Alex Rodriguez has started working out and performing baseball activities in preparation for spring training next year. His suspension from baseball will be over but will still be owed around $61 million dollars on his current contract with the Yankees. He is planning on playing for the Yankees next season. The Yankees brass, from Hal Steinbrenner to Brian Cashman to Joe Girardi, have all stated that they expect to see Rodriguez in the lineup in 2015. None of the other 29 teams appears to be in a rush to trade for the former three time MVP. Are the Yankees stuck with the expensive erstwhile star? If so, can he contribute to a major league team at age 40?
The A-Rod dilemma will be a story-line throughout the off-season, but one can already see certain points of the Yankee thought process regarding Rodriguez take shape this season. First of all, there is zero chance of Rodriguez being Derek Jeter‘s replacement at shortstop next season. A-Rod hasn’t played the position in over a decade and is coming off multiple hip surgeries. He would possibly be the one shortstop with less range than Jeter. No, Rodriguez will not play a single inning at shortstop in 2015.
But what about third base? At 40-years-old, coming off a PED suspension following several injury-plagued years, is he in any shape to play the hot corner? Prior to the trade for Chase Headley, most Yankee fans used to the likes of Rodriguez, Yangervis Solarte, Jason Nix and Eduardo Nunez manning third base would have affirmed Rodriguez’s continued ability to play third. However, now that they have caught a glimmer of how that position is supposed to be played defensively, few would want to revert to the rangeless, error-prone days of yore. Rodriguez has not been a good defensive third basemen in years and to suspect improvement after missing a year and entering his 40s would be foolhardy.
Therefore, the only position A-Rod is qualified to play is DH. But how good of a DH can he be? That is the truly the biggest question regarding Rodriguez entering next season. It is quite obvious to nearly everyone who watches the game that he is a liability in the field under a best case scenario, but if he can still hit, he will provide value, especially to a lineup that has struggled to score runs for two seasons. What should the expectations be for an aging former superstar who hasn’t played in 150 games since 2007?
Rodriguez should retain enough strength to be a legitimate power threat and has shown he has the hand-eye coordination to rack up base hits. He has lost his doubles power and has morphed into a singles and home run hitter the last few years. This type of hitter could actually fit nicely into the Yankee lineup next season in the number 2 spot breaking up the lefties Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury. In such a role, he would be able to contribute to the Yankee offense without it centering on the former star. He could probably be counted upon for 20-25 home runs, even at this stage of his career, which would be among the Yankee leaders the last two seasons.
The biggest problem with Rodriguez for Yankee fans who wish for the Bombers to simply cut ties with the star, is that it seems like he can still play. This is not the case of a player having nothing left. While admittedly a shell of his former self, anyone who doesn’t think that a player who hits .270 with 25 home runs and 75 RBI would help the Yankees this season or next would be a liar. Rodriguez can play a role for the Yankees next season, and assuming he keeps his mouth shut and stops suing people, he will be on the Yankees’ Opening Day roster.