Buster Posey Rumors

Extension Candidate: Buster Posey

The first order of business for Buster Posey this season was to prove himself healthy following a 2011 campaign cut short after 45 games due to a fractured fibula.  Not only did that home plate collision with Scott Cousins cost Posey most of a season, it also may have cost him some money in the short-term, as the Giants may have wished to quickly sign him to a multiyear extension. Uspw_6440026

Ironically, Posey's injury may make him a wealthier man in the long-term.  Posey had a .756 OPS when he was injured in 2011, so supposing he'd stayed healthy and stayed at that more modest number (call it a sophomore slump), the Giants might have been able to sign Posey to an extension akin to Carlos Santana's five-year, $21MM deal with the Indians. 

That scenario will remain a hypothetical, however, as Posey has returned from injury with an MVP-caliber .328/.394/.542 batting line and 18 home runs over 409 plate appearances entering Wednesday's action. This performance has only strengthened Posey's case as the best-hitting catcher in the game and now he'll have an even higher price tag should the Giants look to lock him up.

Posey will reach arbitration for the first time this winter and he'll have four arb years in total as a Super Two player, leaving him under Giants control through the 2016 season.  MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith opined that Posey would likely be in line for a salary between $2-$3MM for 2013, and at Posey's current rate of production, I'd guess that $3MM will be at the low end of his 2013 salary.

The Super Two status makes Posey a unique case, as while several notable catchers (such as Santana, Brian McCann, Yadier Molina and Joe Mauer) have signed extensions that covered their arb years, none of these players had that fourth year of arbitration.  Also, none of these players signed their extensions with between 2-3 years of MLB service, as Posey will have at the conclusion of this season.

Perhaps the closest comparison is Mauer, who signed a four-year, $33MM extension with the Twins before the 2007 season that covered his three arb years and his first free agent season.  Mauer had a career line of .321/.399/.471 with 28 homers through his first 1284 plate appearances before signing his extension; Posey currently has a a 307/.369/.492 career line and 40 homers through 1054 plate appearances and should make up that gap in PAs by the end of the season.

Mauer's deal broke down as $20.5MM for his three arb years and $12.5MM for his first year of free agency.  If we use $3MM as the baseline for Posey's 2013 salary, I could see the Giants offering something like a five-year deal worth around $47MM for their star catcher.  The salaries would break down as $3MM in 2013, $6MM in 2014, $9MM in 2015 and $12MM for 2016 to cover the arb years, and Posey would then earn $17MM for the 2017 season, which would've been his first free agent year.  Posey will turn 31 years old in March 2018, so he'd still be young enough to net another big contract in free agency.

There's also the possibility that Posey and agent Jeff Berry would look to go even longer-term in San Francisco.  A seven-year deal — worth $17MM and $20MM, respectively, for 2018 and 2019 — would bring the total value to $84MM.  That's a big contract for any player and especially for a catcher, though the Giants have already looked to keep Posey fresh with occasional starts at first base.  If Posey can keep up his current .935 OPS, that's certainly enough pop to play at first base (particularly at AT&T Park) and be worthy of that type of major financial commitment.     

A seven-year, $84MM contract would be the third-most expensive deal ever given to a catcher, behind Mauer's eight-year, $184MM extension with the Twins and Mike Piazza's seven-year, $91MM deal with the Mets from 1999-2005.

Since the Giants do have four years of control to work with, it's possible they just settle on a one-year deal with Posey this offseason and save extension talks for a later date.  Still, the Giants face some interesting payroll issues — Melky Cabrera will be a free agent and the newly-acquired Hunter Pence is going into his last arb year (the Giants claim to be able to extend both), not to mention potential tough decisions about franchise icons like Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson.  Posey is a player the Giants obviously want in the fold for years to come so they might look to get some cost certainty on his future salaries before looking at other business.

Photo courtesy of Kelley L. Cox/US Presswire

Top First-Time Arbitration Eligible Catchers For 2013

Carlos Santana and Jonathan Lucroy recently signed extensions, but some other catchers are on track for year to year raises through arbitration. Three of the game's top young backstops will be arbitration eligible for the first time following the 2012 season. Matt Wieters, Alex Avila, Buster Posey are well-positioned for 2013 salaries in excess of $2MM if they stay healthy this year.

