There is a report in the NY Daily News today that the Yankees are interested in having free-agent Joe Girardi serve as their backup catcher next year. Joe Torre and Don Zimmer are his main supporters remembering the job he did from 1996-99 with the club.
The rest of the organization is behind retaining last year's backup, Chris Widger. Widger performed well in a limited role in 2002 (.297 batting average and .713 OPS-.780 vs. lefthanders). He's seven years younger than Girardi. He did hit between 13 and 15 home runs between 1998 and 2000 as Montreal's starting catcher (he missed 2001 with an injury). However, it is apparent that Torre does not see him as a viable option since he was used in only 21 games last year.
Girardi at 38 is not the player he was with the Yankees. His defense is slipping as he ages, and his offense (.565 OPS-a miniscule .458 vs. lefthanders in 2002) is unacceptable.
So what should the Yankees do? First, sit Joe Torre down and demand that he start his backup catcher, whoever it may be, at least 60 times next year, not 20. They must convince him that Posada's offense is too important to allow him to catch 140 games again next year. They need Posada fresh in October, not warn out (.634 OPS in the playoffs, .692 in September). Keep his bat in the lineup as a DH if needs be but rest his body.
Second, the Yankees should remember that there are other options. They have had better options in the recent past. Bobby Estalella (28), a decent-hitting catcher, had a cup of coffee with the Yankees in 2001. The same goes for Todd Greene (31), who had 10 home runs in 112 at-bats with the Rangers in 2002. Estalella may be available now that the Rockies have acquired Charles Johnson. There also are a good handful of Todd Pratts and Eddie Taubensees, who can be acquired rather cheaply to fill the role if Torre cannot be convinced to use Widger.
As far as Girardi is concerned, bring him back by all means... as a coach. Let him take over when Torre retires but do not employ the man as a major-league catcher, unless you plan on having at least three on your roster in 2003.