In a perfect world, Alex Rodriguez returns and puts up significant numbers. He contributes at the plate and makes the plays at third. But in a year of back up plans, what is the plan if he doesn’t? The best option may not be David Adams, Kevin Youkilis, Jayson Nix, or Luis Cruz. It might be Eduardo Nunez. Nunez has the arm and the quickness to play the hot corner. He can make all the routine plays that Adams has made. Although he might not grab the hot smashes, Adams has not made many of those plays either.
Perhaps Nunez could finally stop making the defensive mistakes he has made if he is permanently moved from shortstop. It’s hard enough playing the most glamorized position on the infield. Replacing Jeter has always made the spotlight brighter. Nunez contributes offensively with his bat and his legs.
Obviously, he doesn’t offer the power numbers that Youkilis does, but he makes up for that with his speed. Singles become doubles very quickly when you can steal bases like Nunez can. Keeping Nunez in the starting lineup allows Nix to assume the utility role. He excelled in that role last season. Had Jeter and Rodriguez started the season healthy, Nix could have flourished in that role again.
Of course, all of this becomes irrelevant if Rodriguez does the job. While his image is certainly tarnished, he has always differentiated between image and reputation.
“There is a difference between image and reputation,” Rodriguez once said. Image is nice, reputation is developed over an entire career. Reputation is what I’m searching for.”
Some would say both are not retrievable for Rodriguez. But, if in his own mind he can finish his career on a high note, than great. But the Yankees can not count on that.
So what is your back up plan? Is it Nunez? Does Adams bounce back and improve at the plate? Does Jeter eventually get moved to third? Does Cruz explode in the second half of the season and claim the position? Or, do the Yankees find themselves looking outside of the organization in the off season?