Posada’s achy shoulder could present a big problem


Just a little over a week shy of his 39th birthday, the Yankees have enjoyed another solid season out of stalwart catcher Jorge Posada. His .361 wOBA is second best among American League catchers, and other than a few fluke injuries (hit by pitch on the knee, foot fracture on a foul tip) and some nagging soreness that’s cost him a day here and there, Posada has largely defied the typical catcher aging curve. At least until now.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

After catching three straight games, including a day game after a night game, it was obvious that Posada was going to receive a day off yesterday. Throw in Joe Girardi‘s stated catching rotation, and it’s even less surprising. What did come as a surprise was the news following yesterday’s game that Posada’s surgically repaired right shoulder was “barking,” something that first popped up when he threw to second on a stolen base attempt during Monday’s game. Perpetually optimistic, Girardi downplayed the issue, saying that he hoped it would clear up and his starting backstop would return to the lineup soon. Whether or not that actually happens remains to be seen.

What we do know is if the Yanks lose Posada for any length of time, or even see his playing time reduced to cope with the ailment, they’re in big trouble. Frankie Cervelli, the target of much ire this summer, is far from an everyday catcher. Even with last night’s run scoring single, he’s still hitting just .197/.269/.237 in his last 175 plate appearances dating back to mid-May. Take away three hit by pitches and that on-base percentage shrinks to .250. On top of that, Cervelli has thrown out just seven of 39 attempted basestealers, a 15% success rate that is lower than Posada’s (17%) and the worst by a Yankee backstop with at least 500 innings caught in a season since Johnny Blanchard threw out 14% of basestealers in 1962. Who knows, perhaps regular playing time will help get Frankie in a rhythm and allow him to rediscover that BABIP luck from April, but things don’t usually work like that. The extended playing time during Posada’s disabled list stint in May is what brought Cervelli back to Earth in the first place.

In his Under The Knife column today, Will Carroll says the Yanks would like to add a catcher (according to his sources), which tells you a few things if true. First of all, the team is not seriously considering a Jesus Montero call-up regardless of his .413/.473/.775 batting line since the All Star break. That could be for any number of reasons, but it probably has something to do with them either a) not wanting to rush him, b) not feeling his a big league catcher defensively, or c) both. It was a long shot to begin with, as far as I was concerned.

Secondly, it tells you the Yanks aren’t all that comfortable with Cervelli as an everyday backstop down the stretch in a division race. Should the situation arise, finding a backup catcher on trade waivers shouldn’t be tough, though you’re not going to land anything special. Maybe the Mets are willing to move the presently injured Rod Barajas (.266 OBP, yuck) or Henry Blanco. The Jays could dump either John Buck or Jose Molina with J.P. Arencibia setting the world on fire, and I’m sure the Tigers would love to get of Gerald Laird to free up playing time for Alex Avila (and some salary). Point being, the trade options aren’t great, but they’re out there.

Either way, if Posada’s shoulder becomes enough of an issue to limit his catching to a game or two a week, the Yankees are in some pretty big trouble. Having his offensive production come from a premium position is part of the reason why the team has been so successful for the last decade-plus, and now if you’re replacing that with essentially a replacement level hitter who can’t control the running game, you’re talking about a one or two win swing down the stretch, if not more. In the ultra-competitive AL East, that could be difference between playing the Twins at home in October or going on the road to face the Rangers.

Categories : Offense


  1. Matt :: Sec105 says:

    What backstops are out there to be had?

  2. Newbie says:

    Could Montero not outproduce Francisco Cervelli even with his defensive troubles?

    • JobaWockeeZ says:

      He probably would but the issue isn’t the bat, it’s the glove.

      • Newbie says:

        I understand that. I just wonder whether the upgrade of Montero’s bat would outweigh the bad defense. I don’t want this to come across as blatant self-advertising, but I think that this is a valid contribution to this particular thread. Ten minutes ago, I put up a post on my (weak and new) blog on this very subject.



          No, seriously, nice writeup. (Although I wouldn’t DFA Gaudin for Montero, I’d just DFA one of Huffman/Golson/de la Rosa to clear a spot and then flip-flop Montero and Cervelli. Just my two cents.)

          • Newbie says:

            Thanks. I just chose Gaudin because he was the first one i thought of I guess.

            • The problem with DFAing Gaudin (and the general problem with promoting Montero altogether) is that you can’t dump Gaudin and add Montero, because we’d only have a 6 man bullpen.

