- As it stands, the Yankees have $144 million locked into the 2011 payroll before they work out contracts for Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. They’ll also have arbitration cases for Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes. In other words, they could be near $185 million for just 13 players — and that doesn’t include Javy Vazquez or Andy Pettitte. At that point they’d probably need at least one starting pitcher. Other needs could crop up during the season, including left field.
Yet at catcher the Yankees would have Jorge Posada under contract for one more season. They’d also have Jesus Montero with a year of AAA under his belt, and Austin Romine with a season of AA — and possibly with some AAA experience. Below them they feature a number of low-level catchers, too, including J.R. Murphy and Gary Sanchez. Signing Mauer to a six- or seven-year deal would render these developing players essentially useless to the organization. Wouldn’t that render a waste the past few years of focus on catcher?
Rather than adding another nine-figure contract to the ledger, though, I think the Yankees will focus on pitching and left field, once again, next winter. They’ve put a lot into developing a next generation crop of catchers, so why would they make such an enormous outlay to sign one in free agency, when players are at their most expensive? Why not use that money to sign a player at a thinner position? That’s what I think the Yankees will do. I’d love to see Mauer in pinstripes, but given the current structure of the organization it appears their money would be better spent elsewhere.
Right now, the Yankees still have a Hall of Fame-quality catcher under contract for 2011 and perhaps the best 20-year-old catcher (Montero) on the planet.
So, yes: It seems more likely that the Yankees will spend their money on a pitcher or an outfielder. The best outfielders on the market next winter -- the only Yankee-worthy outfielders, really -- figure to be Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth (if they don't sign new deals with their current teams before then). The crop of (potentially) free-agent pitchers is a bit more interesting: Josh Beckett, Tim Hudson, Cliff Lee, Javier Vazquez, and Brandon Webb.
But you know, that's only seven Yankee-worthy free agents, and 1) some of them are likely to be unavailable by next November, and 2) I'm pushing the definition with Hudson and Webb, both of whom missed most of 2009. So we're really talking about, what, maybe four or five free agents, max, who get Brian Cashman excited next fall?
What if Nick Johnson doesn't work out? What if Jesus Montero stalls, as young catchers sometimes do? Wouldn't it be easy to slide Posada into the DH slot and trade Montero? Remember, at one point Dioner Navarro was a hot prospect, then struggled at 20 and the Yankees traded him (and others) to get a superstar pitcher (Randy Johnson). At one point, Austin Jackson was a hot prospect, then struggled some at 21 and 22 and the Yankees traded him (and others) to get a star outfielder (Curtis Granderson).
I agree with Pawlikowski's conclusion: the Yankees have no apparent need for Mauer, and obviously rank behind both the Twins and Red Sox when ranking Mauer's likely future employers. Right now. This seems to me a highly fluid situation, and might look quite a bit different in seven months.