Even before Alex Rodriguez needed another hip surgery that is almost certain to keep him out for a huge chunk of the 2013 season, if not the full year, he was being dominated by right-handed pitching. What you saw in the playoffs wasn’t an anomaly or something new. It’s been my position going back well into last season that New York would be best served to get A-Rod into the role of designated hitter, primarily against left-handed pitching. By the time he gets back from this latest setback, A-Rod could be 38 with diminished bat speed and range. If you want to maximize him, DH is your only hope.
That said, in analyzing this from a purely baseball sense, the injury offers the Yankees a no-excuses transition point. But to whom do they transition? The obvious option here is to bring back Eric Chavez, but my sense in talking to folks is the Yankees will be looking hard at other options.
Really, there isn’t an obvious solution, not only internally but also in the free agency or trade markets. Nevertheless, I came up with five calls the Yankees could make to try to put a Band-Aid on the position in the year to come.
1. Sign Stephen Drew
Drew, a former first-round pick, has come back from his own recent injuries, but he could shift to third base and play shortstop. The Yankees will need guys who offer positional flexibility, as Derek Jeter will also be coming back from a significant injury. Drew’s career .762 OPS won’t look special to Yankees fans, but he’s a good stopgap solution for a team that should be able to score runs, and his ability to play more than one position adds value. He moves well both directions on defense and could save some runs on the left side of the infield.
2. Call the Astros about Jed Lowrie
Everybody’s favorite trade target last season before the deadline, Lowrie had put up career-best totals and was showing routine power (16 homers in 97 games) before he got injured down the stretch. Lowrie doesn’t have a great arm at third base, but he’s another guy who can play multiple positions, and Houston would certainly be willing to listen on pitches. The concern is that Lowrie, who will be 29 in April, has never managed to stay healthy himself.
3. Call the Padres about Jedd Gyorko
This is a really tough sell, and the Padres would start any conversation about Gyorko by bring up Yankees center-field prospect Mason Williams, which could make it a non-starter for New York as well. Gyorko is a solid prospect whom San Diego plans to move to second base, but after hitting .328 with 24 homers last year in Triple-A (yes, in the admittedly hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League), he’s ready for his promotion. Again, I don’t think the Padres would be willing to make the deal unless they got a lot in return, but it’s a call worth making.
4. Sign Kevin Youkilis
Purely a bandage purchase, Youkilis doesn’t have great range at third, to say the least, and he’s coming off a season in which he hit just .236. That said, Youk can still grind out at-bats and will always find ways to get on base. Despite his low average, his OBP was still .346 this past season.
5. Call the Nationals about two options
First, Yankees GM Brian Cashman could at least ask about the price for third-base prospect Anthony Rendon. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo will probably give a good laugh, but the Nats could listen. Their plan is to move Rendon to second base when he’s finally ready. If and when the Rendon idea goes nowhere, Danny Espinosa should be discussed. Espinosa is limited at the plate and strikes out way too often but offers punch from down in the lineup -- he could hit 20-plus homers in Yankee Stadium -- and can play the position.