Another tumultuous postseason from Alex Rodriguez, and this time by the Yankees as a whole, put the former superstar third baseman firmly in the spotlight in a very negative way. This October seemed to be nothing but strikeouts for A-Rod, and the public and front office responded swiftly and violently against him as he reaffirmed a general perception that he just doesn’t get it done when it counts. While I’m not one to believe in any one player’s “clutchness,” it’s undeniable that Rodriguez is a shell of the player he once was and his contract is a huge burden on his team.
Naturally all of the heat surrounding A-Rod immediately generated plenty of rumors suggesting he would be headed to another city before the start of the 2013 season. It’s obvious the Yankees will want to unload the $114 million over five years that Rodriguez is due to be paid, but is there any chance that’s even possible? As has been discussed relentlessly over the past couple of days, any trade that would end in A-Rod wearing a different uniform would also surely end in the Yankees gulping down a massive percentage of the money he’s still owed. Beyond worrying about the financial aspects of it, is there any chance a team would even want the would-be Hall of Famer at this stage in his career?
I can’t speak for any Major League front offices (seriously, I’m not qualified to do that at all), but I think there’s still value to be had in Rodriguez at the right price. A-Rod is 37 and diminished, and no one would want the guy for the full life of his current deal, but sometimes it’s easy to forget that he still provides decent production at third base when he’s healthy. Let’s look at his last couple of seasons, both of which have drawn severe ire from Yankee fans and haters alike.
In 2011 Alex Rodriguez was actually still an excellent third base option, hitting .276/.362/.461 and playing what UZR considered to be excellent defense. FanGraphs valued his contribution, which was sapped due to injuries, at 4.2 WAR. Even A-Rod’s much-maligned 2012 was worth 2.2 WAR over 529 PA despite a perception that he was basically yesterday’s garbage. Rodriguez hit .272/.353/.430 for a .342 wOBA and played decent-enough defense at the hot corner. Obviously that’s not a season worth north of $20 million, but if you’re going to pay the guy’s salary anyway that’s a solid guy to have.
The real question is this: do the Yankees think they have a better option to play third base? They don’t right now, and it would surely take some more free agent bargaining to make on magically appear. If the Yankees don’t have another third baseman in mind, wouldn’t keeping Rodriguez at least another season make some sense? He still figures to be a 3-WAR kind of third baseman even in his lesser state, and those don’t grow on trees. The Yankees will have to pretty much dole out all that cash anyway, so it might be wise to make use of it with the player involved.
Then again, this is the Yankees we’re talking about. When a player falls into bad graces with the organization or the media, he can be jettisoned in a hurry. And there’s also the possibility that the team feels they won’t be able to find a taker at all if they don’t take action now. It seems like, at least according to the media, that Rodriguez is going to find a new home sometime between now and April. While we don’t know if that’s true or not, it’s important to remember that in the right deal, a team could find a bargain in a fallen star with a tarnished image.