              You can only add Montero by subtracting a position player, and that means either carrying 3 catchers and DFAing one of Berkman/Kearns/Thames (which isn’t happening) or demoting Cervelli and rolling with Montero as Jorge’s only backup.

              As bullish as we are on Montero and his future, I don’t think we really want Montero to be the ONLY other catcher on the roster with a gimpy Jorge, because we run the risk of overexposing him.

              If we do bring up Montero, it wouldn’t be until after rosters expand on September 1st so we can keep a third catcher (like Cervelli or Molina or whomever else we can trade for as a Cervelli upgrade) around as an insurance policy without weakening our infield/outfield/bullpen depth.

              • Newbie says:

                Mm, that is an interesting point I had not thought of before. Going with a six man bullpen or rolling with Posada and Montero as the only catchers does not seem to be the best option. Molina is definitely the #1 choice, though some other team may very well claim him. I’m just finding it harder and harder to stomach his .493 OPS since May 25.

                • Newbie says:

                  *his meaning Cervelli’s

                • I’m just finding it harder and harder to stomach Cervelli’s .493 OPS since May 25.

                  We all are. But unless we can swing a deal for Jose Molina or some other big league alternative, we’re probably going to have to stomach it until September 1st at the absolute earliest.

                  • Dirty Pena says:

                    What about calling up Montero on August 31st (so he’s at least eligible for the playoffs) and calling up Cervelli the very next day? If they don’t need the 10 day waiting period during roster expansion, this would only leave us uninsured for one day, and at least allow the possibility that if Montero tears shit up he can be eligible for the postseason.

                    • That locks us into Montero as the playoff backup, though, and freezes Cervelli out of the picture.

                      No dice.

                    • Newbie says:

                      What about doing exactly what Dirty Pena said and then sending down a pitcher for one day. The Yankees could definitely roll with an 11 man pitching staff in the playoffs with Cervelli, Montero and Posada.

                    • Dirty Pena says:

                      I don’t think it locks him in. Don’t you just have to be on the roster at some point before Sept. 1st? I don’t think you actually have to be on the 25 man on August 31st, but I could be wrong.

                    • Newbie says:

                      I think (I could be wrong though) that TSJC is saying that if Montero is called up, Cervelli would be sent down rendering him unavailable for the post-season.

                    • Dirty Pena says:

                      That, too. We could demote/DFA the 12th man on the staff on August 31st, and the next day we’d have however many reinforcements from the minors. This is, of course, if they can’t work out a trade. I’m resigned to the fact that Cervell is gonna be around, but I still think Montero should get at least a shot.

                    • Dirty Pena says:

                      Yes, sorry I was a bit confused, but there’s loopholes that would allow Cervelli back on the PS roster.

                    • I don’t think you actually have to be on the 25 man on August 31st, but I could be wrong.

                      You do. In order to be playoff eligible, you have to either be on the active 25-man roster at midnight August 31st or be on one of the big league DLs.

                      If Cervelli is healthy and in Scranton when the clock strikes midnight, he’s barred from playing in the playoffs (unless we get an exemption from Nick Johnson, and that might not work either since Cervelli doesn’t play 1B/DH at all).

                      Newbie’s idea might work, though: we could DFA Gaudin on the 31st and call up Montero, carrying three catchers (and only 6 bullpen pitchers) for a day and getting both our backup backstops playoff eligible.

                      Would we do that, though? Intentionally eliminate pitching depth just to get the potential of 20 year old Jesus Montero not sucking horribly in his first exposure to big league pitching eligible to pitch in playoff games where he’s even more likely to be overwhelmed and useless?

                      I doubt it.

                    • Dirty Pena says:

                      You say this is as if there’s any chance Cervelli is NOT overwhelmed and useless.

                    • Newbie says:

                      There would be so much pitching depth due to roster expansion, I doubt losing Gaudin would have any repercussions. And in the playoffs, with 3/4 man rotations and off days, it does not make sense to carry so many pitchers.

                    • Dirty Pena says:

                      Yep. Whether or not you want Montero to come up, saying we can’t afford to lose Gaudin and/or be one pitcher short for one day seems a little silly.

                    • Sorry:

                      Would we … intentionally eliminate pitching depth just to get the potential of 20 year old Jesus Montero not sucking horribly in his first exposure to big league pitching eligible to pitch catch in playoff games where he’s even more likely to be overwhelmed and useless?


