What if Jorge can’t catch?

Ask Joba
Tying down New York's most eligible bachelor

As Spring Training draws nearer, our conversations shift gears from how the Yankees should build their team to how the Yankees can cope with what they’ve got. Foremost among concerns is Jorge Posada, who as you all know missed most of 2008 with shoulder issues. He had surgery in late July and is reportedly recovering well — so well, in fact, that he wanted to play in the WBC. Despite his desire to represent his country, it’s not happening. Not only do the Yankees want to closely monitor his progress, but there is also the issue of working with the new pitchers. He’d do well to develop a rapport with CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and everyone else on the staff.

On his ESPN blog today, Buster Olney checks in on a few injury situations around the league. Here’s what he has to say about Jorge:

He is coming back from shoulder surgery and the Yankees have no idea how effective he can be as a catcher, and whether he can be a full-time catcher again. If he can’t catch, that would mean he would have to get the bulk of his at-bats as a designated hitter, compelling the Yankees to press for a trade of one or two veteran hitters, among Xavier Nady, Nick Swisher and Hideki Matsui. The organization has another $40 million or so invested in him over the next three years, so Posada’s status will probably be the Yankees’ biggest concern of spring.

He makes a good point. If Jorge can’t throw but he can swing a bat, DH is the only place to play him. As we saw last year, though, that shoulder injury really sapped his power. So that creates yet another conundrum. If Jorge can’t throw, but he can hit, but he demonstrates a continued lack of power, what do you do? Do you slap him on the 60-day DL and hope the rest time helps him complete his recovery? Do you play him anyway?

The biggest obstacle, of course, is Matsui. There’s no way he can play the outfield on any kind of regular basis, if at all. Not only because of his knees, but because Johnny Damon plays his position. So right there you have a problem. It will be next to impossible to dish Matsui, considering his injury risk, his salary, and his full no-trade clause. Plus, if he’s healthy he’s a weapon in that lineup, and to substitute a less-than-healthy Jorge for him would be a mistake.

Beyond that, there’s the issue of finding a replacement behind the plate. We saw last season that Jose Molina cannot handle the rigors of full-time duty. His bat is a liability, though his defense is stellar. Kevin Cash provides similar offense, though I can’t vouch for his defense one way or another. If Posada can’t catch, the Yanks will likely have the equivalent of a pitcher batting ninth.

So what do the Yankees do from there? Any trade would cost them dearly, since other teams would know their desperation (Lone Star Ball suggests Hughes for Saltalamacchia). There are only a few catchers left on the market, and as I’ve said on the RAB Radio Show, I wouldn’t touch Pudge. I’m sure the Yanks wouldn’t give up a draft pick to sign Varitek, even if it’s just a fourth rounder. Beyond that, the only name even worth considering on the remaining free agents list is Javier Valentin. Even then, he’s never caught a full season.

As you can see, much depends on Jorge Posada. This will be a big topic for the next month or so, until the team actually sees how he throws and handles himself behind the plate and at it.

Ask Joba
Tying down New York's most eligible bachelor
  • Mike R.

    “What if Jorge can’t catch?”

    That is easily the most depressing thought of the day. Thank you for that.

    • Dave M

      Who cares. His wife is hot!! Good for him. He married well.

  • http://www.puristbleedspinstripes.com Rebecca-Optimist Prime

    It’s a huge issue, so I can’t believe the Yankees don’t already have plans A-Q in place if Posada can’t catch.

    Honestly, I think this is the type of situation that could lead to Cervelli getting called up much sooner than he’s ready, a la Hughes in 07 but without nearly the same upside.

    • Bruno

      It’s a huge issue, so I can’t believe the Yankees don’t already have plans A-Q in place if Posada can’t catch.

      I don’t know why you’re surprised. Ask Poson/Rasner if they are. Unfortunately, Cashman has shown us he doesn’t quite understand how to plan ahead as far as Plan B’s go.

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

        That’s ridiculous and something only a willingly blind Cashman-hater would say.

        Ponson and Rasner weren’t Plan B. They were plan g and h. It just so happened that everyone else on the depth charts in front of them got hurt or couldn’t get outs. Show me a team 10 starters deep before you start slamming Cashman because Sidney Ponson and Darrell Rasner had to be pressed into service.

