It’s an interesting dance, the New York Yankees and Alex Rodriguez.
I don’t believe that Rodriguez will ever don the pinstripes again, at least not beyond spring training. But everybody has to just keep pretending that everything’s just fine. He’s going to try to play third base, and now, according to ESPNNewYork’s Andrew Marchand, he’s going to work on first base, too:
Rodriguez, who will return next season from a one-year suspension, still is expected to primarily play third base and designated hitter.
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Cashman also said he plans on having contingency plans at third in case Rodriguez — who has had two hip surgeries — can’t stay on the field.
… and there it is. I’ll bet Cashman’s supposed contingency plans are actually his Plan A, which is re-sign Chase Headley. Since, you know, Headley’s now twice the player Alex Rodriguez is.
Rodriguez turns 40 next July. He hasn’t hit even 20 home runs in one season since he was 35. He hasn’t turned in a good season since he was 37. There’s just no reason for the Yankees to expect anything in 2015 but heartbreak and a bunch of annoying reporters.
So why bother with this? For Rodriguez, the answer is simple: $61 million, which he would forfeit by simply retiring. For the Yankees, the answer is almost as simple: the embarrassment they would suffer by simply releasing a player to whom they still owe $61 million. Especially if he somehow did hook on with another team and made some meaningful contribution.
And it’s true, the Yankees do need some help scoring runs. Entering last season, the big question mark was supposed to be their pitching. But even with CC Sabathia contributing almost nothing, the Yankees’ pitching was fine. Meanwhile, the hitting was just terrible, as only the Astros and Rays scored fewer runs than the Yankees. And only the Mariners finished with a lower on-base percentage.
So if Rodriguez can give them just 250 plate appearances of above-average production for a corner infielder, that would be a positive. On paper. In a vacuum. But the Yankees don’t play in a vacuum. I believe that anything positive that he’s likely to contribute would be more than balanced by all the negative attention that comes with all the accumulated baggage.
And it’s not like there’s no hope. Yes, Teixeira might be just about finished and the Yankees don’t have a suitable replacement at hand. Yes, there’s a gaping hole where a power-hitting designated hitter should be. But there’s some good news, too: Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran — last winter’s big free-agent signings, which we (or I, anyway) thought would balance the loss of Robinson Canó — should all be at least somewhat more productive next season.
I’m not saying the Yankees don’t have serious lineup problems, because they do. I’m saying they might have fewer than we think, and I’m saying that 39-going-on-40 Alex Rodriguez is ill-equipped to do much about them. Which is why I don’t expect to see him playing for the Yankees again, ever.