                      Even as crappy as Chad Gaudin has been, would we DFA him to give us the mere possibility of having a 20 year old catcher (who’s bad defensively) catch actual playoff games on a huge stage from veteran pitchers he doesn’t yet know? And who are notoriously wild and hard to catch

                      No, we wouldn’t.

                      Look, Frankie Cervelli sucks, we all agree. But the more you think about it, the less important it is to get Jesus Montero playoff eligible. You’re not going to have Montero catch AJ Burnett or Javy Vazquez in October against the Twins or Rangers or Rays when he just met Burnett and Vazquez two months before. That’s not really realistic.

                      He’s a bad defensive catcher, he’d need a year or two of experience before we threw him into the fire with a notoriously wild pitcher–in an all-important playoff game. As crappy as Cervelli is, he’s still our only realistic option for the 2010 playoffs.

                    • Newbie says:

                      The problem with your argument though is that by dropping Chad Gaudin, the Yanks really are not losing anything for the playoffs. I understand that Montero is obviously nowhere near a guarantee to come in and produce right away, but if he does produce in September, why not carry him along with Posada and Cervelli. I would not go into the playoffs with Posada and Montero alone, but the three of them can prove valuable.

                    • Fair enough. Monkey wrench #2:

                      You can’t DFA Chad Gaudin to add Jesus Montero one day earlier than September 1st, because Chad Gaudin won’t be on the roster by August 31st.

                      He’ll have already been DFA’d for Andy Pettitte, who is due to return in a week or two.

                      Now you’re going to have to DFA either Dustin Moseley or Sergio Mitre, all for the privlege of adding a 20 year old bad defensive catcher who isn’t going to see a single start in the postseason under any conceivable scenario.

                    • Newbie says:

                      Ahh, that does complicate things. I don’t know, I am on the fence with the Montero in the playoffs issue now. Though I still think that Montero could prove more valuable than Cervelli in a playoff game. If, however, Montero shows in September that he cannot produce yet in the majors, he may very well be replaced by one of the injured players(i.e. Damaso Marte, Ace, ..Nick Johnson..) on the playoff roster, guys who would have bumped Mitre or Moseley off anyway.

          • Tabata31 says:

            Very nice Blog sir…..great information

        • JobaWockeeZ says:

          Sure his offense can certainly make up the bad defense. However we’re assuming Montero gets accustomed to MLB caliber pitchers. He took awhile to get used to AAA pitching.

          Even if he rakes at the MLB level there aren’t much spots for him. We want Jesus to catch as little as possible in a heated pennant race in an environment where if you’re new, a passed ball will result in boos. Ideally he would catch some and DH a lot but we already have Lance Berkman and possibly Nick Johnson returning soon to fill up the DH spot.

          If he’s up I want him hitting a lot, not rotting on the bench. If the Yanks haven’t acquired Berkman I would probably be for Montero being up. But for now it’s best to leave him be.

    • YankeesJunkie says:

      If he continued hitting like he is, then yes he would he would easily be more valuable offensively, however the defense of Montero has yet to be tested on the major league level. There are also two big concerns for the Yankees in calling him up so early and that is 1. It would take him awhile to adjust just like in AAA and would not provide value and hurt his long term development 2. He is not defensively up to par and the pitching staff does not feel comfortable with him catching. Along with these two lines of thinking it is better thinking to leave Montero developing and mashing in AAA for the last month of the season.

    • Roy says:

      I watched Montero last night in Scranton. So was Gene Micheal, by the way. He looked fine behind the plate. Only one pitch got past him, which was a 55 foot curve. Looking critically, I felt that he did not have good mechanics on throwing to 2B. He has a great teacher in Scranton in Chad Moeller. I can’t speak to his game calling. Montero was catching Patterson, who just arrived from AA Trenton, against a very impressive Pawtucket lineup. My concern is that Montero took 1/2 season to adjust to AAA pitching. Would he come into the majors in late August and start crashing the fences or would he struggle? I say let him continue to develop in Scranton and in Winter Ball. Question: does Tony Pena manage in any winter leagues?

  3. Maybe the Mets are willing to move the presently injured Rod Barajas (.266 OBP, yuck) or Henry Blanco. The Jays could dump either John Buck or Jose Molina with J.P. Arencibia setting the world on fire, and I’m sure the Tigers would love to get of Gerald Laird to free up playing time for Alex Avila (and some salary). Point being, the trade options aren’t great, but they’re out there.

    Molina seems the likeliest of those options. They’re on the hook for a 200k buyout of his ’11 option, they have no need for him with Arencibia, he’s not a Type A or B so they won’t get a draft pick by offering him arb and letting him walk (but they would for Buck, since he’s a Type B) and he’s clearly their third catcher now.

