The Jorge Posada situation is interesting on many levels, but to me it's clear what's going on: Much like the Ken Griffey Jr. situation last season in Seattle, a franchise icon is struggling and appears at the end of his career. The organization doesn't want to look bad by releasing a beloved player, so it attempts to turn public opinion against the player. (Remember the whole "Griffey falling asleep in the clubhouse" story from last year?)
PosadaNow, my take is this: the Yankees have paid Posada more than $100 million in his career. He's been a valuable (and underrated) player to the franchise and has been well-compensated for providing such production. What, exactly, do they owe him? They gave him an over-market and over-long four-year contract as he was entering his age-36 season, not the wisest investment to begin with. They've been lucky to get the years out of him that they did, including a terrific 2009 when he helped them win the World Series.
The club wants to call up top prospect Jesus Montero. He can DH, he can spell Russell Martin behind the plate once or twice or week (allowing Alex Rodriguez or another position a player a day off in the field) and the Yankees would be a better ballclub for it. Just tell that to the fans and release Posada. The fans will understand. I'm pretty sure they care more about winning than sentiment.
And for those who believe this would look bad to other major leaguers, who may then be reluctant to sign with the Yankees, I say: Really? You think a future free agent would turn down more money from the Yankees because they once released Jorge Posada? Please.
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I've always felt Posada has been vastly underappreciated during this 15-year run of Yankee greatness. Switch-hitting catchers with power and plate discipline don't grow on trees. I recently ranked Posada the eighth-greatest Yankee of all time ... ahead of Mariano Rivera. Pretty much everyone disagrees with that, but employing one of the best catchers of all time is more valuable in my opinion than employing the greatest closer ever.
Where does Posada rank all time? Let's run some numbers. If you're not familiar with WAR, it stands for wins above a replacement level player for that position. OPS+ is a players on-base percentage plus slugging percentage, adjusted for home park and era, and scaled to where 100 is a league average hitter. Anyway, here are the top 10 catches via WAR from Baseball-Reference.com, plus Posada and Roy Campanella.
Posada spent his first year in the minor league as a second baseman. But 20 errors in 64 games at Oneonta necessitated a position change and he moved to catcher. He was never a top prospect coming through the minors; although he displayed good patience and moderate power, he hit just .258 in six minor league seasons, including three years at Triple-A learning the catching craft.
As a rookie in 1997, Joe Girardi earned the majority of the playing time. Posada turned 26 that year and hit .250. Nobody was predicting he'd turn into a star at that point.
Because of that late start, Posada falls just short of the top-10 catchers on the career WAR value list above. But what about peak value? I like to look at a player's best eight consecutive seasons as another way to assess his value, more of a "Did he dominate when he was at his best?" kind of question. Obviously, not every player has his best eight seasons consecutively, but it's just another to break down a player's career.
1. Johnny Bench (1968-1975), 49.2 WAR (43.4 offense, 5.8 defense)
2. Gary Carter (1978-1985), 49.2 WAR (38.5, 10.7)
3. Mike Piazza (1993-2000), 48.4 WAR (50.6, -2.2)
4. Yogi Berra (1950-1957), 41.9 WAR (40.3, 1.6)
5. Mickey Cochrane (1928-1935), 40.9 WAR (41.0, -0.1)
6. Ivan Rodriguez (1997-2004), 40.2 WAR (32.8, 7.4)
7. Ted Simmons (1973-1980), 38.0 WAR (39.4, -1.4)
8. Jorge Posada (2000-2007), 37.1 WAR (37.8, -0.7)
9. Bill Dickey (1932-1939), 36.1 WAR (35.7, 0.4)
10. Roy Campanella (1948-1955), 34.4 WAR (33.0, 1.4)
11. Carlton Fisk (1972-1979), 33.8 WAR (31.4, 2.4)
12. Gabby Hartnett (1930-1937), 28.5 WAR (27.4, 1.1)
Anyway, not a bad career for an error-prone minor league second baseman. Even though he has a solid case as one of the 10-12 most valuable catchers ever, it seems to fall a little short of Hall of Fame standards in my book, even with extra credit for World Series rings.
Posada wasn't in the lineup Wednesday night (Derek Jeter got a night at DH) and I get the feeling we won't be seeing him much there in the coming weeks. I suppose if he's forced out he'll end up leaving the majors like he came in -- very quietly.
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