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March 6, 2009

Prospectus Today

There's a Breach

by Joe Sheehan

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Short of finding termites in their new ballpark, the Yankees got about the worst news possible on Thursday. Alex Rodriguez has a torn labrum in his right hip, and he could be out for up to four months. There is considerable doubt about what will happen in the short term, with surgery initially being reported as already calendared for Monday, and the Yankees following up later in the day by saying that surgery was potentially avoidable. As Will Carroll points out, it's possible that Rodriguez will respond to the aspiration of the cyst caused by the tear and be back in the field in a month. He could also require surgery that would cost him the better part of the season.

If Rodriguez has to miss any time, the Yankees are in bad shape. As with the Jorge Posada injury last year, the team is left without any kind of capable backup. You could argue that Posada's shoulder injury, which forced Jose Molina to take on the bulk of the catching duties and cost the team 40 to 50 runs, was the difference between making the postseason, and not. Once again, the Yankees have no major league backup. Of the players in camp, Eric Duncan and Cody Ransom have third base on their resumes, but neither can carry the position. Kevin Goldstein is particularly unimpressed by the prospect: "In 64 games at third base last year, Duncan had more errors (11) than double plays (eight), and hit just .233/.295/.366." Ransom has an acceptable .251/.348/.432 line in scattered MLB playing time; in his minor league career, he's played in 222 games at third base with a .959 fielding percentage and a 27/22 DP/E ratio. That's not encouraging.

Looking outside the organization is a better option, but the Yankees are limited by the uncertainty over how long Rodriguez will be out. A team already stuffed to the gills with corner players can't easily bring in a third baseman in trade, someone like Garret Atkins or Adrian Beltre, and be left with no place to play him come June. On the discard pile you have Esteban German, who was designated for assignment by the Royals last week. Jay Jaffe scanned a list of players who were out of options and found Dallas McPherson and Jeff Baker, both of whom could be a short-term patch. The recently outrighted Andy Marte might be available, though it's unclear if he can hold a major league job.

Jaffe also pointed out that the Dodgers' Mark Loretta has become expendable in the wake of the Orlando Hudson signing. He brings a glove, some OBP, and the ability to be a useful bench player once Rodriguez returns. The Dodgers have some issues in the back end of their rotation and bullpen, and the Yankees' depth in those spots could make a trade work. Loretta, as a free agent signed during this past winter, would have to approve any deal.

Bil Burke noted that the Yankees' traded away a player they could use, sending Wilson Betemit to the White Sox in the Nick Swisher trade. Betemit's lefty pop and so-so glove would look like vintage Graig Nettles to the Yanks right now. Although the Sox would like Josh Fields to take the third-base job, his limitations make it likely that Betemit will get at least 300 PAs as part of a platoon, which is a long-winded way of saying "no backsies."

There's one internal option that's a bit high-risk, but worth mentioning. Xavier Nady was a third baseman at Cal, and got a couple of starts there in 2005 when the Padres had the need. His bat plays better at third than in the outfield corners, and playing him there would also clear up the outfield logjam for a little while. There's a defensive hit, of course, but the upgrade over Nady in the outfield-everyone who might play right field in his stead is a better defender than he is-mitigates that somewhat. There are no good choices here; going with Nady at least has some secondary benefits and doesn't cost a roster spot or talent. At the least, it's worth asking him if he remembers what he did with his infielder's glove, as a solution involving Ransom may also involve the desire to pinch-hit for him late in games.

Until they know just how long Rodriguez will be out, there's little the Yankees can do to replace him. Even if they do make a move, it's just a patch; you can't replace one of the very best players in baseball. If he misses even a month, the Red Sox take over as favorites in the AL East.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

41 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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bizbaz
(692)
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Maybe it is just me but do we need 3 columns in one day about A-Rod ? Surely there must be something else to talk about in the world of baseball today.

Mar 06, 2009 09:35 AM
rating: -7
 
Teraxx

I guess you're not aware of how impactful this is to the team, the division and the league...

