Alex Rodriguez is struggling yet again in 2016, and with the New York Yankees eyeing a playoff return, benching Rodriguez against right-handers could soon become a routine move for manager Joe Girardi.
In the midst of a season in which Alex Rodriguez has struggled, the New York Yankees decided to bench the designated hitter for a second straight game Monday. It seems as if his job as an everyday DH is fading away.
Manager Joe Girardi expects the 40-year-old to sit against most right-handed pitchers the Yankees face in the future. He did, however, acknowledge that Rodriguez will start against left-hander Cole Hamels on Tuesday.
While there is no indication whether Rodriguez will strictly be the DH against left-handers, the Yankees will be giving more at-bats to Aaron Hicks, who would start in right field. Carlos Beltran would then become the DH.
“Like I said, this is a tough decision,” Girardi said to ESPN.com. “This is something we are looking at.”
Benching Rodriguez is not an easy decision for the Yankees, who owe him $21 M both this and the following year. However, Rodriguez is falling short of expectations, posting a weak slash line of .223/.264/.398 on the year. He also has eight home runs and 26 RBI.
Since returning from his 162-game suspension, Rodriguez has experienced many ups and downs. He hit .278 with 18 home runs in the first half of the 2015 season before hitting a slump, finishing the rest of the year batting .216 with 15 home runs.
This year is similar to the second half of last season, as he is hitting for power, but is not making contact as often. According to Fangraphs, Rodriguez is striking out in nearly 30 percent of his at-bats. The last time he finished near that percentage was in his first few seasons in the majors with the Seattle Mariners.
Not only that, but his BABIP is at a career low .271. His WAR is also negative for the first time since 1995.
A long tenure in the majors for Rodriguez may be coming to an end soon. With the Yankees deciding to roll with Hicks, (.219/.273/.336, three home runs and eight doubles), the team is much better off defensively.
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Before joining the Yankees this year, Hicks was known for having a good glove in the outfield. In his final season with Minnesota, he posted a 2.4 DEF.
As for Beltran, who will shift to DH when Hicks is stationed in right, the 39-year-old has not been the most reliable glove as he nears the end of his career. Beltran has a -7.5 DEF, with his last positive year of DEF coming in 2007 while a member of the New York Mets.
Another reason for the move is to preserve the health of Beltran, who has been known as an injury-prone player throughout his career. Moving him to DH against right-handers is a precaution worth taking.
The Yankees cannot afford to lose the outfielder, who is arguably having the best season amongst his teammates. Beltran is hitting .278 with 19 home runs and 53 RBI – matching his home run total in 2015. He may very well end up with a nod in the All-Star Game, as his 19 home runs rank fourth in the American League.
New York is slipping away from playoff contention and fast, currently at 37-38 on the year. They are eight games behind the AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles and sit three out of the second Wild Card slot.
Making this move could help the team in the long-run, who eye another playoff appearance after being eliminated in the Wild Card game against the Houston Astros last season.
When speaking on the possibility of reducing Rodriguez’s at-bats, general manager Brian Cashman said, “How can we better? We have a short sprint now until the trade deadline. This team needs to declare itself as good enough as contenders or not.”
Meanwhile, Rodriguez holds a positive outlook and believes he will be back as a consistent contributor in no time, saying, “You haven’t heard the last of me.”