It’s been just over five months since Major League Baseball slapped a 211-game suspension on Alex Rodriguez, and yet we still don’t know if he’ll be eligible to play at all in 2014 as we await the results of his appeal hearing, with arbitrator Fredric Horowitz expected to announce a decision within the next week or two.
If A-Rod’s suspension is upheld for most of or all of the upcoming season, not only will the Yankees not be on the hook for most pf or all of the $25 million he’ll make in 2014, but they’ll also need to find a third baseman to replace him. And if, somehow, the suspension is overturned entirely … the Yankees will be set at third base, kinda.
We’ve been hearing all winter that the Yankees have been interested in bringing back Mark Reynolds, who the team signed in August, and hit 6 home runs while driving in 19 RBIs in 36 games. But, for the moment, no deal is reportedly close to happening.
The Yankees like Reynolds because he can not only play third base, but can also serve as a backup to Mark Teixeira, who is coming off wrist surgery, and we all know how tricky wrist injuries can be.
Reynolds also gives the Yankees another right-handed power bat in the lineup, which would be key in helping to level out the line of lefties the Yanks already have — Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano project to be the only righties in the lineup, if you’re not counting both of the switch-hitters, Teixeira and Carlos Beltran.
His defense isn’t great, but one who would be a better option than A-Rod at third base, with his two hip surgeries and limited range slowing him down.
Stephen Drew has also been a much rumored possibility, as the Yankees would be able to use him at both third base and shortstop as needed. But as Peter Gammons reported last week, GM Brian Cashman told him that the Yankees don’t not have any plans to sign Drew — and many expect him to sign a few miles down the subway with the New York Mets.
If the season started tomorrow, my best bet would be that the Yankees would have Brian Roberts playing second base with Kelly Johnson playing third alongside Jeter and Teixeira. Both players, of course, as cheap fixes to the loss of Robinson Cano.
Johnson can swing the bat, providing the Yankees with some decent power from the left side of the plate — to which Yankee Stadium will help him fit in nicely — but whose defense isn’t as good as you would want it to be for him to be an everyday player. Ideally, the Yankees could sign someone like Reynolds, play him at third and platoon Johnson with Roberts at second.
There is also a darkhorse candidate that could fill the remaining infield for the Yanks, and he’s already on the roster — Dean Anna.
The Yankees acquired Anna from the San Diego Padres for a minor league pitcher in November, and it’s possible that he could surprise a lot of people and make the club out of Spring Training. Anna is on the Yankees’ 40-man roster, so he will be with the team in Tampa when they gather in mid-February.
Anna, a left-handed hitter, can swing the bat very well, as demonstrated by his .331 batting average last season in Triple-A while with the Padres.
Adding along to that, he can play all around the infield, having saw time at second base, shortstop and third base in 2013. I talked with Anna last week, and he told me that his infield versatility is one of the best ways that he can help the Yankees succeed this season.
Much like how the Yankees’ starting pitching search relies on Masahiro Tanaka, the Yankees’ third base search relies heavily on A-Rod. Whether they will attempt to find a third baseman even with A-Rod has yet to be seen, but if they have to find one because of him being suspended for the entire 2014 season, there are sure to be quite a few choices.