Once upon a time, in another blog, when Mark Feinsand was the MLB.com beat writer, I would frequently answer his mailbag questions. I’ve let that practice slack because I find the questions sent to Bryan Hoch at MLB.com to be rather underwhelming these days. But now and then, a Hoch answer provides some insight into the Yankees.
I know Jorge Posada says he is healthy, but is there any chance of bringing Pudge Rodriguez back as insurance in case he is not ready to catch? And if bringing Pudge back is out of the question, who will be splitting time with Posada?
— Corey E., Plymouth Meeting, Pa.
For the moment, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that he is keeping his fingers crossed that Posada will make good on his promise to be wearing a chest protector behind the plate on Opening Day at the new Yankee Stadium. Certainly, that would be the organization’s preference, but though Posada can speak as optimistically as he likes, the Yankees won’t really know how to proceed until Posada’s throwing program begins on Dec. 1.
Cashman said that it is not on his agenda to pursue any free-agent catcher right now, which seems to seal Rodriguez’s time in New York as a two-month rental. That could change quickly if Posada experiences something of a setback from the arthroscopic surgery on his throwing shoulder, but during the club’s last road trip of the regular season, Cashman pulled Posada aside and asked how realistic catching 120 games in 2009 can really be. “He looked me in the eye and he swears that he’s going to be back, as good as ever,” Cashman said earlier this month. “It’s up to us to buy into that or not.”
Now, bringing back Pudge, who hit a Melky-like .219/.257/.323 on the Yanks and didn’t handle the pitchers particularly well, isn’t really an option. But it’s hard to overemphasize how badly the Yankees need a healthy Jorge Posada behind the plate next year. If they don’t, they’re going to start the season at a huge disadvantage, and seeing Dionner Navarro on the AL East Champion Rays will hurt even more.
Of course, if Jorge’s shoulder is half healthy, he could play first, but the Yanks would then be left with a huge hole behind the plate. It will be much easier for them to fill the first base hole — Mark Teixeira, anyone? — than it will for them to find a catcher. When the top two free agent catchers are Jason Varitek and Ivan Rodriguez, things do not look good for backstops.
I have my fingers crossed for Posada. More than just about any other off-season move, getting Posada back behind the dish will have a huge impact in 2009. Now, we just have to hope that the shoulder holds up.