees as much as anything else. Well, that 154 OPS+ sure didn’t hurt his negotiating power.

    But why did they have to sign him?

    Three years ago, the Yankees gave up on a starting pitcher who they had traded some prospects (an oft-injured, but talented 1B & a pretty decent 4th OFer) for the previous off-season. Because he was a little below league average and not the immediate stud they expected, they then moved that pitcher and their #1 catching prospect for 400 or so mostly league average innings from a grumpy 41-year old starting pitcher with a $16 mill/year contract.

    Things, of course, could have worked out differently and hindsight is 20/20, but looking back, with a little patience with Javier and Dioner, and we still get the mostly league average innings, plus an talented young catcher to step in when, not surprisingly, the 36-year old starting catcher gets hurt. Granted the Yankees then don’t get Ohlenhorf, AG, Jackson, and Nobody Beats the Viz, but well, I’m sure there would have been another trade somewhere.

    • steve (different one)

      not to mention that if they didn’t make the RJ trade, i am fairly certain that Beltran is in pinstripes.

      couple that with George overruling Cashman on Sheffield over Vlad, and this team could have looked so much different if Steinbrenner just let the baseball people worry about the baseball decisions.

      • ChrisS

        Was there anything written that said that Steinbrenner forced that trade, or is it based on innuendo and rumor?

        I know Sheffield was his doing.

        • steve (different one)

          i thought it was common knowledge that the RJ trade was George directed.

          IIRC, the trade itself was negotiated by Randy Levine. Cashman wasn’t even involved.

          this was the winter when the entire FO at war.

          • http://knickerbockerchatter.blogspot.com Bruno

            I thought George told Cash: A: Unit & Bernie, or B: Vazquez & Beltran. Cash chose A.

            • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

              Where did you ever hear that one?

  • DP

    Is it possible that if Rasner pitches decently tonight he gets replaced by Kennedy if Kennedy pitches well? I obviously want Rasner to do well, and the Yankees to win, but I don’t want him to keep starting..

    • A.D.

      Ponson put himself on the radar as going, I’d say if Rasner pitches well, especially with Moeller behind the plate, then Ponson is in bigger jepordy than Ras

  • Heck

    Gotta agree with you on that one ChrisS… Basically you have to be happy with where the organization is at when compared to five years ago. I think our prospects now will make a legitimate impact, and with a rebuilt rotation and outfield, the yankees still have AROD and Jeter… sign a few more players, keep drafting smart, and you can contend for years….

  • SDYankee

    At the time of Jorge’s signing the Yankees had really no choice…there were few catchers available, Jorge was coming off a career year, from a public relations perspective they let Torre go and couldn’t afford to lose another link to the dynasty. They new they overpaid but had no choice…I remember some BS about rewarding Mo and Jorge for past services.

    I also think the Yankees did not view Jorge as a catcher in the latter year of the contract but more of an occassional catcher playing some DH and first base and training a young prospect.

    Jorge will be back in 2009 but he may start the season at 1st base/DH and move back to cathcer as his arm strength improves. Jorge also brings a great work ethic and clubhuse presence.

    I doubt the Yanks will pursue Tex in the offseason. At $20M+ per year I see a Tex signing as being a mistake. If it were my team, I would puruse a Rod Barajas or a Miguel Olivio as defensive back-up (high caught stealing %)

  • A.D.

    There really wasn’t some great option available. I suppose they could have taken the picks and let Posada go else where, and gone with Molina all season, but that’s not the best plan. There aren’t a lot of offensive catchers out there, and those that there are are HUGE commodities.

    Posada should be able to come back from surgery and return to his old self, you cannot expect an injury like to this to any position player, especially not a guy who’s never been on the DL previously.

  • SDYankee

    Chris S…

    U can’t really fault the Yankees for lack of foresight on Navarro (albeit gett the Big Unit is a different question) as they weren’t the only ones who passed on Dioner. The D-backs immediately packaged Navarro plus a bunch of other prospects to Los Angeles for Shawn Green. The Dodgers then packaged Jae Seo and Navarro for Toby Hall and Mark Hendrickson….

    So three teams gave up on Dioner and got really nothing in return….as you say hindsight is 20/20.

    • ChrisS

      Not really, Arizona didn’t want him, they had Chris Snyder (an as good or better prospect), and they wanted Shawn Green. It was a three team deal and the Yankees didn’t have a whole heckuva lot else to trade.

      The Dodgers traded him because they had Russell Martin on the fast-track and there was a switch in GMs after Navarro was acquired. DePodesta traded for Navarro, was fired after the season, and Ned Colletti took over and traded his extra catching prospect.

      The Yankees, however, traded away their only good catching prospect. If they had someone like Snyder or Martin at AA/AAA, the trade wouldn’t have been so bad.

      • A.D.

        Navarro wasn’t considered some can’t miss prospect, his career minor league line was:

        274/352/398, he was more an okay prospect in a pretty shallow system at the time.

        To put that in perspective Piliterre has a 270/321/358 career line, obv less power, but no one is amped about how Piliterre could be the future Yankees backstop

        • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos

          Hardball Times listed him as the 18th best prospect in all of baseball in ’04.
          Baseball Prospectus had him 30th.
          Baseball America had him at 41.

          http://www.hardballtimes.com/ma…ne
          http://www.baseballprospectus.com/art…94
          http://www.baseballamerica.com/to…me

          • A.D.