Mar 06, 2009 09:58 AM
rating: 0
 
eighteen
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For some of us, the baseball universe does not revolve around the Yankees and the AL East.

Mar 06, 2009 10:44 AM
rating: -5
 
Teraxx

That isn't the point. This is BIG NEWS, particularly on the heels of his confession, regardless of what planet you think the baseball universe revolves around.

Mar 06, 2009 12:48 PM
rating: -1
 
eighteen

Yeah, I know it's BIG NEWS. It's just not 3-columns-in-one-day BIG NEWS to those of us who don't care to pay for Yankee-centric content here. This isn't Yankee Prospectus.

Plenty of Yankee fansites and blogs are analyzing the hell out of this story every minute of every day. People who want full, complete, up-to-the-minute coverage aren't tuning into BP to get it.

Yes, BP should cover the story. No, it shouldn't devote virtually an entire day's content to it.

Mar 06, 2009 13:56 PM
rating: 1
 
ccweinmann

No, it's not just you. ARod (and the Yankees) get more than their fair share (in my opinion) of press around here. Probably a function of what the authors know best and are paying the most attention to, which is fair, I suppose.

Mar 06, 2009 09:54 AM
rating: 1
 
amazin_mess

Totally agree. Way too much time spent on the Yankees.

Mar 06, 2009 19:24 PM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

I know I was one of many who dissed A-Rod's PECOTA projections, but the fact he got hurt and the Yankees might make him play through it is just flat-out eerie. Maybe PECOTA thought he'd have an injury breakdown?

Also, I can't help recall that Mickey Mantle's cyst derailed his 1961 season (and later career), supposedly from a shot of infamous B-12.

Mar 06, 2009 10:05 AM
rating: 3
 
Vinegar Bend
(477)

Was it the 1961 season? He was awesome that year. Or were you being sarcastic?

Mar 06, 2009 11:59 AM
rating: 1
 
TADontAsk

I believe he is talking about the very end of that 1961 season. The last week or so of the regular season, and post-season. Mantle only had 6 at-bats in the World Series, getting only 1 single.

Mar 06, 2009 13:11 PM
rating: 3
 
WholeLottaGame

Running through my head the list of possible options, I came to pretty much the same conclusion: not good. I hadn't considered Nady there, though if he could swing it that would kill 2 birds with one stone (the OF/DH logjam and the A-rod issue).

Mar 06, 2009 10:22 AM
rating: 1
 
pilamkl

What about Mark Teixeira? The 180 million dollar man played third in the minors... how about shifting him across the diamond and playing a combination of Swisher/Posada at first?

Mar 06, 2009 10:40 AM
rating: 4
 
JayhawkBill

According to Baseball Reference minor league stats, Teixeira had a .917 career minor league fielding percentage at third base. The next year he had an .811 fielding percentage playing third base with Texas. I don't believe that he's played as much as an inning at third base, at any level, since 2003. Disregarding the challenges he might have regarding range in trying to move the wrong way on the defensive spectrum, it's not unreasonable to expect that he might make 30-40 errors if allowed to play half a season at third base. His 2003 third base Davenport Fielding Translation Fielding Rate of 73 suggests that he might cost the Yankees over 20 runs by playing 80-odd games at third base. These are admittedly small sample sizes, but Teixeira is admittedly six years older and no longer a third baseman.

I'd enjoy watching Mark Teixeira at third base, too, but that's only because I believe that Alex Rodriguez would receive a warmer welcome upon his return to pinstripes if Teixeira had been playing third base in his absence, and A-Rod has legitimately had a tough time with the media and the fans so far this year.

Mar 06, 2009 15:31 PM
rating: 2
 
Rob_in_CT

The problem with the Nady idea is Nady hasn't played 3B in 4 years, and that was a brief emergency appearance. He's very likely to be AWFUL defensively. Not bad, as Cody Ransom may be, but flat-out "I can't watch this" awful.