Matt Wieters - Orioles (PW)

Deals from long ago, players from different service classes and long-term extensions won't generally have sway in the arbitration cases for players such as Wieters, Avila and Posey who determine salaries year to year. Catchers are typically self-contained in arbitration, meaning players at other positions don't figure into the discussion most of the time. For comps to have pull with agents (and the MLBPA) and teams (and the Labor Relations Department), they have to be recent and relevant.

What's relevant? First-time eligible catchers who agreed to one-year deals via the arbitration system provide the framework within which the salaries for Wieters, Avila and Posey will be determined. Reaching back more than five years would be pushing it, which further limits the selection of comparables. Many top catchers (Brian McCann, Yadier Molina) signed long-term deals and other potentially comparable catchers like A.J. Pierzynski went to arbitration long ago (post-2003). These cases aren't centrally important to Wieters, Avila and Posey.

We're left with the Arb-1 salaries for Russell Martin ($3.9MM), Geovany Soto ($3MM), Nick Hundley ($2MM), Miguel Montero ($2MM) and Mike Napoli ($2MM). Each of those settlements came within the last five years and could help determine the earnings for this offseason's first-time eligible backstops. Before signing his first extension, Joe Mauer and the Twins exchanged arbitration submissions and arrived at a $3.9MM midpoint ($4.5MM vs. $3.3MM). Those six-year-old filing numbers could also figure in to next winter's cases.

Posey didn't play after a gruesome home-plate collision ended his season last May, so there's no way he'll measure up to players such as Avila, Wieters, Soto and Martin in terms of bulk stats like games, plate appearances and RBI. Posey resembles Soto, another NL Rookie of the Year winner, on a per-game basis, but he probably won't catch up to the Cubs backstop in terms of counting stats.

With a full season, Posey should have better bulk numbers than Hundley, Napoli and Montero did as first-time eligible catchers. Each member of that trio obtained $2MM their first time through the arbitration process, so a salary in the $2-3MM range is within reach for Posey.

If Avila plays in 104 games, makes 470 plate appearances, hits 23 homers and drives in 69 this season, he’ll have matched the career stats Soto had as a first-time eligible player. Avila could match Martin in homers, and a better platform year is within reach. But in terms of most significant counting stats, Avila won't measure up to Wieters and Martin, the record holder for first-time eligible catchers. Still, Avila's similarity to Soto should set him up for a comparable payday in the $3MM range.

Wieters will have distinguished himself from $2MM catchers such as Hundley, Montero, Napoli and John Buck by the time the season ends. In fact, it's not hard to argue that he has already done so. The switch hitter currently compares well with Soto's post-2010 career numbers despite his relative inexperience. He'll match Soto's career numbers with eight more homers and 21 RBI, but the Cubs backstop had a better career batting line. Even so, $3MM seems quite attainable for Wieters.

With a healthy season, Wieters would surpass some of the numbers Martin had as a first-time eligible player. The Orioles catcher is on track to have more games, plate appearances and RBI than Martin did when he set his record after the 2008 season. And Wieters' bulk numbers are already superior to those Mauer had as a first-time eligible player. However, Wieters doesn't offer Martin's speed or the batting average and on-base percentage that Martin and Mauer both had. Wieters' 2013 salary could be closer to $4MM than it is to $3MM, but it's unreasonable to expect him to break any records just yet.

These informal projections could change quickly. As Posey knows all too well, injuries can interrupt seasons and limit bargaining power. Playing time is one of the most important determinants of a hitter's salary, so these three catchers must stay healthy to remain on track. If all goes well, their salaries will climb above $2MM following the 2012 season.

Photo courtesy of US Presswire.

Giants Touch Base With Posey, Lincecum On Contracts

Giants VP of baseball operations Bobby Evans said he contacted Buster Posey's agent today in regards to a possible multiyear extension for the catcher, and also told Tim Lincecum's agent that the right-hander is also still in the team's plans.  (Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area and Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle tweet the details from Evans' talk with media members.)

