Oct 18, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Yankees pinch hitter Alex Rodriguez reacts after flying out in the during the 6th inning in game four of the 2012 ALCS against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. The Tigers won 8-1 to sweep the series and advance to the World Series. Mandatory Credit: John Munson/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

Who’s the Better Option at Third: Alex Rodriguez or Kevin Youkilis?

As we head into the middle of January, we’re a mere two days away from Alex Rodriguez’s hip surgery date, which will leave him out of commission until at least after the All-Star break. Given the void at the position (and possibly beyond, based upon the somewhat pessimistic assessment of his surgeon), the Yankees went and signed Kevin Youkilis. While the image of ARod’s horrific post-season is still fresh in everyone’s mind, and it may be easy to dismiss his contributions in favor of anyone else, even if that means a formerly-hated rival from Boston. But that said: will Kevin Youkilis be an upgrade over A-Rod?

Kevin Youkilis might actually be a better option for the Yankees at third in 2013 than Alex Rodriguez. (Image: David Richard, US Presswire)

Based on the Jan. 9, 2013, RotoChamp projections, ARod is projected to hit .269/.356/.433 in a mere 245 at-bat as he returns from surgery. That is good enough for 40th place out of all available third basemen in the major leagues. He is also only projected to hit 10 homers with 38 RBI. All of this supposes that ARod, 1) will be able to handle the workload of 245 ABs when he returns to action, but more importantly, 2) will not experience any delays in his return to action. As we saw with Andy Pettitte — who, although he is older than A-Rod, experienced a significantly lesser injury in a clean break — older players can greatly vary with their injury returns, including set-backs and slow return progress.

By contrast, Youk is projected via RotoChamp to hit well enough for 22nd in the majors, batting .267/.373/.451 in 430 ABs, with a respectable 18 homers and 65 RBI. All told, offensively, it might be that Youkilis will merely be a place-warmer for A-Rod until the regular third basemen returns. Their offensive numbers, at least through projections, look similar. (That said, I do believe, given the scope of Rodriguez’s injury, that the offensive power numbers might be a bit high in such limited action.) Youkilis will probably realistically be about what A-Rod produced during the regular 2012 season, which, in the grand scheme of things won’t hurt, but won’t help the Yankees, either.

Where the issues might occur in the discrepancy between Rodriguez and Youkilis would be defensively, but it might not be the way you’d think. For instance, Youkilis last year had a 2 Rtot rating as a third baseman in 2012; ARod was a -6, even despite not having a full season to stay fresh, combined with his regularly-scheduled off-days throughout the season. (Note: all metrics look at Youkilis’ totals for playing third only, even though he did play first at various points throughout 2012.) With Youk’s 177 assists, nine errors, 20 DPs in 894.1 innings, to ARod’s eight errors and 119 assists in 709.1 innings, it might be that Youkilis will be a better option defensively for the Yankees. While Rodriguez hasn’t been a terrible third baseman at all, it would appear that Youk might be the better defensive option at third (ironically, for a guy who was accused of not having “it” anymore by former manager Bobby Valentine).

Given the projected wash offensively and the better defensive numbers, it might be that the loss of Alex Rodriguez won’t be as dramatic in 2013 as it was coming off his earlier hip surgeries, with the void even more tempered by the acquisition of Kevin Youkilis. A-Rod’s production has clearly declined, regardless of the hip, and even at four years younger, Youkilis might be able to prove as an effective stop-gap that might prove better than the regular third baseman, if only for this year.

So, what do you think Yankees fans: who will be the better option for the Yankees, Alex Rodriguez or Kevin Youkilis?

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  • ikkf

    That’s a tough one. I know the doctor is predicting a full recovery by A-Rod, but no one will really know until he goes in there and sees the damage with his own eyes. I think the smart move will be to write him off as finished and try to keep Youk around. A-Rod will be just a DH by then anyway, assuming he can still hit at all.

    • Jimmy Kraft

      It’s a sad state of affairs, no? I mean, the Yankees are still on the hook for more than $100M with this guy, who will likely play like someone who should be getting paid $10M over the next five years. Yanks made their bed, now come the consequences…

      • ikkf

        Yep. No one put a gun to the Yankees’ head and forced them to extend his contract, let alone for that much cash. And that deal just may cost them Cano and Hughes, their two homegrown guys.

        • Jimmy Kraft

          Let me ask you, if you sign Cano to a multi-year, ridiculous dollar amount contract, are the Yankees just repeating past mistakes?

          • ikkf

            They are facing a really tough choice for sure. There is tremendous pressure on the club to sign him, and tremendous pressure to let him walk. Based on recent history, it seems clubs have the stomach for just one colossally stupid mega contract before they shy away from that sort of thing. It generally takes them a generation to recover. Think the Dodgers with Kevin Brown, the Giants with Barry Zito, Boston with Carl Crawford, the Mets with Jason Bay, the Cubs with Soriano. I really don’t know which choice the Yankees should make. I think it will basically be a toss-up.

            One thing’s for certain though, and that’s the Yankees need to stop giving giving out so many opt-out clauses in everyone’s contracts.

          • Alex Pugliese

            I tend to agree with most of what’s been said here… I don’t think opt-outs are the problem so much as the length of the contract. That’s when the problems occur. Thanks for reading!

          • ikkf

            Frankly, I’m sometimes amazed that the Yankees didn’t find some sort of fiscal sanity sooner than this. $220 MILLION in luxury taxes in 10 years, that’s just bananas. I know it was George running things, but still. They’ve basically been giving money away to the teams that have been beating them in the playoffs.

          • Alex Pugliese

            Effectively… although, of late, everyone has been spending a lot more, too. Things have pretty much evened out a bit, and there is definitely not much separating the Yankees and the rest of the league like there used to be in the 90′s or so.

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