Jorge is done, Jesus has come, Francisco is in trouble, and Romine is closer to getting an MLB spot than we think. This is the thesis of Joel Sherman's #3. in his 3 UP column today. I may not agree with Joel on a number of subjects, but he is very reliable for getting things right with the way the Yankees do their business. Joel was responsible for all of the scoops involving the Lee non-trade and trade to the Mariners, so I'll believe him on this.
Let's take a look:
The chase of Lee also has something to do with the Yankees' decision to try to go with two young catchers next year from among Jesus Montero, Francisco Cervelli and Austin Romine.
This is the first I have heard of Romine getting a chance at making the MLB club this season.
So one area the team can save is by adding two near minimum wage catchers to the payroll. When I asked several Yankee officials about chasing a free agent such as John Buck, they put it at extremely doubtful because 1) They don't see how it fits into the budget. 2) They want to give a real chance for their young catching to emege in 2011 and having a veteran present would likely move the clubhouse and the manager to go with the sure thing to begin the season.
It's very odd to think that the Yankees have a budget, but they do, apparently. The Yankees will let a team like the Red Sawx go after Buck, while they have three home grown catchers start the season in the majors, along with Jorge Posada.
While I think it would be a good idea to sign a Jose Molina type player, one that is great defensively, but won't hit enough to create a dilemma for Girardi, the Yankees likely won't go that route. If anything, they will sign the great Chad Moeller.
The Yankees, for example, want Montero to win this job. But he will play at 21 and -- at best -- has a lot of rough defensive edges. Last year it took him half a season as among the youngest players in the International League to gain comfort and shine at Triple-A. So the same growing pains should be expected in the majors, at the least. Will the Yankees tolerate such growing pains when they have championship aspirations?
If the Yankees want Montero to win the job and stick with the job so much, why would they give him so little time to prove himself? Montero got off to a slow start in AAA, but finished with an outstanding season. If the Yankees quit on him after a Teixeira patch (slow start to the season) they are quitting on the possible improvements that he can make.
The Yankees have some strong reports, including from Stick Michael, that Montero has grown to the point of at least being an average catcher. But it is hard to find similar sentiment outside the organization. One AL executive said this, "He is not a catcher. No way. We have him as a first baseman/DH, but as an impact first baseman/DH because of the bat."
If the Yankees have Posada as their permanant DH, they still will have to rest him sometimes. If the haters say Montero isn't a good enough catcher, and are right, the Yankees can deal with it and put Montero at DH every once in a while. The Yankees have some top notch scouting, and many prominent scouts in the business are saying that Montero's defensive is a work in progress, but it is improving. Give him a chance to shine defensively as well as offensively.
There also is constant worry about Montero's weight and attitude. Which is why the Yankees are very specifically saying this is a competition in spring. The last thing they want to do is let Montero feel comfortable all winter and/or heading into spring training. They want him working all winter to get into shape and fighting all spring to prove he is major league ready.
This is good, this is very good. Whether Montero actually believes that it isn't his job to lose or not, make him think he has to work for it. Force him to improve, wherever he can.
But what happens if he doesn't? And if Romine is still a year away? And the Yankees continue to think worse and worse about Cervelli, who had a lot of the organization go negative on him last year because of a belief that he had grown comfortable being in the majors and was not working as hard in his relationship with pitchers or his overall game?
Spring Training isn't necessarily foreshadowing the regular season. Unless he comes into camp and doesn't work, or he comes into camp and barely hits at all, give him the job. Give him a big chance to prove himself, and if not, prepare for the worst. The worst is likely a Posada/Cervelli combination like last season.
Still with the tenuous nature of trying to entrust such a vital position to neophytes would anyone be surprised if Posada actually ended up catching the most games for the 2011 Yankees?
Yes, Joel, I would be. If Montero doesn't work out, it will likely be Cervelli getting the most starts (gasp!) while Posada DH's.
Update by Travis - another good article on the catching situation.