By Bryan Jeon
Just when it seems like Hank Steinbrenner, newly promoted chief of New York Yankees baseball operations by his father, George, was going to restructure the franchise with some rational moves that wouldn’t overpay for position players, he goes and does the same thing the Yankees have always been known to do.
It was only a week ago when Steinbrenner made it clear he was not going to fill the void at third base created by the departure of likely AL MVP Alex Rodriguez, by giving up his young pitching, shouting names to the tunes of Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy, in response to the Yankees’ interest in Florida third baseman Miguel Cabrera. That was good. It was an unusual foot down by the Yankees in showing that they did not need a Silver Slugger at every position on the field, who can hit 30+ home runs and drive in 100+ RBI every season at whatever cost. It is clear that is not needed to win championships.
Fast forward one week to Monday night, one day before the free-agent market opens for the greedy A-Rod and the rest of the money-hungry free agents. The New York Yankees and Jorge Posada have agreed to a four-year, $52.4 million contract. What an unbelievable step backwards for a team that can possibly have tons of new faces on the roster come spring. Both the years and the amount were terribly wrong with this one.
First off, the number of years on the contract. Posada is 36 and although he had one of his finest years last year as a hitter, catchers do not age like fine wine. The Yankees originally proposed a three-year offer (which I still would be against), for which Posada wanted one more year. For those mathematically-challenged, that means the five-time All-Star will still be sitting behind the plate at age 40. There is something terribly wrong with that image. It is not uncommon for pitchers and position players to play past the age of 40 but not catchers. The toll that the knees will take will catch up to what will be a roughly 15-year career for him.
Posada’s $13.1 million average salary makes him the highest-paid catcher in all of baseball, topping the $10 million Boston’s Jason Varitek (35 years old) currently is guaranteed and the $13 million Mike Piazza (30 at the time) averaged under his contract with the New York Mets from 1999-05 and Ivan Rodriguez‘s (35) option season with Detroit next year. These other three catchers are making top dollar as well but are playing out their contracts in the early years of their 30’s and finishing them before Posada’s age when he will begin his new contract. And he’s still making more!
Yes, Posada hit a team-high .338 last season. Don’t expect that again. His previous career high was in 2000, when he batted .287, and his career average is a mediocre .277. There should be no reason for him not to reach 20 home runs and 90 RBI for at least another year, but you’ll know why if those numbers and expectations fall short. Obviously, Posada plays a major leadership role and a mentor for all the young pitchers, but according to his pay, now he’s expected to be the best all-around catcher in the league.
The New York Yankees have offered closer Mariano Rivera, who turns 38 later this month, a 3-year, $45 million contract. General manager Brian Cashman made it clear that Posada and Rivera would be top priorities to re-sign, but let’s not forget Rivera’s horrid April, when he finished the month with a 10.57 ERA and still had an ERA over 4 into July. Mo, like Posada, has played all 13 of his seasons in New York, but it seems as though he would like to see some offers from other ballclubs before committing to the Yanks.