Yankees News: Garrett Jones acknowledges A-Rod competition


Entering the first Spring Training with the New York Yankees, normally players face much controversy, and media scrutiny.  There is nothing normal about this year, however, as Alex Rodriguez returns from a year-long suspension, the longest PED related suspension in Major League Baseball history.  Luckily, for the other players in Tampa, Rodriguez’s return has taken much pressure off of them.

Garrett Jones, who the Yankees acquired in the Nathan Eovaldi deal, has had a relatively quiet and under the radar Spring Training.  Jones, who is no throw-in, is capable of putting up solid numbers as he showed with a 27 home run season in 2012, and entering a left-handed hitters dream stadium in Yankee Stadium, his power could increase.

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Turning 34 in June, Jones is only entering his 8th season.  If not for Rodriguez’s return, he would probably be the DH entering 2015.  The only problem is the soon-to-be 40-year-old 3-time AL MVP is making $21 million, and barring injury, he’s not going anywhere.  While Rodriguez has taken pressure off Jones in the opening days of Spring Training, his presence, especially if he performs, could put a ton of pressure on Jones.

Jones isn’t a young guy who brings unknowns to the table, yet he also isn’t an irreplaceable stud, and he is well-aware of the competition that he will be in with Rodriguez for at-bats, yet put the team first, according to Brendan Kuty of NJ.com:

"Yeah I’ve sat back a little bit (and thought about it).  We’re going to be — for at-bats — in a competition.  That’s what it comes down.  When he’s getting his opportunity, he’ll do his thing.  And when I’m getting my opportunity, I’m going to do what I do.  In a perfect world, we’re both swinging the bat well and we’re both in their on a regular basis."

The problem here is, unless Mark Teixeira or Chase Headley, or even possibly Carlos Beltran, (Jones has some experience in right field) goes down for an extended period, this “perfect world” scenario of both getting regular playing time is unlikely.  Jones also stated in regards to Rodriguez that “when he’s healthy, he’s one of the best”.

This is what hurts Jones, as if Rodriguez shows he has something left in the tank, and has a strong Spring Training, then Jones will likely end up a backup, as he was acquired to be.  Rodriguez is the superior talent, as in 2013, his career low OPS of .771 still tops every qualified season of Jones career besides 2012.  Rodriguez will also sell far more tickets, so if he can still outperform Jones after a year away, the job will be his.

The Yankees are expected to platoon the two hitters, but this does not make much sense to me.  When we last saw Rodriguez, he fared much better against right-handed pitching (slash line of .264/.328/.528 with 7 HR’s and 19 RBI’s) than southpaws (slash line of .200/.385/.200 with 0 HR’s and RBI’s).  Adjusting A-Rod’s stats against right-handed pitching to a full season, and we see that he was actually quite dominant even coming off of a hip surgery.

If A-Rod shows he can perform, then he will be the outright starter at DH, with Jones serving as the backup for him, Teixeira, and some days Beltran.  Due to all three bringing injury risks, Jones will get plenty at-bats.  If A-Rod cannot perform, then Jones will likely get the bulk of at-bats versus right-handed starters.  Another thing Jones is looking forward to as he moves to his fourth team, and third in three years, is the ability to take advantage of the short right field porch at Yankee Stadium:

"That’s kind of my game.  Driving the ball.  Doubles, homers, gap-to-gap (hitting).  It’s nice to know as a hitter that I’m not going to be trying to hit everything out the park.  It’s nice to know that I’m not going to be trying to hit everything out of the park.  It’s nice to know that you get one decent and it still could go out.  It’s just an extra bonus for a hitter like myself."

Jones could be a key piece in 2015, and entering a park that fits his swing so perfectly will be great for him, and for the team too.

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