Alex Rodriguez must be out there somewhere, somewhere in the night... - Al Bello
Joe Girardi said on Wednesday that Alex Rodriguez would be the everyday third baseman in 2013. But what if Rodriguez is no longer capable of playing every day?
I note with some amusement that in today's Joe Girardi press conference he said, "I expect Alex [Rodriguez] to be our everyday third baseman. What's he going to have to show me? That he's healthy and ready to go, that's the bottom line, that he has no concerns and we have no concerns about putting him out there every day." It's nice to see that we're kicking off the winter with a healthy dose of fresh denial.
I spent a good deal of time last winter arguing that the Yankees needed to have two third basemen this year. Rodriguez's propensity for injury and need for increased rest through the designated hitter position meant that he had started only of 534 of 810 possible games at third since 2007. This isn't a problem if your reserve third basemen is someone productive, but if the backup is Ramiro Pena, Cody Ransom, Angel Berroa, Kevin Russo, Alberto Gonzalez, or even the 2011 version of Eric Chavez, the team is taking a big hit whenever A-Rod goes down... and A-Rod was going to go down.
It was only due to Chavez's unlikely comeback year that the Yankees weren't burned quite the same way in 2012. Not only does it take almost drunken optimism to think that Rodriguez is going to be "out there every day" in 2013, one also has to be at least somewhat skeptical that Chavez can have another such season at 35 given that he hadn't come close to this level of production since 2004 and had spent, no foolin', an average of 121 days a season on the disabled list from 2007 through 2011. Chavez is now headed to free agency, and though the Yankees can certainly re-sign him, there is considerable risk in relying upon him to once again keep the position above replacement level when Rodriguez is restricted to his Kryptonian healing chamber in the Fortress of Centaurhood.
If the Yankees truly intend to put all their eggs in the A-Rod basket, they are setting themselves up to be in the exact fix they were in before Chavez's revival -- and I'm sorry, but even if you believe that Eduardo Nunez's bat can carry the position (I don't), his defensive problems alone should disqualify him. Conversely, Jayson Nix can field the position, but just isn't enough of a hitter (career .199 average against right-handed pitching) to do much more than platoon there, and even then his percentages against left-handers (.239/.309/.428, worse than that as a Yankee) are poor compared to the advantage the typical right-handed hitter has when facing a southpaw.
I know the free-agent list for third basemen is appallingly bad this year, likely consisting of Kevin Youkilis (maybe, if his option is bought out) and guys like Brandon Inge, but that's no excuse for complacency. There are trades to be made, perhaps, but they won't happen if acquiring depth at the position isn't a priority for the organization. You know the cliché about the definition of insanity being doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result. Well, thinking that Rodriguez is going to play 150 games next year is an example of exactly that.