"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

The Ex-Catcher is Awry

For all the hand-wringing regarding Derek “4-3ter” Jeter, the Yanks are getting even less out of their DH, mainly in the form of Jorge Posada.

Posada’s current .152/.257/.354 line in 113 plate appearances is ugly enough.  Of the 173 players who have amassed at least that many plate appearances this season, Posada ranks dead last in batting average (Kelly Johnson is next in line, at a comparatively gaudy .175), tenth-lowest in OBP (though still higher than the $142 million man Carl Crawford’s .250), and 118th-best in slugging (between Michael Cuddyer and the recently-exiled Milton Bradley).

If we consider only DHs, Posada fares no better. Of the DHs with 75 or more plate appearances, Posada is last (out of 13) in BA, next-to-last in OBP (ahead of only Magglio Ordonez) and fifth-worst in slugging.  And its not like its all about age, as 4 other DHs are 37 years old.

We all know that offense is down again in 2011, and DHs are not immune to this, as they’ve hit a composite .257/.339/.394 so far.  But the question remains, could someone (anyone) provide more offense for a role that is ONLY about offense?

We know the Jeter slippery slope towards (and below) mediocrity still has a while to play out.   The Yanks have no better internal option in the near-term.  But what about Posada?  The Yanks owe him nothing after this season, and swallowing the remainder of his 2011 salary (roughly another $11 million) would certainly sting a bit, even for the Steinbrenners.  But the Yanks do have a viable DH option down in Triple A, and we all know Jesus Montero’s value is heavily tilted towards his bat.

Looking forward towards the July 31 trade deadline, promoting Montero to full-time DH now would allow for roughly 70 games/280 at-bats to showcase what he can do at the major league level.  Assuming the Yanks will throw enough money at Russell Martin to bring him back for 2012 (when he’ll still be only 29), Montero can be safely dealt for whatever needs the Yanks may have at that time (starting pitching most likely, and middle infield help better than Pena and Nunez).

Or . . . the Yanks could hold onto Montero through the end of the year (presuming he’s putting up a 800+ OPS), and then value the free agent market before involving him in a deal.

Rob Neyer wonders the same wonder as I do, and comes down on the status quo side:

. . . nearly all of Montero’s value as a hitter this season is due to his batting average … and batting average is highly subject to luck. Which isn’t to say Montero’s not a high-average hitter; he’s got a .315 career batting average in the minors. But he might not really be a .337 hitter in Class AAA, and he might not be a .300 hitter in the American League. And given the paucity of walks and power, if he’s not hitting .300 he’s not creating many runs. Not yet, anyway.

That said, I do not think the timing is a real issue. Since when do the Yankees care about someone’s “Super 2″ status? Plus, the rules regarding such things might well be different after this season, since they’re a part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement that expires soon. What the Yankees probably do care about is Montero’s development. Do they want a 21-year-old catcher serving as their primary DH? Alternatively, do they want their primary catcher learning on the job, while Russell Martin or someone else is DHing?

No, probably not.

Opinions?

13 comments

1 Alex Belth   ~  May 10, 2011 2:31 pm

I think it's too early to give up on yet.

2 rbj   ~  May 10, 2011 2:41 pm

Yankees are still in first, Po has given a lot to the team, he's earned a bit more time. Though he could do a Mike Schmidt and just retire.

3 Mac   ~  May 10, 2011 2:42 pm

As much as I love watching young guys come up and succeed in pinstripes I would much rather them use him as a chip towards a top tier pitcher. That is where our true need is and I don't see this kids stock going higher if we bring him up as a DH /part time catcher.

Martin is in place for the rest of this season and next. Romine is touted as a much better defensive catcher and he is also hitting pretty well in AA right now. Mr. Sanchez is not far behind him and is looking like a great offensive talent as well.

Package Montero up with Bentances/Brackman for Josh Johnson and lets move on.

4 Shaun P.   ~  May 10, 2011 3:16 pm

[3] I think trading Montero is a mistake, for all the reasons I said last summer. =)

The biggest reason is, the kid can hit, and he'll cost the Yanks the paltry sum of $1.5M for all of 2012, 2013, and 2014. That's the only way for the Yanks to have real payroll flexibility to deal with inevitable problems.

[0] [1] Entirely apart from that, Alex is right. Its way too early to give up on Posada. Give him two extra singles per week for the 5 full weeks of the season that have been played, and his line is .252/.345/.454, and no one is complaining.

