Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Back Stop
2006-11-26 07:10
by Alex Belth

The Yanks are looking for a solid back-up catcher this winter. As lovable and huggable as Sal Fasano was and is, he is likely not the man for the job. However, according to Newsday, the Bombers are interested in Gregg Zaun. We certainly know he can hit better than what the Yanks have had in recent years.

2006-11-26 07:57:15
1.   MattinglyHOF
Zaun is a good idea....very capable and can actually HIT.But will he be a willing backup?
2006-11-26 08:53:20
2.   Repoz
And the first time the new Yankee backup catcher comes to the plate...John Sterling will announce that "Chubby McShingod" is "the best backup catcher in baseball" (TM).

Y-Fans can then safely dive off the Cliff of Mapes and feel secure about life this year, until next year.

2006-11-26 09:29:57
3.   rabid stan
1 Last year Zaun was barking about being Molina's backup, but that's probably because he was a better hitter and Molina lost his arm.

I hear he's entertaining offers from both the Yankees and the Red Sox, teams with established starters. I don't think he's shown interest in anyone else. Whichever one he goes with, he's going to be the backup, so he can't mind it that much. Perhaps it was just the situation in Toronto that was getting to him. He also knows both teams are desperate for a backup and will overpay him to do it.

Still, I wonder why a guy who's posted a line of .264/.362/.409 over the last three seasons wouldn't be interested in finding a starting job somewhere. Maybe he doesn't think he can handle the load anymore at 35.

2006-11-26 09:40:25
4.   monkeypants
Can Zaun play first base? If so, then he should be able to play 80 or 100 games (50 or 60 at C and 20-40 at 1B/DH)--given Torre's insistence on pplaying veterans, the inevitable injuries and tweaks to Giambi, and the (hopefully) increased number of days off for Posada.

Zaun should jump at a chance like this, especially if he is overpaid. But, he waited a whole carer to become a starter, as he has the last year or two in Toronto, so he may value one last chance at starting status over any backup deal.

2006-11-26 09:42:26
5.   The Mick 536
Better divin from the CLIFFS of Mapes and Johnson than dustin off the Charlie Silver_a. Mapes hit .247, 12 Hrs, and 61 rbis in 108 games in 1950. Cliffy had 12 in 77 and 6 in 78 (before the run). Don't know much about Mapes, but Cliffy had some colorful moments. The worst thing about him was that he thought he could catch.

Who be some of the other second stringers striving to live up to these legends and the legendary "8" boys, Bill Dickey and Lawrence Peter Berra.

Still think it is cool that they retired the number for two players.

2006-11-26 10:03:15
6.   MattinglyHOF
Cliff Mapes was a 4th OF not a backup Catcher.Cliff Johnson was a Catcher in name only.
2006-11-26 10:39:15
7.   Jim Dean
4 It says in the article they've talked about him playing 1b. If he could man the position well enough - that actually might not be a bad thing.

Either way Zaun is the best option out there for the money. The article says he's looking for more than Blanco got with the Cubs (2 yr at 5.5 mil).

After that I'm really hoping they trade for a catching prospect. Pilittere might show something in Trenton, but I'd rather have someone a bit closer to MLB-ready in case Jorge suffers a major injury - something he's remarkably avoided so far. It feels like Russian roulette every year running him out there for 120 games.

2006-11-26 11:28:57
8.   Chyll Will
7 Getting your face broken twice is not a major injury for Posada, which would justify the redass. However, could Zaun be looking at the Ded Sox as a viable alternative simply because of Varitek's injury history and diminished production, thus offering a more likely opportunity to start?

That being the case, if Cashman doesn't overpay Zaun for a year and option to also man first on occasion, then he'll likely make a trade with one of the chips (or 3-4 middling prospects).

2006-11-26 12:17:11
9.   Cliff Corcoran
Zaun is absolutely the way to go. And you know who else can play a passable 1B? Jorge. How about a Zaun/Jorge 1B/C platoon? Both are switch hitters. Obviously Jorge has elevated his defense to the point where now you actually want him behind the plate for the majority of games, but Zaun is indeed good enough to start, if for no other reason than he'll get on base for the rest of the big guns.
2006-11-26 12:21:09
10.   wsporter
9 That's the best idea I've heard this weekend. Well, to be fair it's the second best. First best was my wife's decision to make an extra pan of oyster dressing.
2006-11-26 13:33:13
11.   jakewoods
one thing zaun can do is hit. he'd make a great backup and give jorgie quality rests
2006-11-26 14:09:28
12.   OldYanksFan
No doubt Zaun is by far the best backup C around... and if he can play 1st, so much the better. But while we all love offense, do we really need it?

Would the 5-6 mil Zaun will cost be better off invested in pitching? We can find another Sal/Kelly/Wil for under 1 mil.

Maybe I'm being too frugal with Georges money, but a (good hitting) backup C is really the last thing we need, compared to pitching and a viable 1st baseman.

