First he was pinch hit for, then he was benched, and now, apparently, Alex Rodriguez is set to become the first player traded from a playoff team in the middle of a postseason series. OK, fine, maybe that last part is a bit of an exaggeration, but even though the Bronx Bombers are still clinging to their postseason life, so many seem eager to throw dirt on Arod’s Yankee career.
At this point, it doesn’t really matter why Arod is being singled out from a lineup that includes six Yankees with a postseason OPS below .560. Whether Joe Girardi really believes Rodriguez’ struggles against right handers have reached the point of no return, or off-field behavior has contributed to his benching, the Yankees have ensured themselves of an offseason that will be even more challenging than stringing together a few hits in October.
The easy solution proposed by many is for the Yankees to eat most of Arod’s contract and ship him off to another team. In others words, dump him. Of course, under that scenario, no one ever mentions who would then play third base. Even though Rodriguez’ .342 wOBA in 2012 was a somewhat of a disappointment, it still dwarfed the .314 rate compiled at the position by the entire American League. Also, since 2010, the beginning of what most refer to as his precipitous decline, Rodriguez has compiled a fWAR of 10.2, which ranks fourth in the A.L. over that span.
Top-10 A.L. Third Basemen, 2010-2012
Note: Data includes games not played at 3B, which further illustrates the weakness of the position.
Is Arod in decline? Yes. He is unlikely to play more than 120 games in a season? Yes. Is his salary commensurate with his performance? Not any more. And yet, despite all of those negatives, Rodriguez has still been a productive player. So, if the Yankees’ solution is to simply dump him, they’d better be prepared to spend big bucks for a replacement. Like him (and his contract) or not, Rodriguez is still an important part of the Yankees’ lineup, so the team can’t justify jettisoning him as a case of addition by subtraction. This isn’t A.J. Burnett.
If the Yankees can trade Alex Rodriguez and wind up with a better player at third base, then by all means, they should pursue that opportunity. Ultimately, baseball is a business, and loyalty is a dead end. However, if they can’t upgrade at the position, the team would be cutting off its nose to spite its face by dumping a player who, when healthy, is still very productive. Hopefully, the Yankees won’t take the easy way out of a mess they’ve helped create because the path of least resistance is usually the one headed down.