Who could replace Alex Rodriguez?A snapshot of names that could fit well in pinstripes in 2013
Both Jack Curry and Jon Lane broke down the Rodriguez news earlier in the day, and Yankees Baseball Tonight (6:30 p.m. on YES) with Curry and Bob Lorenz will surely monitor the situation this week as they broadcast from the MLB Winter Meetings...but until the Yankees make a move, speculation will run rampant as to who will man the hot corner in the Bronx come April 1.
On Friday, general manager Brian Cashman said that he will be exploring the market for infield depth – but with A-Rod out long-term and the possibility that Derek Jeter’s ankle might not be at full strength come opening day, what was a casual hunt for depth must now turn into an aggressive search for a starter (or two).
Right now, the team has a handful of internal or semi-internal options they could look at; re-signing Eric Chavez (and possibly Jayson Nix to platoon with him, as they did while A-Rod was hurt last season) is chief among the latter, while David Adams (.308-8-48 at Double-A Trenton in 2012) and Ronnier Mustelier (.314-15-69 between Trenton and Triple-A Empire State) are the cream of the former crop.
But should Cashman choose to go outside the organization, there are a handful of players who could fit perfectly with the Yankees, either in terms of cost/commitment, flexibility, production – or any combo of the three. Chase Headley has been heavily rumored as a trade target, but in the names listed below, we’ve stuck to free agents who could be had without giving up anything in return.
Options No. 1A/1B: Marco Scutaro/Jeff Keppinger
Last year, Scutaro hit .306-7-74 in 156 games with Colorado and San Francisco while playing three infield positions, and then hit .328 in the postseason to help the Giants win the World Series; Keppinger, meanwhile, went for a .325-9-40 line in Tampa Bay. While neither is a power-hitter, their flexibility would be a perfect fit for the Yankees, who could use either at third in the short-term and then slide them into the role they envisioned Eduardo Nunez in last year – namely, someone who can play every day at a different position while allowing Joe Girardi to be creative with his DH spot.
The biggest hang-up with Scutaro, however, might be his cost, he made $6 million last year, and coming off that solid season at age 37, he might want more money or security than the Yankees would be willing to invest; Keppinger, meanwhile, suffered a broken fibula in a fall at his home last week, and while he’s expected to be ready by mid-January, that is an injury that, when compounded with Derek Jeter’s ankle, could make the Yankees a little gunshy.
Option No. 2: Mark Reynolds
Reynolds was a monster against the Yankees while with the Orioles last year, but he was non-tendered by Baltimore last week. Yes, he strikes out a lot, and defensively, he’s somewhat suspect, but as a pure power hitter, he’s the best replacement for a guy like Rodriguez among available players…and if he holds any ill will towards the team that non-tendered him, signing with the Yankees would give him 18 chances to release that aggression.
Option No. 3: The “Cody Ransom Type”
Ransom is, of course, the man who filled in for Rodriguez in 2009 when right hip surgery kept A-Rod out for the first month, and there are plenty of veteran/journeymen players who could fill a “stopgap” type role – perhaps even as a non-roster invitee – and play well enough to stick around as a utility player. Among those names are Adam Kennedy (.262 in 82 games with the Dodgers), who is 36 but could be an interesting option because he is a lefty; Mark DeRosa, who is 37 and has been besieged by injuries the last few years, but is just a couple seasons removed from a .250-23-78 campaign and can play any infield or corner outfield spot; and 29-year-old Jose Lopez, who has fallen off the last couple years but is himself not far removed from a .272-25-96 year in Seattle – and while he’s not at versatile as DeRosa or a lefty like Kennedy, he could be a fit while auditioning himself for a return to a full-time job elsewhere in 2014.
Wild Card Option: Kevin Youkilis
Youkilis has battled injuries the last few years, and is coming off a disappointing .235-19-60 season that saw an ugly exit from Boston but if the Yankees can’t/don’t re-sign Chavez (or perhaps even if they do), Youkilis could have plenty of value filling a right-handed version of Chavez’ role. He’ll be 34 next March and his full-time starting days may be behind him, but his down 2012 could lower his value enough where a one-year deal is a possibility; if so, he’d be the third baseman in A-Rod’s absence, and if Nick Swisher departs, could be the guy to fill in behind Mark Teixeira at a position where he won a Gold Glove in 2007.
Wild Card Option: Scott Rolen
Will he or won’t he retire is the question with Rolen, who has reportedly expressed interest in returning in 2013 but may be squeezed out in Cincinnati by Todd Frazier. He’s going to be 38 in April and hasn’t played a full season since 2006, so if Rolen does indeed want a farewell tour of sorts and doesn’t want to do it on the bench, he could be a natural fit in the American League – especially with the Yankees, where he could fill a version of the role Raul Ibanez filled in 2012 by playing third almost every day, DH’ing now and then, and then moving to a reserve/DH role once A-Rod returns.
Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES