With Alex Rodriguez‘s recent injury, freakish though it may be, we’re forced to think (again) about his future with the team. No, he’s not going to injure himself out of baseball and the team isn’t going to cut him. They’re stuck with him, for better or worse, until his contract runs out. I’m sure Brian Cashman and company have come to terms with it and fans need to do the same (if you haven’t done this by now, do it). What I’m talking about, of course, is his positional future. The days of A-Rod at third base may just be numbered.
Let’s start with a simple breakdown of A-Rod’s numbers at the various positions. Instead of taking his whole career into account, though, let’s look at post-2008, when the A-Rod we know, the oft-injured one, started to show up. From 2009 onward as a third baseman, A-Rod has hit .274/.363/.486 in 1469 at bats. In that same span as a DH, admittedly a much smaller sample–216 ABs–he’s hit .301/.382/.537. The batting average and on-base percentage are actually right inline with his career numbers (.301/.385), though the slugging is a bit lower. Now some of that is definitely random, especially because of the small sample, but this year the trend has continued (.772 OPS as 3B; .913 a DH). I give this a bit more weight because this year, Rodriguez is getting much more prescribed rest and DH-time; these aren’t random at-bats and there’s a plan as well as a trend that has continued.
Rodriguez’s injuries–the one’s he’s spent time on the DL for–have all been lower-body related (save for this recent one, which is definitely a bit different). He, of course, had his hip surgery. He also missed time with a knee injury and a calf injury. Those things most definitely do not bode well for a player taking the field every day, or even just most days. As Alex ages, those things are likely to get worse before they get better (and they may not get better at all). Getting him off the field will likely help him stay healthy and productive. That, of course, is the biggest benefit. There are definitely some cons. The biggest con is that there isn’t a ready replacement for him. Brandon Laird is probably a platoon bat at best and while Corban Joseph has certainly handled himself well, he’s a second baseman. I would like to see the Yankees try him at third since he really doesn’t have much of a future at second with New York, but I’m not sure if it’ll happen that way. And, of course, there’s the “value” argument. At least at third, he can provide some defensive value and his bat is likely to be farther above the average third baseman than it is to be above the average DH. But when we think about it for more than 30 seconds, we realize that he’s never going to live up to the dollar value of that contract. Like the length, it’s just something we’re stuck with. Now, we have to just let the Yankees get the most production out of Rodriguez possible and it seems that having him DH is the best way to do that. Even if there isn’t an immediate replacement and even if he’ll never return good “value,” the benefit of keeping him healthy and productive is much bigger than any con we can think of.
When we first discussed this idea in our email discussions right after A-Rod’s injury, I didn’t think it would or necessarily should mean the Yankees should shift him to DH. But the more and more I think about it, the more appealing it gets and the more sense it makes.
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