Alex Rodriguez is having a nice month of May. Though the 36-year-old slugger has just three home runs since May first, he has raised his batting average by 43 points and his OPS by another 63 points over the last month. Coming off the worst season of his career, A-Rod is off to a pretty nice start for the Yankees, hitting .287 on the season with a .372 OBP and .431 SLG. More importantly, he’s played in 48 of the Yankees 49 games after missing 63 games in 2011. Fangraphs even places Rodriguez second on the Yankees in WAR, ahead of such players as Curtis Granderson and Derek Jeter.
Yet two months into the season a trend is developing in Rodriguez’s stat line that suggests the Yankees may need to start thinking long term about a replacement for Rodriguez at the hot corner. In 14 games as a designated hitter, Rodriguez is hitting .327 with an .850 OPS. In 33 games as a third baseman, Rodriguez is hitting just .272 with a .788 OPS. Rodriguez has said in the past that he feels more comfortable playing the field – most players maintain as much – and if you looked at the ten games he played outside the field in 2011, you might come to the same conclusion. But Rodriguez hit significantly better at designated hitter in both 2009 and 2010, and a similar split is developing a third of the way into this season.
To be sure, most of us have long assumed Rodriguez would end up at the DH position by the end of his mammoth contract, regardless of his offensive performance. But A-Rod is still in relatively good shape and still a solid defensive third baseman and despite the Yankees best efforts, Eduardo Nunez sits in AAA, unable to hit or field at the level requisite to replace a Hall of Famer part time. Eric Chavez is a capable replacement at times, though injury prone himself, and so for now the Yankees have what they need at the corner infield positions.
If Alex Rodriguez can continue to play third base it may make sense to keep him at the position for as long as possible. Picking up a veteran bat like Raul Ibanez to DH near full-time is far easier than replacing a full-time infielder. It is at least far less expensive. With over a hundred million dollars committed to Rodriguez going forward, and with a payroll crunch coming after the 2013 season, it would be only natural to extract as much value per dollar from Rodriguez as one possibly could. But if Alex is going to be less effective offensively playing the field it may make more sense to allow him to focus entirely on his offensive game. A-Rod is an old 36, with a decade and a half of baseball under his belt, but he still has the ability to change games offensively. Maybe as a full time designated hitter, this would shine through more often.
Regardless, there will likely come a time when keeping Rodriguez at third base is nearly impossible, due to injury or defensive ineptness. Who will the Yankees look to, sooner rather than later, to force the star off the position?
The answer could be internal. The 500-ton elephant in the room is Dante Bichette Jr., a top-10 Yankees prospect heading into the season after hitting .335 in his first year of professional baseball. Bichette, 19, was one of the more polished High School prospects in last years draft and many worried that his early performance in the low minor leagues was a sign of readiness rather than skill. Bichette is hitting just .267 on the season so far, with no home runs, and his performance has been largely overshadowed by the likes of Tyler Austin (no longer a third baseman) and Mason Williams (outfield). Should Bichette return to form, and should Rodriguez hang on long enough to allow the teenager time to reach the majors, he woud be a natural replacement at the position.
If the Yankees decide instead to make a move in the near future, it is unlikely they will find an internal option at third base. Eduardo Nunez has improved over the past few seasons – both offensively, and defensively - but his deficiencies are keeping him out of even a utility job at this point in time. Externally, there could be several options for the Yankees heading into the 2013 season.
Kevin Youkilis, 34, is in the final guaranteed year of his contract with the Boston Red Sox. With a $16 million team option on the table for 2013, and Will Middlebrooks making a name for himself in the big leagues, the “Greek God of Walks” looks poised to become a free agent for the first time. Youkilis has struggled so far this season, playing in just 25 games and hitting just .239, and certainly an injury prone, mid-30s corner infielder isn’t the best replacement for another injury prone, mid-30s corner infielder. But if the Yankees decide that A-Rod should become a full time DH by next season, Youkilis could help bridge the gap to a younger option.