The Giants and Posey first talked a possible extension in the spring and now that Posey has shown himself to be apparently recovered from the broken leg that prematurely ended his 2011 season, it's no surprise that the club has revisited locking up its best young position player.  Carlos Santana's recent five-year, $21MM extension with the Indians will probably serve as a reference point for what a Posey extension might look like.

As for Lincecum, it sounds as if Evans was simply making a courtesy call to indicate that nothing had changed in regards to the Giants' desire to sign Lincecum to a long-term contract.  "Obviously we'll be looking toward that in the future," Evans said.  Earlier today, Schulman wrote that the added cost certainty achieved by signing Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain to extensions increases the chances of the Giants also extending Lincecum.

Despite the Giants' recent spate of moves, it may yet be a while before we see Posey or Lincecum extended.  Evans said he didn't expect any negotiations to take place during the season but "there will be a time we address that" (Twitter link).

NL West Notes: Posey, Moores, Page

Don't expect any inter-sport recruiting from Todd Helton.  The veteran first baseman says he isn't planning to try and sell his friend Peyton Manning about possibly coming to Denver, after reports surfaced that Manning was making a free agent visit to the NFL's Denver Broncos.  The two were teammates on the University of Tennessee's football team, and Helton was briefly the Volunteers' starting quarterback before Manning took over.

Curiously enough, this isn't the only NFL-related item within this roundup of news from around the NL West…

  • The Giants and Buster Posey agreed to terms on a one-year, $615K contract for 2012, reports Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle.  Posey will be eligible for arbitration for the first time next winter and Schulman reported last week that no extension talks were planned between Posey and the team before Opening Day.  The Giants now have all 19 of their pre-arbitration players under contract for 2012 — most received salaries at or slightly above the Major League minimum of $480K except Posey and Madison Bumgarner ($575K).
  • Padres majority owner John Moores talked to Nick Canepa of the San Diego Union-Tribune about Jeffrey Moorad's decision to drop his attempt to buy a controlling interest of the team.  "This was a done deal a long time ago," Moores said.  "But it’s not the worst situation in the world to sit in the owner’s seat from time to time for another season — though I am conflicted about it, no question.”  Moores praised Moorad for stepping back so the club could get its new TV contract approved before Opening Day.
  • The Dodgers have signed former Minnesota Vikings safety Jarrad Page to a minor league contract, reports MLB.com's Ken Gurnick (via Twitter).  Page has played in the NFL since 2006, but was not expected to be re-signed by the Vikings once the NFL's free agency period opens on Tuesday.  A well-regarded high school baseball prospect, Page was drafted by the Brewers in 2002 before deciding to attend UCLA, and was also drafted by the Rockies in 2005 and the Angels in 2006.  Page attended an open tryout with the Dodgers last week and has signed as an outfielder.

Quick Hits: Burnett, Sizemore, Posey, Yankees

Now that the calendar has flipped to March, Opening Day seems that much closer. Here are some links from around MLB, starting with a pair of injury updates…

  • The Pirates announced that A.J. Burnett has an orbital fracture of his right eye and will require surgery. The club didn’t provide a timetable for the right-hander, who was acquired from the Yankees last month.
  • The Indians announced that Grady Sizemore underwent a “minimally invasive low back procedure” and is expected to miss two to three months.
  • Agent Jeff Berry told Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle that no discussions about a multiyear deal for Giants catcher Buster Posey are expected to take place before Opening Day. Posey hasn't played since last May 25th, so it's more likely that an extension would become a priority next offseason.
  • Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner confirmed to reporters, including Marc Carig of the Star-Ledger, that he is intent on lowering payroll below $189MM by 2014 for luxury tax purposes (Twitter link).

NL West Notes: Dodgers, Haren, Posey, Rockies

Notes from the NL West as the D'Backs could clinch an improbable division title tonight….

