Former MVP Buster Posey Is Wasting Away in Ruins of Former MLB Dynasty

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterApril 24, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 11: Catcher Buster Posey #28 of the San Francisco Giants warms up before the top of the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at Oracle Park on April 11, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

At this point, nobody has any right to be surprised by what has befallen Buster Posey and the San Francisco Giants.

The team's 10-14 record thus far in the 2019 Major League Baseball season constitutes more of the same. The Giants won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014 and returned to the playoffs in 2016. But then they aged up and slowed down, and 187 losses unfolded across 2017 and 2018.

The Giants did take an initial step in a new direction last fall. They fired Bobby Evans as their general manager and brought in Farhan Zaidi, who was one of the chief architects of the Los Angeles Dodgers, to head their baseball operations.

But during the winter, a next step never quite materialized. Zaidi didn't use the trade market to break up the team's current roster. Despite making a spirited run at 2015 NL MVP Bryce Harper, he also didn't outfit the roster with fresh star power.

If the Giants had a notion for a Cinderella return to form in 2019, it's already going "poof." At some point this summer, they figure to turn to the trade market and dangle veterans such as Madison Bumgarner, Jeff Samardzija, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Derek Holland and Will Smith.

Posey may find himself on the trade block as well, although it'll take the right set of circumstances to jar him loose from his status as the fading figurehead of a dead dynasty.

Gregory Bull/Associated Press

For the time being, the Giants need to concern themselves with helping their veteran catcher restore as much of his former stardom as possible.

Given how large he loomed at the height of his powers, that's a tall order. According to Baseball Reference, his excellent hitting (a .309 average and .853 OPS) and defense helped him lead all catchers with 38.3 wins above replacement between 2010 and 2017. 

In addition to his three rings, a National League Rookie of the Year in 2010, an NL MVP in 2012, annual All-Star nods and a nine-year, $167 million contract further enhanced Posey's national celebrity. In effect, he was a new Derek Jeter for a new era.

But Posey is now 32, and he's trending more or less like anyone could expect a 32-year-old catcher to be trending.

Although it wasn't Posey's first major injury—that would be the horrific (and fateful) ankle injury he suffered on a collision at home plate in 2011—the hip injury that led to season-ending surgery last August was the first that could be attributed to wear and tear. After averaging more than 110 starts in the crouch over the previous six seasons, it was perhaps bound to happen.

Meanwhile, Posey is diminishing offensively. Based on OPS+, he was a safely above-average hitter every year between 2010 and 2017. But he slipped in 2018, and he's slipping even further in 2019:

Despite the outstanding 54 caught-stealing percentage he's racked up this year, cracks are also forming in Posey's defense. Baseball Prospectus rated him as MLB's best pitch framer as recently as 2016. However, he ranked 23rd in 2017 and was barely in the top 40 last year

None of this is cause for the Giants to regret the entirety of Posey's contract, as it's hard to argue that he hasn't been worth $18.6 million per year despite his downfall. And if nothing else, they might want to keep him around as a mentor for top prospect Joey Bart, who's his heir apparent behind the dish.

But including the $22.2 million Posey is making this year, the Giants are nonetheless looking at paying a player who's clearly past his prime nearly $70 million through 2021. It's understandable if they might prefer to pass all or at least some of that money onto another team.

If they're ultimately willing to put Posey on the block, the notion of there being real interest in him isn't that far-fetched.

The late, great Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported in August that the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox had shown interest in Posey around the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. In light of how difficult it is to find good talent at catcher these days, that interest might kick up again this July.

The first complication is whether Posey would be open to leaving San Francisco. He has a full no-trade clause, so he can stay right where he is through 2021 if he wants.

The next complication is whether Posey can show any signs of life between now and July 31. Because at the rate he's going, the only thing separating him from the mediocre masses behind the plate is his name.

To this end, hope is already being kindled. Posey boasts an .800 OPS over his last nine games. Included within is his first home run since last June 19, which he hit Sunday against the Pittsburgh Pirates:

San Francisco Giants @SFGiants

.@BusterPosey’s first career home run against the Pirates. And his first of 2019 👏👏👏 #SFGiants https://t.co/ljd79u2rpZ

Otherwise, Posey is still taking his walks and avoiding soft contact, with a particularly good feel for line drives. Even if it's without much power, he should still have it in him to hit near .300 with a strong on-base percentage. That would be fine at a time when the average catcher is hitting .242 with a .318 OBP.

As to Posey's own desires, it isn't too bold to wonder if he'd rather compete for more World Series rings than go down with the ship in San Francisco. After all, he didn't sound too thrilled with the prospect of rebuilding amid the club's pursuit of Harper, according to Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle.

"I've always felt very fortunate to be part of an organization that tries to put a team on the field that has a chance to make the playoffs, to just get in and have a chance to compete in October, and I sure hope that's still the case," Posey said. "That's all I can hope for. That it's still the case."

There would be no more perfect scenario than Posey getting traded to an American League contender with money to spare and a designated hitter slot for him to occasionally slide into. The Red Sox could revisit their interest. If not, the Houston Astros, Seattle Mariners or Minnesota Twins might move to the front of the line.

That isn't to say National League contenders shouldn't also be in on Posey. The Braves could still use him. So could the Washington Nationals, and perhaps even the Chicago Cubs if Willson Contreras' defense continues to be a problem.

Posey sticking around with the Giants through the end of his contract wouldn't necessarily be an unhappy ending. He and the organization have been together since 2008, and the good times they've had make it hard to imagine him in any other uniform.

But since those good times are over, it also wouldn't be an unhappy ending if they both moved on.


Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.