            Thats because he had a redic 2003 with a 321/375/469 line, notice how he never makes BAs list again, there’s a reason

            • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos

              But the comment cuts both ways… notice that after one big season, he skyrocketed up in stock, and after a bad one, he plummeted… but three years later, he’s an all-star (a year after being one of the crappiest catchers in baseball.

              And, he was thought highly enough of that the Dodgers made him the centerpiece of their Shawn Green deal, and when their GM was replaced by a bumbling idiot, the Rays had no problem fleecing him and basically handing over the keys to the ML catching spot, sight unseen.

              Numbers are only part of the equation… Navarro was always seen as a guy who’d be an everyday, above average ML catcher. I’ll grant you there was fluctuation, but nobody ever thought he was a scrub.

              • A.D.

                I wasn’t trying to say he’s a scrub, but some of the posts on this topic as a whole were leading down the line of he was some uber prospect Matt Wieters style, which simply isn’t true.

                Obviously hindsight 20/20, and I wish we had Navarro this year, but that’s mainly because he’s putting it together, might not have said that the past 2 years

        • ChrisS

          Seriously? You underestimate his rating at the time. He was a very talented prospect to hang onto. BP had him ranked highly in 2004 and again in 2005.

          A lot of people go gaga over Ajax’s numbers in AA because he’s only 21, Navarro OPS’d .865 in AA at 19. He struggled a bit the next year, but was still promoted to AAA after a half season. He was a 20 year old catcher in AAA with damned good strike zone judgment. Pilittere is 26 and hasn’t made it past AA.

          Sure Navarro didn’t have the associated cachet of can’t miss guy, but when you have little talent in the minors, and an aging catcher in the majors, it makes it tough to deal a kid like that. He was a highly thought of prospect, and the only one, in the Yankee system.

      • SDYankee

        All good points and all valid.

        However, I think the jury is still out on Dioner. He is having a great year this year…no doubt, the quesiton is, is it a career year or a break-out year? His OBP and OPS before this year were more Melky-like than Jorge-like.

        • steve (different one)

          sure, but Jorge is an all-time great.

          i think people tend to forget that.

          he got a late start, so his counting totals won’t quite get him to the hall, but Posada’s peak is certainly hall-quality.

          i’m not directing this at your post, since that’s not what you said, i am just saying there is a TON of room for a catcher to be really good and not have “Jorge-like” numbers.

          • SDYankee

            OK but focus on the stats being more Melky-like…

            • steve (different one)

              no, i hear you. i wasn’t picking on your post, i was just commenting in general about how easy some people in this thread seem to think replacing Jorge Posada would be.

              even if Posada regressed to his career levels after his 2007 season, letting him go would probably have cost the 2008 Yankees several wins over whatever replacement they could have drummed up.

              criticize the length of the deal all you want, but letting Posada walk just wasn’t a very realistic option.

  • Jake

    I know its a ways a way, but Montero anyone? From what I have read, Montero won’t stick behind the plate. We just need a place-holder.

  • Adrian-Retire21

    Everybody now says the contract to Jorge is bad.But in the off season people actually thought POsada was more important then Rivera (nomass blog).

    Now that was crazy.

    • steve (different one)

      Everybody now says the contract to Jorge is bad.But in the off season people actually thought POsada was more important then Rivera (nomass blog).

      Now that was crazy.

      it wasn’t crazy.

      it was true as recently as, i don’t know, last year.

      Posada WAS certainly more valuable than Mo last year and probably over most of the previous 6-7 seasons as well.

      we are talking about a catcher, with a Hall of Fame caliber offensive peak, who plays about 140 games per year.

      that is MUCH more valuable than 70 relief innings, no matter how good they are.

      i love Mo, but it’s silly to pretend that a great closer is more valuable than a great catcher.

      • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos

        I agree.

        Now lets stop being stupid and put Joba back in the 8th inning where he belongs!!!!!!!

  • emac2

    We should have signed Bengie Molina as a free agent a few years ago and traded Jorge. (or not given him the AB’s to trigger the option)

    The overly loyal fans made it impossible to rebuild until the beloved were carried from the field.

  • r.w.g.

    I think Jorge will continue to hit at a similar level. I don’t really have facts to back it up.. I just believe in Jorgie.

    I’m just worried that if he stays at catcher he will hurt himself again. If he can stay totally healthy and be the defensive catcher he was the few years before the injury.. we can deal with it.

    Otherwise he’s got to play 1B and DH, I guess. But I think he’ll hit either way.

  • Bill

    The Jorge contract wasn’t as bad as it seems now. Yes, hinsight is 20:20 but were we really going to go into the year with Molina or someone else behind the plate.

    Injuries happen. He’ll have shoulder surgery and should give us two more years behind the plate.

    • Bill

      Oh and as for Navarro he was a decent prospect that would’ve sat behind Posada for most of the duration of his cost controlled years. Had RJ pitched the way he was supposed to that deal was a no brainer.

      Also outside of this year Navarro has been a below average C. We wouldn’t have had the luxury of being as patient with him as the Rays have been. More than likely everyone of you that is talking him up now would’ve been calling him a bust and saying we should’ve traded him while his value was still high.