The Yankees almost had no choice but to retain Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera last fall, even for the large salaries and multi-year contracts they commanded. There were no replacements available for them and taking away his closer and catcher would have been unfair to Joe Girardi.
Rivera has been worth every penny so far. He has somehow managed to have what may be his best season at the age of 38. He has become a mentor to players like Edwar Ramirez and Jose Veras, helping turn them from AAAA players into effective relievers.
But make no mistake about it, the Yankees will sweat out the next two seasons hoping Rivera stays healthy. Because they have a nightmare on their hands with Posada.
Here’s what Will Carroll wrote today for Baseball Prospectus:
There continues to be some question about how Posada’s situation has been managed. He appears to have tried to play through it, with Joe Girardi not ‘allowing’ Posada to play through pain. Yet Posada told the press that “it hurts to throw, and I can’t catch like this” on Monday. He can hit, but if his or the team’s insistence on catching has caused an exacerbation, it’s clear that this was mismanaged. For a team willing to sign Richie Sexson, playing Posada at first base or designated hitter should have been an option. If Posada elects to have surgery, he should be able to return, though the impact on his throwing will be seen well into 2009, raising these same questions again.
Regardless of who is at fault, Posada has a significant injury. He has tears in his labrum and rotator cuff and will have them examined further today to determine how severe they are. At his age, it could take 6-8 months to return to playing condition. Always add time to what the team says.
The best case scenario would have Posada healthy enough to play once the 2009 season starts. But any sort of setback extends that date. Beyond that, his throwing will be compromised.
Now the Yankees have an injured, aging catcher on their payroll for three more years at $13.1 million a year. Meanwhile the best catchers in the organization are in Class A ball. Sure, Posada can play first or DH. But he was a great hitter for a catcher. He could be average at those positions and the Yankees need better than that.
Nobody’s at fault here. You roll the dice with those sort of contracts. The Yankees are 1 for 2 so far and holding their breath.