I wish it was a viable option, really I do. But I can't see it.

Mar 06, 2009 10:42 AM
rating: 1
 
ClubberLang

"Although the Sox would like Josh Fields to take the third-base job, his limitations make it likely that Betemit will get at least 300 PAs as part of a platoon, which is a long-winded way of saying "no backsies.""

I don't think it's so much that the Sox wouldn't send Betemit back as the Yankees would be nuts to pay what the likely cost would be. Potential trade partners would figure they have the Yanks over a barrel here, so can you imagine the Sox asking for anything less than Austin Jackson, who's almost certainly already better than the dreck the Sox are running out to center this year?

Mar 06, 2009 11:00 AM
rating: 0
 
chuckmotl

Right, because the Yankees are better off in CF than the White Sox? Keep drinking that Yankee Kool Aid, buddy.

Mar 07, 2009 11:12 AM
rating: -3
 
Ragnhild

Don't worry Joe, I hear they did a smart job rebuilding their bullpen.

Mar 06, 2009 11:16 AM
rating: -3
 
sbnirish77

touche

Mar 06, 2009 14:51 PM
rating: 0
 
pschoenke

Twins fans have to be very happy Joe Crede's deal wasn't being finalized when this news broke.

Mar 06, 2009 11:55 AM
rating: 0
 
sbnirish77

Manny would still be a free agent (compliments of boras) had this broke earlier

Mar 06, 2009 14:53 PM
rating: 1
 
Pietaster07

You know it!

Mar 06, 2009 15:32 PM
rating: 0
 
Vinegar Bend
(477)

The Dodgers have 3 suitable 3B (DeWitt, Blake and Loretta). They should be emailing Cashman with a list of Yankee prospects they want right about now.

Mar 06, 2009 12:03 PM
rating: 1
 
Amol

Eric Duncan didn't actually get invited to the major league camp this year, Joe. In addition to Ransom the actual list of players who are there and have played third base at least semi-regularly in the past few years is:

Justin Leone
Doug Bernier
Kevin Russo

None of them seem like better options than Ransom, but it's at least worth mentioning that they're there.

Mar 06, 2009 12:03 PM
rating: 3
 
hessshaun
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Hold on a second. Did ESPN purchase BP last night? Three articles with AROD as the focus? Can't wait to log in tomorrow. RED SOX!

Mar 06, 2009 12:34 PM
rating: -13
 
s0uthsider

Sheesh.

Just because A-Rod is perceived as irreplaceable doesn't mean you have to automatically hand over the division to the Red Sox.....

They don't play 162 games just to pad Uncle Bud's wallet.

Mar 06, 2009 12:57 PM
rating: -1
 
molokai

The Rays may have still have something to say about the Sox being handed the division.

So where is this deep bullpen Joe was referring to regarding the Yanks? Marte is expensive so the Dodgers can't afford him, who else would be a worthwhile pickup? Would the Yankee's consider Ian Kennedy for a stop gap like Loretta? Seems to pricey to me but I just don't much in the Yankee Bullpen that looks better then what the Dodgers have in camp.
Yankee's
Marte,D
Veras,J
Coke,P
Bruney,B
Sanchez,H
Ramirez,E
•Albaladejo,J
•Johnson,J
•Robertson,D
•Giese,D
•Tomko,B
•Igawa,K

Dodgers
Broxton,J
Kuo,H
Wade,C
Mota,G
Stults,E
McDonald,J
Weaver,J
•Estes,S
•Vargas,C
•Troncoso,R
Haeger,C
Elbert,S
•Cali,C
•Brazoban,Y
•Sturtze,T

Mar 06, 2009 13:19 PM
rating: 0
 
Amol

First, you forgot a few names on the Yankees' list; Mark Melancon, Alfredo Aceves and Mariano Rivera (who obviously isn't a trade candidate, but should be mentioned because he moves everyone down a spot in the depth chart).