        • Bruno

          I hear you’re point, and you’re right. I guess I did jump the gun a little, but I’ve been harping this point since he got hurt last year.

        • Bruno

          But who was Plan B? We had CMW, Pettite, Moose, Hughes, IPK as our 5. Then……

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

            Well, there was Joba. That worked out pretty well until he got hurt. At that point, you’re looking for a seventh starter, and seventh starters aren’t going to be much better than Rasner/Ponson, sad to say. The Yanks had no reason to think that four of their six starters they were relying on for the season would go down, and if fewer go down, that whole at the back filled by Rasner, Ponson, Giese, Aceves, Pavano, etc. isn’t as much of a problem as it became.

            I’d say not having Andy Pettitte right now is way more of an issue in 2009 than the Yanks’ rotation was heading into 2008 based on what happened with Kennedy last year and Hughes’ and Joba’s health problems.

          • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike A.

            Alan Horne, who got hurt. Steven White, who just fell off a cliff. Jeff Marquez, who sucked and got hurt. Then you had Rasner.

            • http://poormansanalyst.wordpress.com/ dan

              Haha… Rasner.

              • http://thebronxzoo.wordpress.com iYankees

                Didn’t they try Kei Igawa for a game, too (against Detroit)?

                Exactly.

            • steve (different one)

              Karstens, Giese, etc.

              this year, Aceves is the new Rasner.

              he should be a little better than Rasner, even if he is not as good as some people might be expecting.

        • http://www.puristbleedspinstripes.com Rebecca-Optimist Prime

          Rasner was a fairly early call up BUT he was pretty much the only effective Yankee starter not named Mussina in late April and May…

        • Dave M

          Good point Bruno. I’m pretty sure they were planning on using Alan Horne or someone like that before those guys. Too bad he got hurt too.

  • Brooklyn Ed

    Are the Rangers still interested in Kennedy? I thought Jon Daniels would swap Salty for Kennedy, or something like that I read months ago. Better yet, what would be the price for Max Ramirez?

    • Bruno

      I doubt IPK lands us Salty unfortunately.

  • Scott of 3 Kids Tickets

    All the more reason to get someone for our bench. We used to ave guys like “Big Daddy” Fielder, Straw, Chili Davis, etc…. Now we have Cody Ransom. No disrespect to Cody, I like him as a backup infielder – but he’s not in the league of those guys.

    We may be able to nurse a light hitting catcher with this lineup…IF we have a STRONG bench, which we currently do not.

    -Scott

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

      Different roles. We had Chili Davis but we also had Luis Sojo, who, personality and the 2000 World Series aside, sucked. We also had Clay Bellinger around the same time. In a way, that’s an apples-to-oranges comparison.

      Right now, the 2009 equivalent to Chili Davis is the odd man out of Swisher/Nady, and that’s a fine bench right there.

      • Scott of 3 Kids Tickets

        Assuming we’re keeping Swisher/Nady, which is a large assumption considering the Pettite situation….

        -Scott

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

          Not really.

          Considering that every Yankee comment has been something along the lines of “We’re keeping both,” I’m not going to be surprised when Swisher and Nady break camp with the Yankees.

  • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike A.

    Once again, I’ll point out that it’s just Jorge’s shoulder, and not his legs/knees, which are far more crucial for the position. It’s not like we’re worried he may not be able to crouch behind the plate for 120 games, we’re just worried that he might not be so great at throwing out potential base stealers, something he was never good at to begin with.

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

      And hitting for power.

      Deja vu.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike A.

        They can get by if Posada doesn’t hit for power. His offensive strength was always his ability to work the count and get on base.

        Jorge w/o power is still >>> Jose Molina

        • http://poormansanalyst.wordpress.com/ dan

          BUT, what if his shoulder is unhealthy enough that the doctors won’t let him catch, for fear of re-injuring it and going through this rehab all over again (and another lost season)?

        • http://www.puristbleedspinstripes.com Rebecca-Optimist Prime

          But I love Jose Molina!!

          Okay, okay. So I can do without Molina’s utter lack of offense, but even so…

          • http://nyfaninboston.blogspot.com/ Manimal

            He is good as a not-every day player. Remember all those doubles when he was splitting time with Jorge? The dude isn’t really in shape, he can’t last a whole year.

