Also in this column: • Rivera may test market • Mattingly has the edge • Coaches on the move • More news and notes
The Yankees are moving fast to try to lock up both Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera to new contracts, but the early word is that more progress is being made in Posada's case.
Baseball people see the Yankees offering bookend $40 million, three-year deals for each longtime star. Such offers would make them the highest-paid players at their respective positions, and unlike in the case of departed manager Joe Torre, neither should balk at that contract length.
A $40 million contract would represent raises for each at a respectable length considering both are in their mid-30s (Posada is 36 and Rivera 37) and just finished contracts that averaged $10.5 million a year. This isn't a hard call for the Yankees, who don't have viable answers to replace either unless they abandon plans to make stud rookie pitcher Joba Chamberlain a starter.
The Yankees are seeking to appease the public after losing the popular Torre and give themselves time to deal with a more complicated and pricier case -- Alex Rodriguez. But mostly they understand that they need to keep Posada and Rivera, who both fill vital roles.
The idea that Posada and Rivera would leave the Yankees because Torre is gone is downright laughable -- though probably not quite as ridiculous as the idea that Rodriguez would leave over Torre. A-Rod got along with Torre OK this year but has no longstanding allegiance to him and was hurt by the way Torre treated him last year.
It's extremely unlikely that any player would plan his future over a manager's decision to depart. And in this case it was Torre's call to reject the decent offer of $5 million guaranteed and doable incentives that could have taken him to $8 million, double what any other manager earns. "Everyone in the room wanted him to take the deal,'' GM Brian Cashman said.
If Posada could be swayed by someone else, it is actually someone who's still there, his best buddy, Derek Jeter. Posada, who recently expanded his Manhattan apartment, is seen by close Yankee observers as someone who wouldn't leave Jeter, whose own contract runs through 2010.
People close to the situation would be shocked if Posada went anywhere else. The Mets are in the market for a catcher, but even a Mets person said, "You honestly think the Yankees are letting him come here?'
In a word, no.
Rivera, though, may have his own reason for annoyance. The vaunted closer is believed to be fairly perturbed that the team waited until he was on the cusp of free agency to negotiate and may be more inclined to test the free-agent waters.
The Phillies surely would be interested in Rivera, and perhaps the Cubs should be, too, among other teams. Rivera has said he intends to enjoy free agency, meaning no early signing, and agent Fern Cuza said he'd let Rivera's remarks stand and say no more. However, if he leaves -- and Rivera lives in Westchester, N.Y. and owns a steakhouse there -- it will still be a surprise.
Most people believe that the Yankees' managerial job is Don Mattingly's to lose. Joe Girardi's experience, knowledge and eloquence will allow him to have a better interview. The question is: How much better?
There are some within the organization so impressed by Tony Pena that he may be their top choice, but he isn't the star in New York that Mattingly or even Girardi is, and they believe it's going to be difficult for him to win the job for that reason.
If Mattingly doesn't blow the interview, he'll probably get the call. Steinbrenner's sons know Mattingly is their dad's choice, and that should hold significant sway. And, as one Yankees person said, "Who doesn't like Don Mattingly?'' The answer: It's hard to think of anyone.
It also doesn't hurt that Hank Steinbrenner, who appears to be gaining power of baseball matters, last worked for the Yankees in the '80s and is thought to favor Mattingly (though Hank told the New York Post that if anyone's a favorite, it's a slight favorite).
However, if they decide they want someone dissimilar to the easy-going Torre, and some may feel that way considering their solid-but-still-lukewarm effort to keep Torre, Girardi or even Bobby Valentine -- who's a brilliant strategist and could roil things in the clubhouse -- would be logical choices. The Yankees' baseball operations people are said to admire both Girardi and Valentine. However, the manager is thought to come under the purview of the Steinbrenners, which still gives Mattingly the edge.
• The Mets may well try to hire Rangers hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo as hitting coach, and move Howard Johnson back to the first base coaches box and Rickey Henderson back to the card room where he belongs.
• The Marlins could try for Rockies scout Mark Wiley for pitching coach. Dontrelle Willis already has endorsed Wiley to the Palm Beach Post (though who knows how long Willis is around before he's traded?) Willis won 22 games when Wiley was Florida's pitching coach in 2005.
• Ron Guidry looks like a goner as Yankees pitching coach. Somehow they'd like to get Dave Eiland, who coached Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy in the minors, on the staff.
• Yankees third base coach Larry Bowa will probably go to Seattle as a coach. He doesn't appear to be under consideration for the manager's job in New York, and with the Mariners he'd be a heartbeat away from the manager's chair considering their poor finish last year.
• Trey Hillman, who's well-regarded in the Yankees organization, is a tremendous choice as manager by the Royals, who appear to be moving in the right direction. It's almost exactly a year ago now that I suggested the Royals would hire Hillman (sorry, wrong year).
• If anyone can tell me why Fox Trax has two boxes for the strike zone, an outer zone and inner zone, please do.
• The timing of the HGH stories is interesting. Rick Ankiel got fingered just as he was hot, and Paul Byrd got it at a time when he was prominent. And I give the authorities credit. Who knew it was worth waiting for Byrd to gain prominence?
• A friend suggested that Coco Crisp rename himself Soso Crisp. Although, with a mitt on, he's nothing short of Spectacular Crisp. Whatever name he goes by, he'll be playing elsewhere next year. Jacoby Ellsbury should be the center fielder.
• It's still amazing that Kenny Lofton made 11 postseasons in 13 years. If anyone sees the postseason as a crapshoot, he does. Lofton actually says he believes the winner is preordained, which may help him deal with never getting a ring despite being up in series with the Cubs in '03, the Yankees in '04 and now the Indians in '07, not to mention mere innings away from winning the World Series with the Giants in '02.
• New Pirates GM Neal Huntington reportedly will interview Torey Lovullo and John Farrell for manager. Indians GM Mark Shapiro said of Farrell, "He'd be an impact guy in any role.'' High praise.
• Speaking of impact, the Indians' Eric Wedge should be AL Manager of the Year and Shapiro AL Executive of the Year. Two class guys created one great season in Cleveland.