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It’s official: the policy of the Yankees’ front office is to start Opening Day with the oldest roster in the history of Major League Baseball. And this must be the policy because nothing else the Yankees have done – or not done – makes any sense.
First off, for our Christmas present, the Steinbrenners gave us the usual: a promise that Andy Pettitte, who will be 41 next season, will be back. Now we’re told that they’re on the verge of signing Mariano Rivera, who turned 43 yesterday, for an additional $10 million. Then came the announcement they’re resigned Hiroki Kuroda, who will be 38 in February.
This morning we wake up to the news that the Yanks let Russell martin, their only reliable catcher, out on the door step for the Pittsburgh Pirates to come by and pick up – which they did for a paltry $17 million (a two-year deal).
If this leaves you shaking your head, you’re not alone. Yes, yes, we al know Martin hit just .211 last year, but he hit 21 home runs and handled the pitching staff well. More important, none of the Yankees’ other options at catcher – either on the roster or in the farm system – are anywhere near ready to plug that gap.
Why did the Yankees do this? The answer is simple if you look at the evidence: Martin, who turns 30 in February, is too young. Or else would the latest hot rumor be that the Yanks are pursuing a deal with White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, age 36?
That the Yankees are not really pursuing their avowed goal of getting their payroll under $189 million (so they don’t have to pay the luxury tax) is obvious. If it was true, then the second hottest rumor wouldn’t be that they are pursuing the Twins’ Joe Mauer.
Mauer is signed through the 2018 season for $23 million, which would put the Yankees way, way over that threshold. And would it even be worth it to them if they did, as Mauer’s baffling power outage continued through last season – he has now hit just 13 home runs n his last 229 games. Not to mention that acquiring Mauer is virtually impossible since he has a no trade clause in his contract and has never shown any interest in playing in the Bronx.
And all of these deals and rumors have pushed the real news to the back pages of the sports sections: the Yankees do not look as if they are making any move to sign Rafael Soriano, who will be just 33 on December 19.
You’d think they would want to keep a reliever who had 42 saves and a 2.26 ERA on th team, not just as the closer after Mariano’s career is over but as insurance in case Mo breaks down again this season. But the Yankees obviously feel that Rafael is too young and impetuous to play on this team. Maybe they’ll deal for him again when he approaches his 40th birthday.
So now the search for a catcher begins, and it will cost the pinstripers even more money because everyone knows the Yankees are old, desperate, and have more money to throw around than any other team in baseball. No combination of backstops now available to the Yanks seems acceptable: Chris Stewart is a career backup, Franco Cervelli has proved to be a career Triple-A Catcher, and Austin Romine, who is q questionable defensive catcher an doesn’t even one full season of Triple-A experience under his belt. Gary Sanchez has also been mentioned, but he is only 19 and is still leaning in the minor leagues learning to catch. Yet, it seems like some combination of the above four is what the Yankees will have to go with.
Casey Stengel was fond of saying, “You need a catcher, because if you don’t have a catcher you’re going to have a lot of passed balls.” The Yankees right now have four prospects for catcher, and it looks like they are still going to have an awful lot of passed balls.
Hey, I just thought of an idea that would solve all the Yankees catching problem: bring back Jorge Posada. He’ll e just 41 when the season starts, and given all the Yanks’ recent moves, he should fit right in with their old-age movement.