A-Rod, Rivera in wings now that Yankees finalize Posada's new $52.4M deal

Updated: November 29, 2007, 6:12 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The way Jorge Posada sees it, the New York Yankees must add an ace to their rotation. That's why he wants Johan Santana pitching in pinstripes next year.

"We need a No. 1," Posada said Thursday after the All-Star catcher finalized his new contract with the Yankees. "I would love to have him."

New York is involved in trade talks with the Minnesota Twins about their two-time Cy Young Award winner, who can become a free agent after next season. Posada thinks it might be crucial to land Santana -- or another top starter -- because he's not sure buddy Andy Pettitte will return to the Yankees.

"Right now, he's leaning toward retirement," Posada said on a conference call. "I've been talking to him. I try to call him every week. It's tough. He's got a tough decision to make."

Pettitte went 15-9 with a 4.05 ERA for the Yankees this season. The 35-year-old left-hander has said he'll either pitch for New York next year or retire.

"He's going to make that decision around probably the middle of January," said Posada, adding that Pettitte's friends on the team will try to persuade him to play. "If Andy doesn't come back, we need to fill that hole."

Pettitte's future is one factor the Yankees must consider as they try to work out a trade for Santana. In return, the Twins would probably want at least one of New York's three prized pitching prospects: Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy.

"I love the young kids. I love all three of them. They have bright futures," Posada said.

But he thinks the Yankees would be better suited to win in the playoffs if they had a proven No. 1 starter.

"It is a need in October. No question about it," Posada said, pointing out how impressed he was with Santana while catching the left-hander in the All-Star Game. "To face him is a lot different than it is to catch him."

Despite a powerful offense and baseball's highest payroll, New York has been eliminated in the first round of the postseason the past three years.

Posada and the Yankees completed their $52.4 million, four-year contract Thursday, more than two weeks after reaching a preliminary agreement on the deal.

He gets $13.1 million in each of the four seasons, the highest average salary for a catcher. Mike Piazza averaged $13 million under his contract with the New York Mets from 1999-2005 and Detroit's Ivan Rodriguez will make $13 million next season, the option year of his deal.

"For me, it was important to stay with the Yankees because I belong a Yankee. I'm really, really happy that I got the chance to stay," he said. "Going elsewhere, I was going to listen to the offers, but the Yankees made it tough."

Posada hit a team-high .338 this season with 20 homers and 90 RBIs. While he will turn 40 in the final year of the contract, the Yankees have said they aren't concerned about his age, indicating the switch-hitter could eventually be shifted to designated hitter or first base.

Posada is comfortable with that idea.

"That was one of the biggest reasons that I came back as a Yankee," he said. "The Mets were pushing really, really hard to bring me over there."

A five-time All-Star, Posada has never been on the disabled list.

"Nowadays it's really tough to stay with one team and I think the Yankees really made a strong push to keep me," Posada said.

He's looking forward to playing for new manager Joe Girardi, a former Yankees catcher who tutored Posada as he was establishing himself in the big leagues. Girardi replaced longtime New York skipper Joe Torre, now the Los Angeles Dodgers' manager.

"It was tough seeing him go, to tell you the truth," Posada said. "Joe's been like a father to me."

Posada said he didn't want to make a decision about returning to the Yankees until they picked their next manager. General manager Brian Cashman called Posada to tell him Girardi was the choice.

"I think Cashman called and he wanted to make sure that I was on board with the decision," Posada said.

"I'm happy to work with Girardi again," he added. "I don't think it's going to be the same. He's the manager now. But I think we have the same relationship we built from when we were players. ... I think it's going to be fine."

Posada is also excited about playing in the team's new ballpark, scheduled to open for the 2009 season.

New York is still working to finalize agreements with third baseman Alex Rodriguez ($275 million for 10 years), closer Mariano Rivera ($45 million for three years) and backup catcher Jose Molina ($4 million for two years).

"I don't think I could see Mariano in another uniform. I think it was really, really important to have him back," Posada said.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press