    Plus, he knows NYY and our pitchers. And, he’s actually hitting now, as amazing as that idea is.


  4. Carl Robinette says:

    “if you’re replacing that with essentially a replacement level hitter”

    Calling Cervelli a replacement level hitter is a bit generous. He has a wRC+ of 81.

  5. B-Rando says:

    Bring back Molina!!!

  6. Matt :: Sec105 says:

    I had Molina in mind, he def seems like the best option.

  7. Tabata31 says:

    I have mixed feelings about bringing up Montero right now. I love the guy as a prospect. He seems to be getting better with each and every game he plays. I’m hoping someone on here has seen him play behind the dish and can give first hand info on just how bad/decent he is defensively. I really hope the front office can get him squared away behind the plate so we can have this BEAST for the next 15 years.

  8. steve s says:

    If you take a look at every catcher who has appeared in a MLB game this year Cervelli is far from the worst option out there. Seems to me to be a case of the grass is always greener. How soon we forget what an automatic out and poor offensive performer Molina was during his Yankee years.

  9. pat says:

    Just call the kid up already. Between Giradi, Pena, and Posada that’s almost 5000 games caught at the MLB level. He could learn more in a week here than the whole year in Scranton. Throw him in the fire.

  10. Zack says:

    Molina wouldn’t get by the Sox, only catcher that would passing waivers is a guy with a contract next year too.

  11. JobaWockeeZ says:

    Yikes last year Cervelli had 101 PA’s with 241 innings caught for a WAR of 0.4

    This year Cervelli with 246 PA’s and 548 innings caught produced a WAR of 0.4

    I think I’m done with Cervelli.

  12. Wil Nieves #1 Fan says:

    I’m no hitting coach, but does anything else think that Cervelli is way to fidgety at the plate? The way he holds his bat and how he dives over the plate at every pitch. Not to mention that he fakes bunt every at bat. Drives me crazy. Long needs to give him a chill pill.

  13. Pat D says:

    I’d take Molina back. At least we wouldn’t have to worry about him defensively, and, really, what more can you expect out of a backup catcher?

  14. Shaun says:

    I have not seen Jesus catch, but I have spent a little bit of time looking at his defensive stats (paying close attention to his caught stealing%, passed balls, errors and assists) and comparing that to the American League catchers.
    I’ll start with stats the passed balls and his caught stealing percentage. This season over the 86 games this season he has 14 passed balls which is not good but here are two Major League Catchers with similar number of pb when they were in the minors at AAA;
    Jason Varitek (age 25) for the Boston Red Sox had 12 pb’s in 81games in AAA, also what’s interesting is that Jason averaged 20 pb’s in his first 4 seasons)
    Jorge Posada (age 23) had 14 pb’s in 93 games at AAA before he was called up.
    Now Montero’s CS% for 2010 is 23% which is the exact same as his career.
    Varitek has a career 22% CS percentage in the majors
    Jorge is a career 27%
    I also looked at every other starting catcher and found that most CS% lies between 25-30% of course their are outliers (I’m lookin at you Mauer)
    Also taking into account that less players attempt to steal (though many do have better baserunning skills) and Montero’s strong arm I do think that he will be capable of catching at the major level while providing adequate defense but he will need continued instruction and maybe being called up and instructed by Girardi and Jorge might prove very helpful to his development.

    He isn’t 100% ready glove wise, I do think he is capable of catching for the pitchers who possess a great deal of control; such as Hughes, CC, Andy along with Mariano and to a lesser extent Robertson and Logan (although I’m sure within two years his glove will be ready to handle more difficult movement pitchers like Burnett)

    • bexarama says:

      The minor leagues aren’t the major leagues. Also, CS%, PB, E, etc., those aren’t the only measures of catcher defense because you don’t know how much runners stealing is due to the pitcher (look at the difference when Burnett and Pettitte pitch), and PB and E can be fairly subjective. A lot of catcher defense we probably can’t measure that well. JMO.

      • Mushy Carl says:

        The only thing we can do is call him and see how he does. Call em up!

