Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Posada to DH?

The New York Post had some pretty interesting Yankee news today.  No, thankfully, it's not about Derek Jeter--although I'm sure I'll be writing many, many, many more posts about the Captain before the end of the offseason.  Instead, it appears the Yankees will go into the 2011 season with Posada as their DH, not their catcher. 
"Face to face, Brian Cashman informed Jorge Posada he will be the Yankees designated hitter next season, The Post has learned.
Cashman met with Posada in Manhattan this week to tell the veteran to, as usual, prepare to catch, but the team's first option is to have youngsters Jesus Montero, Francisco Cervelli and Austin Romine compete in spring training for the two primary jobs.

Posada is due $13.1 million in the final season of a four-year, $52 million contract, and this relegation to DH only suggests strongly that 2011 will be his final one as a Yankee. Last year he batted .245 (25-for-117) with four homers and 14 RBIs as a DH compared to .256 (69-for-270) with 13 homers and 42 RBIs when he caught."
There's a lot to discuss here, so I'll try to take things one at a time.  It seems that the Yankees are willing to go into the season with a rather inexperienced catcher.  A lot of Yankee fans know rave about Francisco Cervelli.  When you ask about him, they'll usually tell you about how good of a hitter he was early in the season when he hit .415/.483/.528 in 62 plate appearances through May 14th.  What those Yankee fans leave out is that Cervelli was pretty terrible the rest of the way hitting .235/.329/.286 with below average defense.  Apparently, someone forgot to tell them about the dangers of trusting small sample sizes.  Cervelli is the odds on favorite to be the backup catcher. 

Jesus Montero, the Yankees number one prospect, is a 21 year old power hitting catcher.  The buzz on him is so great that Seattle reportedly wouldn't consider trading Lee to the Yankees if Montero wasn't involved.  The Yankees finally gave in, and included the Montero in their offer.  Despite this, the Mariners ended up taking a deal with the Rangers that included first base prospect Justin Smoak.  After spending the 2010 season in AAA Scranton hitting .289/.353/.517, he appears as if he's ready to give the big leagues the old college try.  For years, scouts have raved about his offensive abilities.  His knock has always been that he may not have a position in the field.  He's considered to be a poor defensive catcher, and doesn't have the speed to play one of the corner spots in the outfield.  First base seems like a logical position for him, but he's blocked by Mark Teixeira who's signed for another five years.  Now that it appears DH will be blocked by Posada for at least the next year, the Yankees will be forced to either play him at catcher, or allow him to rot for another year at AAA.  The smart money is on the Yankees handing the job to Montero in spring training, provided he doesn't crash and burn during camp.

Austin Romine is the Yankees number two prospect.  While Romine is considered to have promise offensively, he's already nailed down most of the defensive qualities teams look for in a catcher.  The problem with Romine is that he hasn't played a game above AA.  He'll have to prove that he can continue to develop his offensive skills while hitting at a minor league level that's advanced for his age.  Ultimately, I think Romine is the Yankees catcher of the future. 

The last thing I want to touch on is George King's comment that Posada's move to DH indicates that this will probably be Posada's last season in a Yankee uniform.  It's certainly possible.  Going into his age-39 season, he's not likely to get better offensively.  Much of Posada's value (at least the last two seasons) was derived from the position he played.  Moving from catcher to DH could result in a net loss of one to two wins against the replacement level.  For a player that was only worth less than +20.0 wRAA in each of the last three seasons, that's pretty significant.  In Posada's case, moving to DH would've taken him from being a 2.4 to a 1.5 WAR player.  As a result, Posada wouldn't have provided enough offense to justify playing him at the DH position for 120 games. 

With Posada going into the last year of a four year deal, it's looking pretty likely that he'll be allowed to walk as a free agent.  Even if Posada was to defy the odds and put together another great offensive season, I can't imagine the Yankees re-signing him--at least not when they can go out and buy a better player.  The Yankees didn't get to where they were by being stupid.  They know better than to invest a great deal of time and money in a 39 year old catcher.  Well, actually, perhaps that's not true.  There are plenty of reports that state they're willing to (greatly) overpay their 36 year old shortstop who's past his prime, so I guess anything's possible.

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