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.