        • KW

          I think the problem with that is that the Yanks had such an advantage with Jorge being healthy, a slugging, high OBP catcher. If the shoulder doesn’t return to normal, that’s not to say he sucks, but you lose the slugging part, and probably some of the OBP part (presuming pitchers pitch to him more w/o the fear of a longball or a double). He was never fast to begin with also, and his advancing age causes concern. So if Jorge truly is unhealthy and can’t catch, the Yanks are in a bit of a spot as they’d have another player vying for DH time. Can they get by? Sure, but it’s not like they’ll be just fine without Jorge. He’s an immense player and gives the Yanks a dimension most teams don’t have. If the sox had a healthy Jorge Posada level production from Varitek, chances are they’d have won the division last year. I’d say he’s that important.

    • Jack

      Something he was never good at to begin with.

      He wasn’t really that terrible, either.

      http://riveraveblues.com/2008/09/posada-set-to-catch-in-09-4830/#comment-169444

  • inman

    ” what if jorge cant catch ?” did you see that picture above ?

    • http://poormansanalyst.wordpress.com/ dan

      She is quite the catch, you do have a point.

  • Phil McCracken

    Saltalamacchia is a big gamble. Nobody knows if he’s be able to be a catcher long term. Last thing we need is another catcher who is really a 1B/DH, like Montero.

    If they go out an get a young catcher, it has to be someone who is going to be a catcher for sure long term.

  • http://www.pinstripealley.com jscape2000

    I linked to it on Pinstripe Alley today even though it’s a couple days old. But it bothers me that Cashman is on record saying Jorge won’t be ready for the first exhibition game but will be ready for Opening Day.

    Maybe I’m growing cynical in my old age, but I won’t buy it until I see Jorge in pinstripes. But, on the other hand, if you let teams know you’re desperate for a player the price goes up.

    • http://www.puristbleedspinstripes.com Rebecca-Optimist Prime

      BOO! long time and all that.

      Remember the post we did on Posada and whether or not he was headed to the hall of fame?

  • http://incumbentgm.wordpress.com The Third Yip-Yip

    Was Zaun’s signing with Baltimore pushed by Rick Dempsey (uncle?) in any way? If that was the reasoning, then I don’t mind, but I doubt we would sign a catcher if we had no interest in Zaun. Of course, I’m probably missing something, but it didn’t seem like the Yanks we’re linked to him.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.

      Judging by the last couple of years, he doesn’t seem to like the Yankees.

  • totouchtoneterrorist

    If Cano,A-Rod,Tex and Jeter hit good this year then we still have Jose Molina.Yeah Molina isn’t a great hitter but is a better defensive catcher then Jorge.It’s okay if our # 9 hitter hits .230 as long as he’s defense is there.

    • Ryan

      The problem is that along with a very weak hitting automatic out #9 hitter in Molina, we’ll have a weak hitting close to automatic out #8 hitter (most likely) in the Melky/Gardner duo.

      • steve (different one)

        so if Posada can’t catch, you have two ways to improve the team via trade.

        maybe the answer isn’t to trade for a catcher, but to add Cameron or another CFer at the deadline, and you just live with Molina.

        maybe the Cardinals are in 4th place and Ankiel gets put on the block, and the Yankees just stick him in CF and use Gardner late in games for defense.

  • Pingback: Posada problem pt.2 « iYankees

  • Benny Blanco

    Look at that wife! The things I would do to her….

    • http://twitter.com/OldRanger Old Ranger

      Careful Benny, she would kick your ass…she works out with Jorge all the time.

  • http://nyfaninboston.blogspot.com/ Manimal

    You just got to cross your fingers with these kind of things

  • Hawkins44

    Damn is his wife is hot. If he can’t catch we can go out and get a “Pudge like” catcher in June….

  • steve (different one)

    if Posada can’t hack it behind the plate, they will just have to make a trade during the season for an adequate veteran.

    this is probably the right approach.

    unless you can get a veteran catcher to accept a minor league deal, signing someone now has major roster implications.

    you either have to get rid of Molina, who is an ideal backup, or you have to carry 3 catchers, which is going to hamstring your bench. in the latter case, you’d have to DFA someone and they are running out of players to DFA painlessly.

    this happens ALL the time. you go into the season, see what you have, and then try to make an adjustment. players you never thought would be available could become available mid-year, and Cashman has proven pretty adept and making mid-season trades.

    i know there is nothing to talk about until Spring Training, but really, it’s OK to go into the season with a few question marks. in the case of Posada, we just have to wait and see, even if that approach will mean we have to slightly overpay in a trade later on.

    you simply can’t make provisions for EVERY scenario. you have to just monitor the progress he is making and make the best decision you can.

