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Chipper and A-Rod: Saying Goodbye

We’re having more fun with third basemen here as we continue to roll through Zach Sander’s Third Base End of Season Rankings. For today, I thought I’d take this opportunity to actually say goodbye to a couple of former stalwarts who have been an integral part of a number of fantasy championships over the last two decades. Chipper Jones, Alex Rodriguez, it was, without a doubt, our pleasure to have you on our rosters.

Since Chipper has already announced his formal retirement, let’s start with him. I’m sure there is someone in the FanGraphs family that will do some glorious tribute to him and his amazing 18 year career, so I’ll just do a quick look in relation to the fantasy game. Probably too quick a look, but a look nonetheless.

When it came to drafting Chipper as your starting third baseman, you can probably break the career down into three stages —

  1. Nine Years of Bliss: Fantastic power, strong .300-plus average, great RBI totals and just killer on-base percentages. He was always well worth  the price you paid for him.
  2. Four Years of Trepidation:  Injuries begin to rear their ugly head, drop-off in power production, and those who drafted him were in definitely in need of a solid contingency plan as he was always expected to miss some time.
  3. Five Years of Decline: More injuries and expected time missed, declining numbers overall, more of a corner infield option than someone you wanted as your everyday third basemen.

Though there were times when you wanted to kill yourself for having to endure so many trips to the DL with such an array of injuries, when he was playing, he was producing. His time spent on the DL would re-charge his batteries and he would always seem to come back strong; at least strong enough to carry him through to the next DL stint. I’m obviously over-simplifying a phenomenal career, but it’s the only way to prevent this from turning into a total fluff piece. The bottom line is that he was a phenomenal player, is destined for a trip to the Hall of Fame, and though some would feel that he took too long to call it quits, still found a way to be productive right and earn a positive value until the very end.

The career of Alex Rodriguez has taken a very similar path. However, we’re probably looking at just two stages instead of three with an extended blissful period and no period of trepidation; just a more abrupt decline. We’re looking at 13 years of being the best player in fantasy and a no-brainer, top three overall pick. But in 2009, the body began to break down a little more often and suddenly his numbers began to plummet as fast as the number of games he was able to play in a full season. He’s actually now missed almost a third of the games over the last two seasons and is now more of a cautionary tale rather than a guy you just gotta have.

But the career continues in 2013. While he’s declined in everything from strikeout and walk rates to ISO to batting average to wOBA, there is still something left in the tank. Where he actually gets to spend that last bit of energy though, remains a slight mystery and wonderful ball of speculation. He’s got five years left on his current contract and another $124 million owed to him which makes him a very tough trade candidate unless the Yankees feel like eating a ton of money (and that’s putting it nicely). He was benched during the playoffs and the Yankee faithful have been trying to run him out of town for some time now. Manager Joe Girardi said that A-Rod would be his starting third basemen entering 2013 spring training but there have also been rumors of a potential deal to Miami. Wherever he ends up, his value will be similar to Chipper’s during his final days and probably finish lower than the $7 value he accrued in 2012.

Two men, two fantasy studs, two cowboys riding off into the sunset. It’s been a great run, boys. Thanks for the championships.