What’s your highest bid for Jorge?

Free agency officially begins on Tuesday, and in all likelihood Jorge Posada will remain unsigned at that point. The Yankees have made what amounts to a very generous offer for a catcher entering his age-36 season: three years and around $40 million.

However, we’re seeing a unique trend from Jorge. While it appeared in 2005 that he was entering his decline phase (he posted his lowest OBP and SLG since 1999), he has surged over the past two years, and miraculously posted the best season of his career in 2007.

Unsurprisingly, Jorge has all but rejected the Yankees offer. He claims he’s “more determined than ever to test the market,” and the market will likely bear a four-year bidder in the $50 to $55 million range. The Mets are likely to make such a bid, which puts the Yankees in an uncomfortable position.

We’ve discussed it many times, but with the market opening up in a couple of days it seems appropriate to discuss again. Do you up your three-year, $40 million offer to match or exceed a four-year, say $53 million deal?

I’d say yes, but under a few conditions, the paramount of which being that if Jorge doesn’t produce in the later two years of the contract, he sits. My main fear regarding Jorge is that he’ll finally enter his decline years and drop off dramatically. It doesn’t seem likely that this will come in the next two years, but with a catcher you never know. It’s tough to sit your $15 million annual investment on the bench, but if they can do it with Jason Giambi, they should do it with Jorge.

In that scenario, you’d be essentially paying him $50-some-odd million for two years of work. It sounds absurd, but it’s not like the Yankees are paupers. They have the money, and they might as well use it to keep Jorge around while we wait for Jesus Montero and Austin Romine to develop.

However, if his contract is going to keep him in games whether he produces or not, I can’t advocate a fourth year. A third is enough of a gamble. How many catchers do you know who produced at high level at this age? I can think of one off the top of my head: Carlton Fisk. But we’re talking a Hall of Famer here, and while Jorge has been excellent, he’s a member of a far less exclusive club: The Hall of Very Good.

But hey, Fisk did put up a line of .285/.378/.451 in 452 at bats as a 42-year-old. So it can happen. I’m just not sure I’m willing to bet $50 million on it.

Mrs. Posada: Jorge wants the Yankees

Laura Posada, wife of the Yankees’ All Star catcher, said that the Yankees are Jorge’s first choice. While Jorge says he’s glad to see Joe Girardi managing the team, the Yanks will have to come up with the dollars to sign Jorge. With the Mets in the picture he won’t come cheap, and I’ve already gone on the record with my belief that the Yanks should not over pay in dollars or years for Posada. With the Marlins and Blue Jays also desirous of Posada’s services, this could get interesting.

Mets may force Yanks’ hand with Posada

For the first 15 days following the World Series, free agents are allowed to talk to and negotiate with only their former teams. That, however, doesn’t stop interested teams from using other means — like the media — to express their interest. And that’s just what the Mets are doing in their pursuit of Jorge Posada.

Both The New York Post and Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal are reporting that the Mets are prepared to go all-in in their effort to land the services of the Yankees’ All Star catcher. From The Post:

The Mets have interest in Posada, the longtime Yankee catcher who filed for free agency on Monday and who would fill a position of uncertainty for the club. Paul Lo Duca has filed for free agency as well. Though Lo Duca’s agent, Andrew Mongelluzzi, said yesterday the Mets have an interest in re-signing him, he is no lock to return. Either way, Posada is a more accomplished option…

The tricky issue with the Mets and Posada is that the Yankees will bid for the backstop, who made $12 million this past year. They’re expected to offer him a three-year deal in the range of $40 million, and they almost certainly won’t be the only other team in the hunt either, as the Marlins could be a surprise candidate. Posada loves the Yankees – he’s been with them since debuting in 1995 – but does like New York, meaning the Mets could be viable if he doesn’t return to The Bronx.

Right now, the Mets are talking with Lo Duca, but it’s clear that Posada is the superior catcher. Now, while the Yanks are probably going to offer Posada a three-year deal with a performance-based option, if they don’t wrap it up before those 15 days are over, the Mets could jump in with an offer that just might break the bank. And that is our Jorge Posada Doomsday scenario.

What happens if the Mets offer Posada a guaranteed four- or even five-year deal at $15 million a year? It’s not out of the realm of possibilities. Posada would be a big name for that team, and the Mets certainly have the money.

At that point, it will be hard for the Yanks to justify a counter-offer. Posada turns 37 next year and is coming off a career year. For a catcher, that’s incredibly unlikely. His career line of .277/.381/.479 makes him one of the game’s best catchers over the last decade and a perennially underrated Yankee, but the Yanks, DH or no DH, shouldn’t pony up $13-15 million for his services when he’s past the age of 40. If the Mets are willing to assume that risk, the Yanks may have to roll the dice on finding another catcher.

Hopefully, it won’t come to this. Hopefully, the Yankees will offer Jorge Posada a deal he likes and wants to sign. In my opinion, Posada will be back in the Bronx, but the Mets lurk. As much as we want to, we can’t ignore them on this, another day of the tumultuous Yankee offseason.

Moving forward: Posada, Mo on the horizon

Now that A-Rod is gone, it’s time to assess the rest of the Yankees’ increasingly painful situation. We’ll go issue-by-issue, so that we don’t get inundated as we have in the past.

First up: Mo and Posada.

Supposedly, the Yankees are prepared to offer them both a boatload of money. However, the Yankees shouldn’t be opening the checkbook so hastily. They should consider the ramifications of locking up both vets to long-term deals.

Posada should get no more than a three-year deal. A fourth would be a deal-breaker for me. Now, many will think I’m nuts. The Yankees have these vast financial resources, and if they’re not using them on A-Rod, they might as well use them on Posada, right? Maybe.

Signing him to a four-year deal would mean he’d be paid probably $15 million per year through the age of 41. That doesn’t sound too attractive. But, as many have pointed out, the Yankees can afford a $15 million albatross, especially if he produces over the next two years (so that might be a $30 million albatross). Plus, having Jorge around to break in any future catcher — whether that be Pilittere, Cervelli, Romine, or Montero — would be invaluable.

The question, though, is whether you can make a $15 million player a part-time player, a la Joe Girardi when Jorge was breaking in. Or would the Yankees be forced to play Jorge full time — either by upper management not wanting to see its investment on the bench, or by a manager refusing to bench a veteran? That’s a question you must answer to some degree before offering Jorge more than three years.

Mo, on the other hand, I can see blowing the cash on. At this point in his career, I can’t think of a better person to have pitch the ninth inning. Why? Because I’m an enormous advocate of the “bullpen ace.” This isn’t a guy you save and deploy in the ninth inning. It’s the guy you bring into the seventh inning with runners on first and third and one out. He’s the guy who gets you out of big jams, so that you can get to the closer. Basically, it’s the same idea as the “bridge to Mo,” except the pitcher isn’t necessarily relegated to the 7th or 8th inning.

Problem: we don’t have that bullpen ace yet. But with Humberto Sanchez, J.B. Cox, and Mark Melancon coming back from elbow surgery, we might find that “bullpen ace” by 2009. Having Mo as the 9th inning at that point would be invaluable.

What do you guys think? Break the bank for Mo and Po? Or make reasonable offers (and by reasonable, I mean deals longer than one year in length) and if they don’t like it, let them walk?