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11/11/07 11:14 PM ET

Posada, Yankees 'close' to deal

Catcher indicates first choice is to return to Bronx

NEW YORK -- Jorge Posada wants to come back, and that's no pipe dream. Posada confirmed his foremost desire to remain with the Yankees on Sunday night, several outlets reported, and disclosed that the two sides are "really close" to a deal.

"My first priority is the Yankees," Posada told a group of New York reporters at a Knicks game. "I would like to stay with the Yankees. My heart is with the Yankees, so hopefully we can get something done."

The Yankees have one last day to negotiate with Posada exclusively, before he officially becomes a free agent on Tuesday at 12:01 a.m. ET. The catcher can then sign with any club, and will have plenty of suitors. The Mets, Blue Jays and Marlins are all reportedly interested, and Posada told reporters Sunday that he has plans to speak with the Mets imminently.

Should the Yankees manage to sign Posada before he hits the open market on Tuesday, they would save themselves the trouble of a potential bidding war in a free-agent pool nearly devoid of premium catching talent. From Posada's comments at the Knicks game, that is indeed a possibility -- though from a Yankees standpoint, it remains rooted more in hope.

The Yankees have already reportedly offered Posada a contract in the neighborhood of three years and $40 million, and several published reports over the weekend contended that the team is prepared to sweeten those terms before Tuesday.

"We're really close," Posada told reporters. "It's not about the money. For me, it's the best situation."

Posada can afford to admit his penchant for the Yankees. He has plenty of leverage, thanks in large part to his career year -- he hit .338 with 20 home runs and 90 RBIs -- and to a lesser degree the nature of the market. More than a handful of teams could use a slugging catcher, and Posada is unquestionably this year's top prize. Other notable free-agent catchers include Paul Lo Duca, Michael Barrett and Yorvit Torrealba, none of whom came close to matching Posada's production this past season.

One place Posada won't go is to Los Angeles, where former Yankees manager Joe Torre has begun importing talent in a steady stream. Torre already lured coaches Don Mattingly and Larry Bowa across the country, and on Friday assessed the chance that he could do the same with third baseman Alex Rodriguez.

But with All-Star Russell Martin firmly entrenched behind home plate for the Dodgers, Posada isn't inclined to join his old skipper.

"They have a catcher," Posada said. "The only teams that I'm going to is teams that they don't have any catcher, so for me right now it's New York."

Hot Stove
The question remains which borough. Should Posada indeed hit the open market on Tuesday, there's little doubt the Mets -- with their deep pockets, hometown advantage and need for a catcher -- would send a tempting offer. And that could easily jack up the price across town.

Even if Posada plans on returning, that doesn't mean he's done shopping -- or done coaxing some extra cash out of the Yankees. But Sunday's interview was an admission nonetheless. All things being equal, the Yankees remain first on his list.

"Right now it's up in the air," Posada said, "but the chances are good."

Posada is one of only four Yankees with links back to all four of the team's most recent World Series titles. Another, Mariano Rivera, is expected to hit the free-agent market with Posada on Tuesday. And a third, Andy Pettitte, stated earlier this month that he will either return to the Yankees or retire. Only Derek Jeter is certain to return to the club come spring -- and he said on Friday that he expected both Rivera and Posada to return.

"I think they're coming back," Jeter said. "That's the best way I can say it."

Anthony DiComo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.