But Joe Girardi said Wednesday the 22-year-old catcher still has to earn his roster spot in the spring. "No, he's not guaranteed a spot," Girardi said. "Do we want him to make the team and be productive and have his bat in the lineup? Yes, we do."
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And not only do the Yankees want that out of Montero, who hit .328 with four homers and 12 RBIs in 18 games in September and was included on the postseason roster, they expect it.
"Are those expectations we have for him? Yes," Girardi said. "We expect him to perform at a level that he helps us next year. I'm not saying he would be our full-time DH, because I think we need to rotate that around a little bit, but we expect to give him at-bats as a DH next year."
Girardi, and later in the day general manager Brian Cashman, said the Yankees very well may carry three catchers -- Francisco Cervelli would be the third -- but the anticipation is to put Montero behind the plate in more than strictly emergency situations. "We still consider him a catcher," Girardi said.
Said Cashman: "He needs to catch. I expect him to catch a lot in the spring. I would think he'll continue that development as a catcher in season as well at the major-league level."
Cashman compared, and not for the first time, the doubts about Montero's catching ability to those accompanying Jorge Posada, a converted second baseman, at the start of his career. Although Posada was never lauded for his work behind the plate, he developed into a more than serviceable receiver.
"We were right about Posada and we'll be right about Montero," Cashman said.
The Yankees won the posting on Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima for $2 million, hardly a budget-busting sum. The winning bid gives the Yankees an exclusive 30-day negotiation window to come to an agreement with the 29-year-old Seibu Lions' team captain. The righthanded-hitting Nakajima hit .297 with 16 homers and 100 RBIs last season and starred in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, hitting .364 with six walks and six RBIs in seven games.
One scout who has seen Nakajima extensively in Japan said the shortstop "has talent" but that "he has a strong tendency to always look to pull. Maybe [hitting coach] Kevin Long can fix some of these issues."
If Nakajima signs -- and it is not guaranteed he does -- the Yankees see him as a backup who can play short, second and third. Nakajima would seem to open up trade possibilities with Eduardo Nunez, coveted by several teams, but Cashman said both could fit on the roster.
As for what fans would consider major moves, there have been none for the Yankees and that could remain the case the rest of the offseason, though if prices come down on the free agent and trade front that can always change.
"We're trying to be patient and smart and be aggressive, as we always are, to improve the team and that's never going to change," team president Randy Levine said Wednesday after a news conference at the Stadium to discuss this year's Pinstripe Bowl. "But right now prices are really, really high and not something we feel is in the best interests of the team. So, Cash is going to be very patient, he's going to sit and wait for the right deal to come in at the right price that helps the team. We're just trying to be smarter this year."
With Steven Marcus