      • Shaun says:

        Your right the majors aren’t the minors but work in the minors does show a trend that can allow one to predict how a player is going to do in the majors. This is why I used Varitek and Posada as reference points of similarity comparing their minor league work and Montero’s. I also mentioned the better baserunning skills of major leaguers but players in my comment and it was obvious to find that overall major leaguers run less as a whole when compared to the minor league players (this is do to usually sharper)

        Also it is a catcher’s job to prevent runners (Joe Mauer had a 40% cs success rate in the minors) I chose those stats because they do show the problem areas that contribute to the perception that he is a bad defender without having to go right an entire book on what the sabre stats calculate and how the defense is measured according to the sabre.

    • Zack says:

      /not how scouting works

      • Shaun says:

        I’m a 19year old college student in North Carolina, I don’t have the money to go to scranton to watch Montero play I can only rely on the stats. (Heck I’m lucky to even be able to watch the Yankees on tv)

        but if you want me to give you guys the word on the the Durham Bulls (the Tampa Bay Rays triple A affiliate) I can tell you from first hand experience (hint: they are very good)

    • Mike HC says:

      I like your take on it. He is probably not as noticeably bad as he is made out to be by the scouts.

      I think part of the concern is what happens when he is 25 and older. In his young twenties, I have a feeling the Yanks think he might possibly be a passable catcher, but the bigger and older he gets, the more likely he will have to change positions.

      • Frankly, if we make it to Montero’s age 25 season and he doesn’t have to move off of catcher until then, that’s a smashing success. He’d only have two more years before Tex and ARod’s contracts expired. We could probably rationalize living with his bad defense for another season or two before moving him permanently to a newly vacated 1B or DH spot.

        Shit, ARod and/or Tex might have both declined to the point where they need to be backups anyway.

        • Mike HC says:

          I think you are on to something. Sounds like a good plan to me.

          Montero catches while he is young, and then moves to another position (DH worst case, 1B/RF best case) when Alex and Tex are on one leg.

          Of course, maybe he proves all the scouts wrong and he can stick at catcher, Victor Martinez style.

  15. JBmillerplaceNY says:

    What about the elephant in the room? Romine. He’s a fine defensive catcher (like Cervelli) and will probably hit better than Cervelli. I wish Montero would get called up to DH full time, but the addition of Berkman kills that. Can’t wait til Spring to watch Montero, Romine and Cervelli fighting it out for starting catcher next year. Oh, and Posada should retire.

  16. Mike HC says:

    Jorge needs to be healthy. I would rather him go on the DL now and get completely healthy, than end up useless/hurt by playing through it.

    I hope it really is a non issue, because losing Jorge would really hurt. Cervelli is a fine back up, but he is no better than every other teams back up catchers and adds probably nothing that 100 other catchers could not do (except maybe the likeability factor).

  17. Wooderson says:

    I’ve read both arguments for and against bringing up Montero, but I have to think that IF there’s no other choice, they CANNOT throw Cervelli out there in the playoffs, then wouldn’t the time to bring up Montero be now? IE, as soon as possible to get him acclimated as best that he can before October? I in no way expect him to light the world on fire offensively and especially defensively, but if he’s the last minute last resort, I’d prefer to get him ready as best that they can. As has been stated, he would only be missing 10-12 games of AAA. I’m pretective of him so I tend to err on the side of safety, but I’d be lying if I said i didn’t think about him every time I see Cervelli’s name in the lineup.

  18. hogsmog says:

    At this point, I’d be willing to see what Moeller can do. I’d rather have a some-glove, no-hit catcher with experience than one without.

  19. nsalem says:

    I would love to see Montero come up for a taste of NY and MLB after the SWB season is complete. There would be many pitfalls in seriously expecting anything from him this year. Bringing him up for that purpose would be very short sighted.

  20. mike c says:

    i know it’s not the safest call… but calling up jesus would be really fun to watch. posada & girardi could be awesome mentors for the kid, i know he would get more reps in AAA behind the plate, but having those guys being able to work with him every day in the big leagues could be valuable experience as well

  21. BadaBling says:

    What is AAA for? I always thought it was for depth in case a starter gets hurt. If Jorge can’t catch 65-70% of games the AAA starter should get called up to help with the catching load. At this point DFA Cervelli and call up Montero, dude is mashing. Call up somebody. Watching Cervelli night after night is getting old quickly. Where does his value lie? Bat? No. Glove? Not now. OBP? Hardly. Caught stealing? Nope. Someone please advise why this guy has caught 55%+ of the games? Someone grab the cream and sugar, it’s time for that AAA starter to have a cup o coffee. IMHO.

  22. Poopy Pants says:

    It’s good the Yanks have a plethora of old DH types, but no decent backup IF or C’s. Money well spend.

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