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December 3, 2012

BP Unfiltered

Alex Rodriguez is Injured Again

by Ben Lindbergh

Aside from the Mike Napoli signing, the biggest news to break on the first morning of the Winter Meetings was something that by now is hardly news at all: another injury to Alex Rodriguez.

It’s been almost four weeks since Rodriguez became an October bystander, replaced by Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez, who was for once playing the role of a team’s less injury-prone third baseman. At the time, we all wondered whether A-Rod’s poor performance down the stretch and subsequent benching were signs that he was hurt. Because if he wasn’t (we wrote, seated comfortably behind our keyboards), Joe Girardi had to be panicking, ignorant of the significance of sample size and platoon splits, and unable to tell which of his players were better at baseball.

Well, it turns out A-Rod was injured, and for the umpteenth time, a baseball team knew something we didn’t. According to Joel Sherman, Rodriguez was likely playing with a torn hip labrum for “at least a portion of the postseason.” Rodriguez experienced discomfort during the ALDS, leading to an MRI on his right hip that revealed nothing. But this injury is to A-Rod’s left hip, not the right one that was previously repaired, so he gets to mark another square in his game of injured body part bingo. Rodriguez will reportedly have the surgery next month (December must be busy for hip surgeons) and could be out until June. He had his first hip surgery in March of 2009 and returned in early May, so either this tear is more serious or A-Rod isn’t expected to recover as quickly at age 37. *(Update: sounds like "more serious": left hip arthroscopy to repair a torn labrum, bone impingement, and the correction of a cyst.)*

For the Yankees, this injury is another reminder that they can’t expect much from the rest of teir relationship with Rodriguez, who might be entirely composed of replacement parts by the end of his current contract. Next season will be his sixth in a row with a DL stint, as his steeper-than-expected decline continues. It’s also the end of any hope of trading him—now we know why Brian Cashman was so quick to downplay that possibility—and a sign that the Yankees desperately need help on the left side of the infield, with both of their ancient infielders on that side of second attempting to recover from serious surgery.

The pickings are pretty slim on the free-agent market: Jeff Keppinger is due for offensive regression and subpar defensively (he hasn’t played shortstop since 2010), while Marco Scutaro wouldn’t come cheap and is likely to re-sign with San Francisco. Stephen Drew is looking for a home, but he might not want to play third. As Sherman points out, the Yankees could go after Hiroyuki Nakajima (whom I wrote about recently), though they reportedly saw him as more of a utility option when they bid on him last offseason. The Yankees could also try to bring back Chavez and Jayson Nix and work Triple-A infielder David Adams into the mix. For now, Cashman will undoubtedly be working to see what’s available via trade.

For us, this injury is another reminder that much of the time we don’t know what we’re talking about. In fact, we should probably start inserting that caveat—“unless, you know, we don’t know what we’re talking about”—before or after every strong conclusion, if we weren’t doing so already. Either that, or we can all just save ourselves some words and assume it’s always implied.

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

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