In October, Alex Rodriguez was terrible when he did play, and he didn’t play all that much because of said terribleness. As Jeff noted during the ALCS, Rodriguez looked noticeably diminished after he came off the disabled list, especially against right-handers, and the contact issues suggested that he very well might not be 100% healthy.
Well, no more need to speculate – Joel Sherman reported this morning that A-Rod had surgery on his left hip and will be sidelined for 3-6 months. The end of that timeline would put him on track to return to the field in June, and given the lingering nature of hip problems, it’s probably not in the Yankees best interests to assume that he’s going to be back to 100% any time in the near future. In reality, Rodriguez is now a 37-year-old who has had surgery on both hips, and his body seems to be entering the stage where he’s unlikely to be able to be a full-time player going forward.
That leaves Brian Cashman with a role player who is due $114 million over the next five years. The only winner in this might be Ryan Howard, who is no longer the owner of the worst contract in baseball.
Now, the question for the Yankees is what they do at third base in 2013. Eric Chavez isn’t exactly the pinnacle of health, so while the left/right tandem worked pretty well last year, the Yankees probably need a healthier fill-in. Or, more realistically, they probably need a full-time third baseman to replace Rodriguez, who is a good bet to spend more time at DH than in the field for the rest of his career.
Unfortunately for New York, the third base market is less than stellar, and the best options available this winter are players with health questions – Kevin Youkilis, Jeff Keppinger, and the aforementioned Chavez. So, a full-time third baseman might need to come from the trade market, and as the Arizona Diamondbacks will tell you, there aren’t exactly a lot of good third base options available there either.
Just take a look at the Major League leaderboard at third base last year – it’s a collection of good players who aren’t going anywhere or guys who are various degrees of bad and/or broken. You can basically count on the top 10 third baseman on that list — Wright, Headley, Cabrera, Beltre, A. Ramirez, Zimmerman, Freese, Seager, Moustakas, and H. Ramirez — staying with their current teams for 2013 at minimum, and the pickings get pretty slim once you get past that group.
The league just lacks interesting young third baseman who haven’t already become franchise players. The guys who have established themselves have been good to give up, and there just isn’t a middle tier of useful talent to pluck from. The guys who are available are on the market because they’re A-Rod’s equal either in terms of age or physical durability.
This is what it’s come to the for the Yankees. Even if they were still acting like The Yankees (TM), there wouldn’t be anyone worth throwing huge amounts of cash at. New York now has a massive hole at third base and no real obvious solutions to the problem, so while Rodriguez might be a shell of his former self, this is still a bit of a blow to the team. At least a healthy-ish A-Rod represented an average (even if dramatically overpaid) third baseman, and the team could focus their off-season work on filling out the roster. Without A-Rod to begin the year and a big question mark beyond that, they now have to find a third baseman in a market where they really aren’t many to pick from.