  • bondj007bond

    hey what about trading for Bengie Molina? he is in the last year of his contract and if the giants arent competing in the NL west he shouldnt be too hard to get. he also had a good year last year and at least hes better than any of the FA out there. Also what about getting Russel Martin in a few years when hes a FA i think hes a good catcher and if you get Bengie and he does good you bring him back for 1 more yr have Posada DH if he does good because then Matsui would be gone after this yr. then you sign Martin and if have a great catcher for years. just a thought

    • steve (different one)

      Molina is a good example of a catcher that might be available at the deadline.

  • http://twitter.com/OldRanger Old Ranger

    I think a lot of you are forgetting Cervelli. Last year there was talk of letting Molina walk at the end of his contract. Cervelli got hurt in ST, so all that has changed.
    When Cervelli came back he didn’t hit that well but, he was coming back from a broken wrist…it takes a while to become fully healthy. Let’s see what he does this spring, I think he can hold down the job along with Molina, if Jorge goes on the DL.
    Right now Cervelli is the best (replacement) catcher we have, he has high floor but, not so high top end. He’ll be ready for this year, he hears the footsteps of Montero/Romine besides, he’s had almost a year to work his wrist back into shape.

  • Russell NY

    Posada is key but lets not link him to our total collapse. The combination of him, ARod, Matsui, being injured, Cano not hitting at all, and Melky sucking really hurt us. Not to mention Pettitte’s second-half ineffectiveness, the Giambi defense at 1B, Wang and Joba’s injuries mid-late in the season, and the PLETHORA of bullpen injuries throughout the entire season (thank god for our depth it wasn’t that bad).

    This is a team game. If Posada gets injured, with our current team construction, here’s what you do at catcher: Kevin Cash Starts the game, gets 3 AB’s, you pinch hit for him in his fourth AB with either Nady or Swisher (if you need the AB), then you plug Molina in there for the rest of the game.

    If both guys are solid defensively, that could work. It could get us 1 decent AB out of a day with them by pinch hitting and keep them both fresh.

  • Thisisthedavid

    Any thoughts on moving Nady/Damon for catching?

    Still would love to dump Matsui (even if we have to eat more than half his contract) and sign Dunn exp if he is looking at 5 mill a year..

    LF Damon/Dunn
    CF Melky/Gardner/Damon
    RF Swisher
    DH Dunn/Posada

    or

    LF Swisher/Dunn
    CF Melky/Gardner/Swisher
    RF Nady
    DH Dunn/Posada

  • jeremy

    The real problem inherent in the “if Posada can’t catch” question is that the Yankees will essentially have to get an adequate number of at-bats for 4 players, out of 2 positions. Damon, Matsui, Posada, and the loser of Swisher/Nady, rotating between LF/DH. Of course the possibility of spot starts in center field for Swisher/Damon is there, but that leads to the problem the Yanks had last season, which is two-fold: Inconsistent, ever-changing every day lineup, and poor defense.

    • steve (different one)

      the notion that the “ever changing” lineup was an actual problem exists only the mind of Peter Abraham.

      the Yankees didn’t struggle b/c Girardi shuffled the lineup. they struggled b/c Posada got hurt and Cano was terrible. and Cano was one of the guys playing everyday, so that wasn’t his problem.

  • pounder

    Enough with the speculation and crepe hanging.Jorge is our catcher,for better or worse,or until he can’t possibly do it anymore physically.We are ready for 09.Play Ball!!!!

  • kane

    I love how people hate Matsui. Dump him? I never get an explanation but I want to know WHY people hate him so much? I doubt its due to just bad defense. He’s .295/.371/.478 lifetime excluding his games in Japan. He’ll hit at least 20 homers and drive in around 100 RBI’s. Yeah he has a health issue but he only got injured twice in his whole career. His knees might be bad but that’s why we have depth. He can platoon in left with Damon or anyone else. If he’s healthy we have a solid hitter and we need hitters. I don’t understand why people hate him. I have a reason but I’ll keep it to myself.