As to as who is a worthy pickup, PECOTA has five Yankee relievers (Rivera, Ramirez, Robertson, Veras and Marte) posting a better EqERA than Cory Wade, who figures to be the primary right-handed setup guy for the Dodgers. After that, you've got another three Yankees (Melancon, Bruney, Albaladejo) doing better than the Dodgers' next best EqERA, which is from Ramon Troncoso.

Obviously, that's just a quick and inexact look at the situation, and I wouldn't make individual assessments of the trade value of any of these pitchers based only on one stat in their PECOTA projections. However I think it does work in proving the general point that the Yankees have a lot of relievers that could improve the Dodgers' (and a lot of other teams') bullpen.

Mar 07, 2009 07:35 AM
rating: 0
 
Dougie4512

Ned Colletti doesn't care what PECOTA thinks...

Mar 15, 2009 11:23 AM
rating: 0
 
Tony Mollica

Something is wrong if you have the payroll the Yanks have; and one player is hurt and you're "in bad shape".

Mar 06, 2009 14:50 PM
rating: 6
 
Richard Bergstrom

The funny thing is with all this media scrutiny about steroids, his cousin, his interviews with MLB, and A-Rod waits this long to declare himself unfit to play?

Mar 06, 2009 15:27 PM
rating: -1
 
smitty

Regarding the Mantle hip problem. If I remember this right, he went to get a shot from some quack celebrity doctor for a flu bug he picked up somewhere. Anyway, the quack doctor botched the injection resulting in a really nasty infection/abscess/mess.

He missed the end of the '61 season ending the Mantle half of the Mantle/Maris 60 homer chase.

Mar 06, 2009 16:43 PM
rating: 0
 
Teraxx

Indeed it was an abcess that was so bad it would bleed through the gauze/bandage and through his uniform jersey during a game.

Mar 06, 2009 17:28 PM
rating: 0
 
antboy415

Miguel Tejada.

Mar 06, 2009 17:26 PM
rating: 2
 
Teraxx

Tejada's an interesting candidate...I imagine the Stros wouldn't be too averse to moving him, but they'd have to eat some of that 13 mill salary...which would cause the Yanks to ante up better prospects (Houston will surely want more than just Kennedy if they're eating salary)...There could be a match here, though, provided Miggy wants to play third. I think the sky would rain frogs if Jeter was "asked" to move over to third, unfortunately...

Mar 07, 2009 21:23 PM
rating: 0
 
MikeNeft

Chad Tracy? Miguel Tejada at 3B? Chone Figgins? Melvin Mora? Bobby Crosby at 3B? Mark Teahen? None of the above should cost much...

Mar 06, 2009 18:08 PM
rating: 0
 
stanky22

Frey Stanky: Garciaparra? Beane could get a Yankee pitcher.

Mar 06, 2009 18:22 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Regarding Blake and Nomar and Loretta, all would have to approve deals to the Yankees, since they just signed as free agents, and I know that for Nomar, at least, that's out of the question given his desire to be on the west coast near family.

Mar 06, 2009 18:32 PM
 
offbase99

The Orioles have Mora, Huff and Wigginton all capable of playing 3B. If Andy McPhail wasn't on the phone yesterday asking for a package centered around Ian Kennedy, he's not doing the job I thought he was.

Mar 07, 2009 07:37 AM
rating: 1
 
petergill

Why not move Jeter to 3rd and find a shortstop like Bobby Crosby? Jeter's range is limited and would probably be a better 3b at this point in his career.

Mar 07, 2009 11:58 AM
rating: -2
 
sho044

Jeter wouldnt move to third to accomodate ARod, but now hes going to move for Bobby Crosby?

Mar 07, 2009 15:26 PM
rating: 6
 
chuckmotl

The Yankees deserve Jeter and his refusal to do what's best for the team. A real legend knows his limitations.

Mar 08, 2009 13:02 PM
rating: 0
 
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