An oddly timed benching for Alex Rodriguez

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Alex Rodriguez appears about as helpless as a week-old kitten at the plate at the moment, at least when he’s facing right-handers, but that doesn’t make it any less baffling that manager Joe Girardi chose tonight’s Game 3 to bench him.

That’s because of the four homers the Yankees hit off Justin Verlander this year, Rodriguez was responsible for half of them.

A-Rod is 8-for-24 with three homers, four walks and just three strikeouts lifetime against Verlander. Now, that was probably the old A-Rod, the one who used to make contact more than once per game. Still, he was Girardi’s choice to start Games 1 and 2 of the ALCS despite looking horrible in the ALDS. Why sit him now?

Part of it is probably that Eric Chavez has also had some success against Verlander. In fact, he was 6-for-10 with a couple of doubles against him this year. But if the Yankees wanted, they could have used either A-Rod or Chavez at DH and stuck Raul Ibanez in left field. They were benching Nick Swisher anyway. As is, they decided to give Brett Gardner his first start since April in Swisher’s place, with Ichiro Suzuki shifting from left to right.

The changes leave the Yankees with a starting nine tonight that has four homers in 207 career at-bats against Verlander. Rodriguez and Swisher, in comparison, have combined for six homers in 79 at-bats.

I’m still not against the Rodriguez benching. He’s not the same player he was even earlier this year. It’s the timing of the decision that’s the problem. Rodriguez should have taken his seat prior to Game 2.

Report: Diamondbacks acquire Steven Souza from Rays in part of three-team deal

Tampa Bay Rays
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Update (6:35 PM ET): This is a three-team deal also involving the Diamondbacks, per Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. The Diamondbacks will receive outfielder Steven Souza from the Rays and second baseman Brandon Drury will head to the Yankees. Lefty reliever Anthony Banda will go to the Rays, Piecoro adds. The Diamondbacks will also receive prospect Taylor Widener from the Yankees, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post. MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert adds that the Rays will get two players to be named later from the D-Backs.

Souza, 28, is earning $3.55 million in his first of three years of arbitration eligibility, so the Rays are presumably saving money in moving him. Last season, Souza hit a productive .239/.351/.459 with 30 home runs, 78 RBI, 78 runs scored, and 16 stolen bases in 617 plate appearances. Souza’s arrival almost certainly pushes Yasmany Tomas out of a starting gig.

Drury, 25, has played a handful of positions in his brief major league career. Last year, he played second base in Arizona, batting .267/.317/.447 with 13 home runs and 63 RBI in 480 PA.

Banda, 24, made his major league debut last season, posting an ugly 5.96 ERA with a 25/10 K/BB ratio in 25 2/3 innings. The peripherals suggest he pitched better than his ERA indicated.

Widener, 23, was selected by the Yankees in the 12th round of the 2016 draft. This past season with High-A Tampa, he pitched 119 1/3 innings and posted a 3.39 ERA with a 129/50 K/BB ratio. MLB Pipeline rated Widener as the 14th-best prospect in the Yankees’ system.

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Robert Murray of FanRag Sports reports that the Rays will acquire second base prospect Nick Solak from the Yankees. The Yankees’ return is presently not known.

Solak, 23, was selected by the Yankees in the second round of the 2016 draft. He spent last season between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton, hitting a combined .297/.384/.452 with 12 home runs, 53 RBI, 72 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases.

MLB Pipeline ranked Solak as the eighth-best prospect in the Yankees’ system and the fifth-best second base prospect in baseball, praising him for his ability to hit line drives as well as his speed.