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Yankees could seek help behind plate

Yankees could seek help behind plate

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The Yankees are back where they expected to be, in the thick of a pennant race.

And with that comes the requisite roster reflection, heightened by the Trade Deadline that is ticking away and set to expire when the clocks hit 4 p.m. ET just a week from today.

The club has been taking a hard look at a rotation that is being held together by veterans Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte, with Joba Chamberlain providing a youthful boost.

Hideki Matsui remains on the disabled list, which has raised concerns about offensive depth, specifically in the outfield. But the Yankees have further concern in their quest to chase down the Red Sox and Rays in the American League East.

That would be behind the plate.

Jorge Posada is on the DL with a right shoulder injury that will likely require surgery, but the 36-year-old is hoping to hold out until the offseason and return to the lineup this year to possibly help out at first base or DH.

Getting Posada back in the order will provide a lift to the offense, but catching duties could become more problematic with Jose Molina and Chad Moeller currently sharing the job.

Molina is hitting .222 with no homers, 11 RBIs and getting on base about a quarter of the time, while Moeller has a .232 batting average, one homer and eight RBIs. Posada's numbers don't provide a sharp contrast (.268, three homers, 22 RBIs) but his experience is invaluable.

The Yankees open a three-game series at Fenway Park on Friday and will host the Angels next weekend. In August, they travel to Anaheim and Minnesota and will host Boston's last regular season visit to Yankee Stadium at the end of the month.

Road trips in September include a makeup game in Detroit, series at Tampa Bay and Anaheim, and the season finale in Boston. The Yankees will also host the White Sox and Rays in the regular season's final month.

The club is currently third in the division and three games back of Boston in the Wild Card, so offense and starting pitching could help, but an experienced backstop who can hit may solve issues on both fronts.

The Yankees apparently have earmarked a number of possibilities with a list that includes Rangers catcher Gerald Laird, Paul Lo Duca of the Nationals, Kansas City's Miguel Olivo, and Rod Barajas of the Blue Jays, according to a report in the Newark Star-Ledger.

Of the four, Laird has the highest batting average at .306 and the superior on-base percentage at .360, while Olivo leads the group with nine homers and 15 doubles, but Barajas has the edge with 31 RBIs.

Barajas has the most extensive playoff experience of the four, appearing in three postseason series, the last of which was the 2002 Divisional Series with Arizona. Lo Duca played in a pair of postseason series, both in 2006 while with the Mets, and Olivo has one postseason at-bat. That came with the Padres in a Divisional Series loss to the Cardinals in 2005. Laird has never been to the playoffs.

Lo Duca will be a free agent at the end of the season, while Laird's contract also runs out -- but he will have two years of arbitration remaining. Barajas has a $2.5 million club option left on his contract for 2009 with a $500,000 buyout, while Olivo has a $2.7 million club option next season and a $100,000 buyout.

The easiest solution might be Lo Duca, who is making $5 million this year. The Nationals could be willing to move the catcher as they try to get younger and build for the future. But both the Royals and Blue Jays have reported interest in moving Olivo and Barajas, respectively.

One name that has been tossed around as possibly moving -- and one that would certainly satisfy the Yankees' style of making big acquisitions -- is Ivan Rodriguez.

The Tigers catcher has superior numbers to the other four, can be a free agent at the end of the year and brings the experience of nine postseason series and a trophy case overrun by 13 Gold Glove awards.

The great Yankees teams have always had a fixture at catcher -- Posada, Thurman Munson in the 70s, Yogi Berra in the 50s and Bill Dickey in the 30s. Even current skipper Joe Girardi had a nice run at the position, getting three rings.

Somehow a guy by the name of Pudge seems like a good fit in pinstripes.

Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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