But hear me out.
If you're comfortable with a Jason Giambi/Shelley Duncan/Andy Phillips platoon at first base for 2008, raise your hand.
If you think any of these free agent first basemen is a good option, raise your hand.
- Sean Casey (34)
Tony Clark (36)
Darin Erstad (34)
Ryan Klesko (37)
Mike Lamb (33)
Doug Mientkiewicz (34)
OK, we've just identified a big problem for the Yankees going into next season. I can't say that I'd be upset to see Shelley given a shot, but honestly, I don't think he's up to it. Giambi is cooked. This is a big issue because, you guessed it, the Yanks don't have 1.5 players' worth of production coming out of third base, and they won't. In fact, they don't really have extra production coming out of any position, except maybe second base. This means they need to get at least average production from everywhere to score runs. Duncan/Giambi/Phillips is not going to give you enough production at first, neither is any combination of the free agents out there. There's always the possibility of a trade, but then we're getting into the old "Trade young for old," mentality, and we all know where that leaves us.
So, if you're the Yankees, what do you do? Well, what if I was to tell you we could sign a guy to play first who's driven in 90+ runs in 5 of the last seven years, hit well over .300 last season, and finished with an OPS of .969. We'd have to give this guy a 4-year deal, most likely, but get this, he's a switch hitter with power from both sides of the plate.
I'm assuming you think the Yanks should jump all over it. Well, so do I. If you haven't figured it out yet, the player I described above was Jorge Posada. Before you keel over in a fit of laughter, take a second and think about it. The Yanks are hesitant to sign Jorge to a four-year deal because, let's face it, he's going to drop off. The wear and tear of catching that many games has to catch up to a guy approaching his 40s, and they aren't signing him for his defensive skills, which are slightly above average, on a good day. They're signing him for his clubhouse presence, his Yankee-legend status, and most importantly his bat. If it takes four years to get him, I say go for it. Sign him, and then immediately trade in his tools of ignorance for a first baseman's glove.
I don't know how much Jorge would fall off, offensively, in the next four years at first base, but I can pretty much guarantee it wouldn't be as much as if he was catching every day. If you're worried about his defense, well let's just say first base is a walk in the freakin' park compared to catching. Ask any former catcher what a day playing first base feels like, and he'll tell you it's like a day off.
This move would serve a couple of purposes. First, it would be much easier to justify signing Posada to the long-term deal. Second, it would allow the Yanks to go out and sign or trade for a catch-and-throw type catcher. Meaning, a receiver, a defense-first guy. This would elate Joe Girardi, and it would probably be a boon to Joba, Hughes, Kennedy and Wang as well. You're going to sacrifice some offense, obviously, but it's much better to sacrifice offense at the catcher position for a glove and really an on-the-field mentor for the young pitchers, than it is to sacrifice it at a corner infield position for a guy like Doug.
Obviously, none of this takes Jorge's feelings into account. Honestly, I'd bet that if this was brought up at the negotiating table, he'd walk away and sign with the Mets. Nonetheless, it's an option I think the Yanks should definitely consider, after they sign him.
Unfortunately, there isn't a viable catcher on the free agent market (possibly Yorvit Torrealba, but he only threw out 19% of runners last year), but I can tell you this, it'll be a lot cheaper to trade for a guy like Benjie Molina, for example, than it would be to get a first baseman who produces like Jorge. I think it's going to take that fourth year on the contract to get Jorge to stay, and this is a way for the Yanks to make it work.
The bottom line is that in the absence of A-Rod, Jorge's bat is too valuable to let him rot behind the plate for six months at his age.