2006-11-26 14:22:34
13.   monkeypants
12 Why on earth would we want to find another sal/kelly/wil, even if they were for free? that trio absorbed 125 ABs last year and 'hit' around .550 OPS. We don't really want Posada catching another 135 games at age 35, and we certainly don't want to throw away outs at backup C like last year. Indeed, the problem at back-up C goes back years.

If we want to save George's money, let's get them not to spend the 5 or 5 million on another stimky 'proven veteran' pitcher, but try out some of the AAA arms. There is a far better chance the team would get a good return on their investment that way than signing Jaret Wright and Sal Fasano Mach II.

2006-11-26 14:42:01
14.   dianagramr
I'm trying to remember just how bad Piazza was at 1B, before I opine that he might make a great backup C/1B/DH.
2006-11-26 16:35:39
15.   OldYanksFan
"The Blue Jays offered Zaun a two-year, $6-million package, but he turned it down and is said to be entertaining offers from the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees as a backup."

Sounds like Zaun will cost a bit more then 6 mil.

I like Mikey, but he won't be cheap like he was last year.

13 The difference Zaun makes in 40 games over a cheap catcher will not cost us that many, if any games. A decent pitcher (if we can find one) is apt to make more of a difference.

2006-11-26 16:50:28
16.   Ravenscar
Let the Mets fan answer!

Pretty bad.

At the same time, he didn't really play there all THAT much, so the sample size might be inaccurate.

Mostly, he HATES playing there. But as a backup for limited games I somehow doubt he'd be much worse than your other options.

I'm not one of the Mets fans who would have hives at the thought of Mike playing for the Yankees. He was a truly great Met, but time marches on and all.

2006-11-26 17:45:18
17.   manila boy
15 "The difference Zaun makes in 40 games over a cheap catcher will not cost us that many, if any games."

I remember Cliff saying, in another blog (The Baseball Analysts, if I'm not mistaken), that the Least Valuable Player of the Yanks for 2005 was NOT Tony Womack but John Flaherty. The backup catcher. He didn't get a lot of at-bats, but he did more damage to the team than Womack did in less time.

The Posada/Zaun platoon sounds great to me. One of the few times overpaying seems worth it. It also buys Cashman time to make a deal for a close-to-MLB catching prospect.

2006-11-26 17:46:31
18.   monkeypants
15 Maybe yes, maybe no. But there is no reason for the Yankees to carry players well below average at any position--carrying 120 ABs of Fasano is unacceptable. Also, it is probably easier to find a league average bat for cheap than to sign a league average pitcher for the same money. Though, C is a tougher spot to fill than most positions.

But the team's minor league strength now is in pitching, so it makes more sense to explore cheap options there, and spend money on positions (like 1B and back-up C) that can't be filled through the minors.

2006-11-26 18:55:16
19.   Yu-Hsing Chen
15 don't underestimate the importance of a solid bench, it's been as big of a problem if not more than the pitching over the last few years.

A bench of Zuan/Phillips/Melky/Guiel or Thompson would be the best we've had in ages.

As for pitching, 4M a year right now would get you a crappy reliever, do we need crappy relievers?

2006-11-26 23:44:05
20.   joejoejoe
Compare these two lines...

1) 589AB .285/.359/.482
2) 630AB .235/.300/.354

Line 1 is Johnny Damon. Line 2 is Bubba Crosby + Andy Phillips + Nick Green + Miguel Cairo. It doesn't make sense to spend $13 million dollars on Johnny Damon to get the first 600 ABs and then spend $2 million to get next 600 ABs. Every AB is worth the same to the club offensively. If you don't have good prospects for the bench (or Torre won't play kids) then you have to pay for a bench.

2006-11-27 04:23:00
21.   jayd
Watching Gary Sheffield, a gifted athlete, try to play 1st base this past year has cured me of saying "Oh yeah, and worst comes to worst he can always play 1st base..."

I've never seen Jorge play 1st, although I know he played the infield when he came up (SS?).

2006-11-27 07:43:58
22.   rbj
To be fair to Sheff, it was a "late in the season, and you're coming off an injury, so can you play first" situation. If Gary had spring training at first, it might have been better. Attitude is also important; I don't think Piazza or Sheff really wanted to play first, and it showed. Jorge just might enjoy it; it keeps his bat in the game and he gets to rest his knees. He wouldn't be Mattingly, but I think he'd be a serviceable (replacement level) defenseman at first.
I would rather the Yankees spend $5-6 mil on a backup backstop than spend that money on yet another 4th-5th starter or middle reliever.
2006-11-27 10:12:09
23.   Schteeve
12 You couldn't be wronger. We need a backup catcher who can hit more than we need a first baseman who can hit. Because it has nothing to do with hitting really. There are no options available to us to fill the 1B who can hit job. None. They are all washed up or flame outs or Shea Hillenbrand. We don't need any of those jokers. If Pujols was available it would be a different story.

So if we need a bat, get Zaun's. Because we have no redundancy at catcher. If Posada goes down, we might as well just put a lawn chair behind home plate. Cause that's pretty much what we've been doing with our back up catcher position for a the last few seasons.

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