  • Major League Baseball has asked a federal bankruptcy judge to order that the Dodgers be sold, reports Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times.  The filing even threatened that the Dodgers could be suspended from the league in order to keep Frank McCourt from being able to keep the team via a new television contract.
  • The Giants will use Buster Posey as a catcher next season, though manager Bruce Bochy said a position change might come "down the road," reports Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle.
  • Kevin Millwood will be looking for a Major League contract this winter, reports Troy Renck of the Denver Post.  Millwood and the Rockies have a mutual interest in each other, but as noted earlier this month, the Rockies would prefer to bring the veteran starter back on a minor league deal.
  • From that same item, Renck says J.C. Romero's first choice would be to re-sign with the Rockies, and Colorado players are expecting some changes to the coaching staff.
  • You can't blame the Diamondbacks for the Dan Haren trade in 2010, argues Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic, since nobody saw the club turning things around as quickly as they did this season.
  • Bobby Borchering, the Diamondbacks' first-round pick in the 2009 draft, is being transitioned to left field, tweets Piecoro.  Borchering has played first and third base in his first three pro seasons.

Cafardo’s Latest: Fielder, Nathan, Hart, Mauer

One major league source told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that a lot of lefty relievers were blocked by teams and never got through waivers in August.  The price tag on most of them was steep so most teams bit the bullet and decided to go with what they had.  The Giants were one of those clubs as GM Brian Sabean opted to stick with Javy Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt.  Here are some other highlights from Cafardo's column..

  • The Mariners re-upped GM Jack Zduriencik this week and Cafardo wonders if Seattle will be in the mix with Prince Fielder this offseason, even though they already have Justin Smoak at first.  It's hard to predict how much the M's will be willing to spend and it's possible that the four-year, $36MM deal given to Chone Figgins in December 2009 could make ownership gun-shy.
  • The Twins didn’t seem to have anything major working for Joe Nathan at the deadline, but they asked him to waive his trade-veto rights just in case and Nathan declined.  Nathan's future with the club is uncertain as he heads into free agency but he has a shot at staying if he accepts a hometown discount.  It's unlikely that the Twins will pick up his $12MM option this winter.  The club can buy him out for just $2MM.
  • Cafardo writes that Brewers rightfielder Corey Hart would fit nicely with the Red Sox.  However, it seems likely that they'll lose Fielder this summer so they probably won't entertain a deal involving Hart. 
  • Twins GM Bill Smith says that Joe Mauer will be a catcher for the foreseeable future, but he continues to leave the door open for a possible shift of positions down the road.  There are also no plans for the Giants to move Buster Posey elsewhere, according to Sabean.

Quick Hits: Reyes, Webb, Posey

Babe Ruth played his last MLB game on this date in 1935. The slugger played one inning against the Phillies and grounded out in his final at bat. Here's the boxscore from that game and here are today's links. Happy Memorial Day!

Stark On Giants, Padres, Pence

Now that Buster Posey is on the disabled list for the foreseeable future, the Giants are looking around for catching, according to ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark. Ivan Rodriguez, a player the Giants have asked about, and Bengie Molina, a player who would like to return to San Francisco, are the team’s most viable options at this point. Here are the details from Stark, plus other notes from around the league:

  • The Nationals have been shopping Rodriguez since Spring Training and one executive says they would love to move him.
  • The Padres are starting to give indications that they’ll be willing to move Heath Bell, Ryan Ludwick and Chad Qualls in a few weeks.
  • However, rival teams say the Padres are “not motivated” to talk about players who are under control through 2012 or later, such as reliever Mike Adams.
  • The Astros keep saying that they imagine Hunter Pence on Houston’s next winning team, which would presumably make him difficult to obtain this summer.

Quick Hits: Gonzalez, Cardinals, Posey

On this date in 1968, MLB announced two new expansion teams: the Montreal Expos and the San Diego Padres. The Expos’ ancestors (the Nationals) and the Padres occupy last place in their respective divisions this year. Here’s the latest from the Major Leagues: 

  • Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports hears that the Tigers kicked around the idea of trading for Adrian Gonzalez when he was with the Rangers in 2004-05 (Twitter link). However, talks never got very far and the Rangers dealt the first baseman to San Diego.
  • A rival GM told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that he expects the Cardinals to make a “major push” to acquire talent this summer, since this could be St. Louis’ last playoff run with Albert Pujols.
  • Giants catcher Buster Posey would be “infinitely safer” at first base because he’d stay fresher, according to Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle (she acknowledges that Posey adds plenty of value as a catcher).
  • An NL executive who could benefit from Posey’s absence was rattled by the catcher's injury because he's good for baseball, according to EPSN.com’s Buster Olney.