As Bob Sheppard’s voice rings out on opening day at Yankee Stadium, "Now playing first-base for the New York Yankees, Nomar Garciaparra", the Bleacher Creatures’ echoes erupt, "No-Mar Garci-a-Parra…", Nomar tips his cap and Yankee fans cheer deliriously and delightfully. Welcome to the future. Yesterday Joe Torre made his Bronx Bomber pitch to Nomar Garciaparra from his red phone, a rare call that usually signals the gift wrapping is under way. It looks like the Yankees might have three potential hall-of-fame shortstops starting in their infield next year.
Garciaparra’s agent Arn Tellem is one of Steinbrenner’s favorites. He is also Jason Giambi’s agent, which means that if Nomar does sign to play first-base, the Giambino’s move to designated hitter will be assuaged. Now that Blue Jays’ general manager J.P. Ricciardi has said ‘No More’ to Nomar, it appears that the four finalists for Garcy’s services are the Yankees, the Astros, the Dodgers and the Indians. Along with the Tellem angle, the Yankees are the only team of the four willing to keep Garciaparra in the infield. The media attention in New York also creates the perfect market for a great hitter trying to re-establish his value. If Nomar signs a one-year deal for about $4 or $5 million and has a successful season, he will command double that on next year’s free-agent market. The Astros are moving Lance Berkman to first-base and are looking at Garciaparra as a left-fielder, while the Indians and Dodgers are trying to upgrade in right-field. Since all four teams are looking at one-year deals, the Yankees should be able to outbid the others.
Because of two serious injuries (achilles and groin) over the last couple of seasons, many baseball observers perceive Garciaparra as an older ballplayer in decline. But take heart Yankee fans, Nomar is still only 32 years old and would be moving to first base at about the same age as another great former shortstop, Ernie Banks. Banks played another solid eight years and hit 214 of his 512 career home-runs after his positional switch in 1962 at age 31.
If the Yankees do come to terms with the former Bostonian, it would add the latest fire cracker to the fabled Red Sox-Yankees rivalry. Garciaparra would probably hit second in the lineup behind Derek Jeter. He could also slide into the seventh or eighth slot if the Yankees keep second baseman, Robinson Cano in the two-hole. Garciaparra is a lifetime .320 hitter and has the 48th all-time highest career batting average in major league history. He led the American League in hitting in 1999 (.357) and 2000 (.372) and has hit over .300 in eight different seasons.