BY SAM BORDEN
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. - Tino Martinez won't be back with the Yankees next season and the Bombers are putting out feelers to see if they might be able to move Jorge Posada, too.
In Martinez's case, the situation was simple: The Yanks are looking to cut their payroll, so they declined the 2006 option on Martinez, paying him a $250,000 buyout instead of bringing him back and paying his $3 million salary.
Posada's situation, on the other hand, is more complex. The Yankees have been trying to gauge interest in their catcher for nearly a year and a half, but have found few takers because of Posada's bulky contract.
Of course, that contract is the reason the Yanks are interested in moving him. Posada, 34, will make $8 million next season, and if he starts just 81 games at catcher, a clause in his deal guarantees his 2007 option at a massive $12 million salary.
That, obviously, isn't something the Yankees are interested in paying. In addition to the trade discussions, there have been internal talks about shifting Posada to first base - even part-time, with some time at DH, too - in an effort to avoid that contract trigger.
The first base idea, however, hasn't been met with much organizational support, according to sources. GM Brian Cashman said the Yankees are looking at Andy Phillips as the likely replacement for Martinez at first, since he provides a cheap, righthanded option to complement Jason Giambi.
"We'd like to see what (Phillips) can do," Cashman said of the 28-year-old. "That's our initial thought and we think he'd do very well if given the chance. We're not locked into it, but it's a direction we're looking at."
Cashman was quick to add that Giambi is no guarantee to be the every-day first baseman next year. Although Giambi has made it clear he feels more comfortable at the plate when he's playing in the field (as opposed to DHing), the Bombers have grown weary of Giambi's erratic fielding - he's shown good hands but has trouble throwing - and will explore other options, including free agents (John Olerud and Eduardo Perez are among the first basemen available).
That's also a reason why they've considered moving Posada, who has played 16 games at first base in his career (compared to 1,088 at catcher), the most recent coming in 2001.
Trading Posada is a more attractive option, but that has proved extremely difficult. On the surface, it might seem easy - after all, Posada is one of the few Yankees who doesn't have a no-trade clause - but every executive here knows about the trigger in his contract, and few, if any, are interested in paying so much for an aging catcher.
If the Yanks were able to move Posada, they could get into the bidding for Angels free agent Bengie Molina, a player that some of their evaluators give high marks.
But assuming they're unable to find a deal, the Bombers may be stuck with Posada. The Yanks would be able to pay him a $4 million buyout after next season if he doesn't start 330 games at catcher between 2004-06, but he's already at 249; making matters worse, if Posada reaches that plateau and 2007 becomes guaranteed, then Posada receives a player option for 2008.
Originally published on November 9, 2005
It would make sense for the Yankees if they could get reasonable value, and then sign Ramon Hernandez or Benjie Molina, but I'm not sure this will happen.
What teams could be interested in Jorge?