Mark Reynolds is also an interesting possibility. Reynolds too has a team option for the 2013 season, but the third baseman, who is hitting .208 on the season with just two home runs, is probably not worth the full $11 million he’d be owed in Baltimore. Barring a major resurgence, Reynolds will likely be looking for a short term deal, the kind of deal that would allow him to prove that his 2009 and 2011 form is representative of his true ability. At 29, Reynolds could be a long term option for the Yankees, though he would more likely bridge the gap to 2014 and beyond.
Then there’s David Wright. At 29, Wright is arguably the most valuable player in the National League through two months, hitting .370 with a 1.039 OPS on the season. Wright has been a contendor for the award in most previous seasons and should be in line for a big contract either this off-season or next. The Mets will try to re-sign Wright long term, and may succeed. Even if they don’t, it’s likely they’ll exercise Wright’s $16 million club option for 2013 and try to trade the slugging corner infield for a haul of prospect. In either case, the Yankees are unlikely to become involved in a prospect bidding war. But should Wright reach the open market, he may make some sense for the team a subway ride away. It would be tough to commit $100+ million to another third baseman. It would be difficult to justify a large contract for David Wright in the face of an aging roster, a now-capable third baseman, and several top of the rotation pitching options. But the Yankees right handed hitting core is getting very old and they could surprise us by making a run at Wright.
Alex Rodriguez is still a very capable offensive player, a valuable albeit far too expensive part of the Yankees roster. He can still play the field but there’s reason to believe that maybe he shouldn’t be playing the field much longer. Whether the Yankees decide to stick with a platoon, and DH A-Rod a couple times a week in 2013 and beyond, remains to be seen. If not, Brian Cashman and his front office have options.
LIKE TYA ON FACEBOOK
- TYA To Merge With It’s About The Money, Stupid
- What about Kevin Youkilis?
- Teix Now Front And Center On The “Needs To Produce” Radar
- Cashman: Heathcott A Dark Horse Candidate
- A Dog Chasing Cars
- Outfield Trade Targets
- The Problem With Brett Gardner
- A Look At Relief Prospect Branden Pinder
- The Yankees Should Be Realistic, Put Team on Short Leash in 2013
- Briefly discussing the internal options to replace Curtis Granderson
- many dresses are especially for wedding or for other events2 on Chuck Johnson on Chase Whitley
- Brand bc on Briefly discussing the internal options to replace Curtis Granderson
- http://2804lasela.wordpress.com/ on TYA Predictions: Bold predictions for 2012
- the tao of badass pdf on What about Austin Romine?
- Joey Parkhill on Dante Bichette Jr’s Swing
- lululemon factory outlet on Contact Us
- Cary on Will R.A. Dickey’s Knuckleball Succeed In A Domed Stadium?
- Brenna on Links: Prospects, Support for A-Rod, Mariano is Love and Who’s in Center?
- Louis Vuitton Outlet Sale Singapore on The Monthly Prospector: April Edition
- Authentic Louis Vuitton Outlet Store on The Monthly Prospector: June Edition
TagsA.J. Burnett Alex Rodriguez Andy Pettitte Austin Romine Baltimore Orioles Bartolo Colon Boston Red Sox Brett Gardner Brian Cashman Bullpen CC Sabathia Chien-Ming Wang Cliff Lee Curtis Granderson David Robertson Dellin Betances Derek Jeter Francisco Cervelli Freddy Garcia Game Recap Hiroki Kuroda Ivan Nova Javier Vazquez Jesus Montero Joba Chamberlain Joe Girardi Johnny Damon Jorge Posada Manny Banuelos Mariano Rivera Mark Teixeira Melky Cabrera Michael Pineda New York New York Yankees Nick Johnson Nick Swisher Phil Hughes Prospects Rafael Soriano Red Sox Robinson Cano Russell Martin Tampa Bay Rays Yankees