Is the 'Buster Posey Rule' Enough to Warrant Letting Him Catch Long Term?

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 19, 2014

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Earlier this week, Major League Baseball voted unanimously in favor of an expanded replay system, but that may not be the only rule change taking effect this coming season. 

Home plate collisions could also be banned this offseason, an idea that has been deemed the "Buster Posey Rule" by some who attribute a potential rule change to the superstar catcher's season-ending injury on a home plate collision back in May of 2011.

The collision with Scott Cousins left Posey with a fractured left ankle and wound up costing him a grand total of 114 games. The San Francisco Giants, coming off a World Series title, won just 86 games and failed to make the playoffs without their biggest offensive threat.

Luckily for the Giants, Posey was back to 100 percent in 2012, hitting .336/.408/.549 with 24 home runs and 103 RBI while playing in 148 games and showing no lingering effects of the injury.

Those numbers were good enough to win the then-25-year-old the NL batting title and NL MVP honors, as he helped lead the team to a second World Series title in three years.

They were also good enough for the team to sign him to a nine-year, $167 million extension, as the Giants bought out his arbitration years and made sure he'd be around for the long haul to anchor their lineup.

The question now is: How long do the Giants allow Posey to continue to catching?

Is the "Buster Posey Rule" reason enough to warrant letting him stay behind the plate long term, or do they still need to move him elsewhere in the near future to protect their huge investment?

One of the best catchers in recent memory, Minnesota Twins backstop Joe Mauer, is making the move out from behind the plate this coming season for that very reason.

The Twins signed Mauer to an eight-year, $184 million deal prior to the 2011 season, and with five years and $115 million left on that contract, the team decided it was best to take every precaution in insuring the 30-year-old stays on the field.

Knee issues popped up for Mauer in 2011, limiting him to just 82 games, and he had begun to see more and more time at DH and first base the past two years. Is a similar move inevitable for Posey down the line?

He's no Craig Biggio, who made the move out from behind the plate four years into his career in order to save his legs. However, Posey is athletic enough that if he did switch to another position, he would not necessarily be relegated to first base.

He made the Freshman All-American team at Florida State as a shortstop before moving behind the plate his sophomore year, and while he has never played anything but catcher and first base in his pro career, the tools are there.

With Brandon Belt looking like the long-term answer at first base after a breakout season in 2013, third base or left field could be the more likely eventual landing spot for Posey.

Pablo Sandoval is currently entrenched at third base, but he is a free agent after the 2014 season. The Giants have spent big to retain their own free agents the past two years, but if they did let Sandoval walk, Posey could be his successor.

In left field, Michael Morse was signed to a one-year deal as a potential bounce-back candidate for the upcoming season. He'll be 32 this coming season, though, and chances are if he does return to form, he'll wind up cashing in and signing elsewhere next offseason.

That leaves the Giants with some options as far as where they can move Posey, but for the time being he'll remain behind the plate. That's certainly where he's most valuable, as his bat makes him the premier offensive player at his position, and he's a plus defender to boot.

This question will likely continue to be raised each offseason and any time Posey finds himself on the disabled list, but for now the "Buster Posey Rule" looks to be enough security for the Giants to keep him at the catcher position moving forward.