This just isn’t the time for Yankees to trade Alex Rodriguez

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As far as I can tell, Alex Rodriguez committed two crimes this month. He played pretty horribly in the playoffs, which hardly put him among the minority of Yankees hitters, and he embarrassed his team by reportedly trying to get a woman’s digits from the dugout.

In the case of the latter, absolutely no one would have have cared it he had hit .400 in the postseason instead of .100. He’s not the first or the 100th player to try to hook up from the dugout or bullpen. And one imagines he didn’t suddenly get the idea to try it for the first time in his 2,595th major league game.

As for the former, well, he stunk up the joint, no doubt about it. And because of his salary and stature, he makes for an easy target. But it should be remembered that he was just 2 1/2 months removed from suffering a broken left hand. Even if that doesn’t explain the slow bat, it still gives him a better excuse for his struggles than anything Robinson Cano or Curtis Granderson will be able to come up with.

Going forward, Rodriguez projects as a wildly overcompensated complimentary player. He’s 37, his OPS has declined five years running and he hasn’t played in more than 140 games since 2007. The $118 million he’ll make these next five years probably makes him a good $70 million-$80 million overpaid.

That said, his defense at third isn’t bad and he’s never not been an above average hitter. Kevin Youkilis is pretty easily the best third baseman available in free agency, and if he’s a better bet than A-Rod for 2013, it’s only slightly. Both are injury prone, and Rodriguez was the superior hitter of the two this year. And considering what the Yankees would have to pay to get another team to take Rodriguez, they’d almost certainly have to spend more to replace him with Youkilis than they would if they kept him.

After Youkilis, there’s Scott Rolen, who will probably retire, and some singles-hitting stopgaps like Marco Scutaro, Jeff Keppinger, Placido Polanco and Maicer Izturis. The Yankees can re-sign Eric Chavez, but he’s not going to start.

So, if the Yankees actually want to improve their third base situation this winter, it’d likely mean giving up  at least two of their best prospects for San Diego’s Chase Headley. They could also try a prospect-for-prospect deal with the Rangers for Mike Olt, but again, that would hardly guarantee an immediate upgrade.

The way I see it, this is the worst possible time for the Yankees to trade Rodriguez. They’d have to eat the vast majority of his salary to make a deal, and they’d likely worsen the on-field product at the same time. There’s nothing to be gained except for appeasing the media and some loudmouth fans who won’t be any less likely to attend games next year just because A-Rod is still at the hot corner.

Now, there likely will come a time when eating Rodriguez’s salary in order to facilitate a deal will make sense, and the Yankees should definitely be on the lookout for a third baseman of the future if there’s one to be had. But if they trade A-Rod this winter, they’ll likely be worse for it.

2017 Winter Meetings Preview

Craig Calcaterra
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL — The baseball world has descended on the Swan and Dolphin Resort at Disney World for the 2017 Winter Meetings. There’s a lot of work to be done.

The two biggest names on the market — Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton — have found new homes, but so far only 33 of baseball’s 249 free agents have signed, almost all of them minor. Still looking for a home: Yu Darvish, J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Jake Arrieta, CC Sabathia, Lorenzo Cain, Wade Davis, Lance Lynn, Greg Holland and many, many more. In early November we ran down the top free agents, position-by-position, to help you get a jump on who is available and what your team is looking at as it seeks to fill its needs.

It’s not just players looking for homes this week, however. It’s teams looking to make up for their failures in the Ohtani and Stanton derbies. The Cardinals and Giants both went big to get Stanton and came up empty. The Giants were likewise in Ohtani, but no dice. Baseball’s worst team in 2017 is obviously willing to spend some money to improve, and now they will look elsewhere to spend it. The Red Sox weren’t in on those two, but since it’s biggest rival landed Giancarlo Stanton, GM Dave Dombrowski will no doubt be kicking the tires hard on J.D. Martinez or Eric Hosmer to try to keep pace. The Mariners acquired a lot of international pool money in their quest for Ohtani, but they could still use a starting pitcher or two, so perhaps they may look at, say, Jake Arrieta? Lance Lynn? Yu Darvish? Well, they should, but who knows if they will.

Despite the sheer number of available free agents, this is a thin free agent class in terms of talent. That means that, for a team to improve significantly, they may be better served by making a trade. The Marlins already traded Stanton, but their fire sale does not seem to be over. Could they deal the newly-acquired Starlin Castro? Christian Yelich? Marcel Ozuna? Bet on yes, and bet on any team wishing to spend prospects instead of free agent cash to take what Miami is unloading. Other potential trade candidates: Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen, Rays starter Chris Archer and third baseman Evan Longoria and Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler.

Trade deals and free agent negotiations take place behind closed doors at the Swan and Dolphin. One of the major public activities of the Winter Meetings is when all 30 of the managers meet and greet the press. This year there are six new men at the helm: Dave Martinez in Washington, Mickey Callaway with the Mets, Gabe Kapler — Baseball’s Most Handsome Manager — in Philly, Alex Cora in Boston, Aaron Boone with the Yankees and Rob Gardenhire with the Tigers. I’ll be in the scrum for a lot of these guys — they do them two at a time so I can’t see everyone — and will let you know if they say anything fun. Or if any of them slug me for saying that they’re ugly.

Outside of the transactions and the Hall of Fame stuff, we have the more mundane Winter Meetings business. Indeed, the vast majority of the people at the Meetings aren’t there for transactions. They’re there to network, seek jobs and discuss the business of baseball like any other industry convention. Ever year we hear about a rule change or a proposal for future rule changes at the Meetings. The big one everyone is talking about this offseason is the possibility of a pitch clock.

The final event of the Winter Meetings is the Rule 5 Draft, which will take place at 8am on Thursday morning. You likely have no idea who most of the players who will be selected are, but here’s a good place to start your research on that. If your team takes someone in the draft, the most important thing to know is that he’ll either be on the big league roster all year or he’ll have to be returned to his original team. Well, they could be stashed on the disabled list with phantom injuries so they won’t have to be returned, but no team would ever do that, would they? Perish the thought.

So, yes, there’s a lot to be done. I’ll be on the scene down here at Disney World, bringing you all the best hot stove business we have to offer and, as usual, some more fun odds and ends from baseball’s biggest offseason event.