5 Chyll Will   ~  May 10, 2011 3:36 pm

I'm amazed that the Yanks, for all the projections and concerns they've had for Montero over the years, had not even attempted to steer him toward another position early on. If they can't use him as a DH and they pretty much have in mind that he's a defensive liability, they have only themselves to blame for the fix they're in, wasting time and resources on him and not trading him at peak value. They've been sitting on the fence with Montero for too long; "he'll be such a good hitter, but what if he can't catch? What do we do, what do we do?"

And how different is this from when they pretty much limited Posada's potential at the beginning of his career by platooning him with Girardi for three or four years? And that after moving him off second base in the minors?

That said, I'm really for bringing him up the moment Posada says "ouch". If he's not up this season, he'll never be able to give the team what they want, never mind need. How do they get good value for him then?

But please, don't trade the farm for one guy already in the midst of his prime. Been there, done that.

6 Mattpat11   ~  May 10, 2011 3:46 pm

If the Yankees trade Jesus Montero for backup infielders we should riot

7 a.O   ~  May 10, 2011 3:47 pm

[5] I second everything there. If he does not start showing more power at Scranton, it would seem that his trade value has already peaked. But if he also can't catch -- and I think pretty much everyone thinks that already -- then his only non-trade value to the Yanks is to find out whether he really can consistently hit AL pitching later this year if Posada does not return to form.

8 thelarmis   ~  May 10, 2011 3:48 pm

[3] don't trade jesus. at this point, he might not bring back an ace level pitcher, since no one believes he'll stick at catcher and he hasn't shown a ton of power this year (yet). for all the talk about romine's defensive prowess, it pretty much seems to be just in relation to jesus; he's not johnny bench back there. and gary sanchez IS far behind. he's what - 18? he's in low-A charleston and has already allowed 11 passed balls in 22 games.

josh johnson is all kindsa awesome and tonight should be a great matchup, with him going against doc halladay. but he's signed to a good deal w/ the fish, who are moving into a new stadium (next year, methinks). marlins signed john buck to catch this year and next and have a lot of young offensive talent w/ morrison, stanton, sanchez, ramirez and dominguez on the way.

martin isn't a definite for us, next season. he's arb eligible and if he doesn't fade in the 2nd half, i imagine we'll bring him back. i'd like to see jesus in pinstripes and behind the plate, too!

9 Jon DeRosa   ~  May 10, 2011 3:58 pm

i just want to make sure that whatever they're gonna do, and whatever we're going to debate about, that we can stop including the first 24 games of the 2011 season as though they are the end all be all of montero's hitting ability.

last year, people shied away when he hit .200 for the first two months and then he hit like frank thomas the rest of the way. this year, he has the PROBLEM of hitting .337 over 2 dozen games? what kind of backasswards analysis is that? he has had ample power and decent patience at every level including this one.

neyer's comments are absurd.

10 MSM35   ~  May 10, 2011 4:05 pm

Teams like Seattle and Florida are building their teams around Hernandez and Johnson. Why would they want to trade them to the Yankees? Sounds too much like talk radio.
Actually, if Posada can't get it going it may be a good idea to use Nunez in the eight spot in front of Gardner and get a running game going. He could DH or give some rest to the older guys.
Trading "A" prospects is never a good idea. They are the players who become the next generation of identification for the fans. Show a little patience. Talent plus experience equals success. There are no shortcuts.

11 Shaun P.   ~  May 10, 2011 4:16 pm

[9] Absolutely right, Jon. The small sample caveats apply to both Posada and Montero.

12 ny2ca2dc   ~  May 10, 2011 5:14 pm

Ive enjoyed this post and the comments, but the answer seems so obvious. Po will be fine. If he's not by the deadline call up Jesus or trade for is year's version of Berkman. Don't trade Jesus for anyone short of a Felix calibre ace with years left. Or Hanley. Hanley would be fine too.

Also, Romine sucks, he's trade bait. I'm just hoping Jesus can catch for a few years until he gets too big, after which point Gary Sanchez is the catcher of the future.

13 Normando   ~  May 10, 2011 6:15 pm

Why is everyone so sure the guy can hit at the Major League level? He didn't exactly set the house on fire in Spring Training, and he's below .300 lifetime at Triple-A. It's not like he walks on water.

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