While we’re still awaiting official confirmation on the rumors surrounding A-Rod’s injury, silence — and not a denial — out of the Yankee camp is not a very good sign.
Meanwhile, the Yankees may have to fill a very good big hole in their lineup for the first six weeks of the season. Mike and Joe are going to have their thoughts on this problem in the RAB Radio Show in a few hours, but we can start talking about it now. I’m sure Manny Ramirez, Orlando Cabrera and Nomar Garciaparra are cursing themselves for signing contracts within the last few days.
The Yankees have a few internal options they could pursue, and none of them are very promising. They could move Derek Jeter to third base and have Angel Berroa play short. They could stick Berroa at third and hope he can deal. Of course, Angel Berroa is 31 with a career OPS+ of 77 and an offensive line of .260/.305/.378. He has never played third base and generally isn’t very good.
The Yankees could look at the high-jumpin’ Cody Ransom. His teammates believe Ransom is a superior athlete, but that counts for approximately nothing. Ransom is 33 with 183 big league at-bats under his belt. Maybe the Yanks could catch lightening in a bottle.
Finally, we arrive at Mark Teixeira. In 2003, Teixeira, then a rookie, played 15 games at third base. The Yanks could shift him to third for a few weeks and hope he can still field the position. They could then use Nick Swisher and Xavier Nady in some sort of RF/1B platoon. That would be, by far, the best offensive solution to a defensive problem, but I doubt the Yanks are going to start messing around with their new $180 million first baseman from Day 1. (Interestingly, Nady has three MLB games at third base under his belt. They all came in 2005 when he was with San Diego, and I have no idea how he did. I’m guessing that’s not really a viable option either.)
The wild card here is Eric Duncan. The Yanks could just toss Eric Duncan into the frying pan. They already managed to rush him through the system so much so that he’s barely considered a prospect anymore, and they have nothing to lose with him. Both Duncan and Berroa are off the 40-man though, and the Yanks would have to find a corresponding move to get either of them to the Bronx.
The pickings are slim right now. Despite a slow market, every free agent infielder has signed with the exception of one: Mark Grudzielanek. I’m sure his agent is on the phone with the Yanks right now.
Grudzielanek isn’t a very appealing candidate. He turns 39 in June and has a career line of .290/.332/.395 with a 90 OPS+. During his last two seasons in Kansas City, he has been the definition of league average. That is, however, a far cry above what Berroa or Cody Ransom are likely to provide for the Yanks.
I don’t really know what Grudzielanek’s salary would be either. O-Cab signed for $4 million with the A’s, and he’s their starting short stop for the entire season. Grudzielanek would be a two-month or six-week rental, but he has some leverage because the Yanks need a third baseman.
In a similar vein, the Yanks could explore Bobby Crosby too. The A’s incumbent short stop has been terrible at the dish since winning the 2004 Rookie of the Year, and while he is a short stop, he wants out of Oakland. Maybe a change of scenery and a position shift would kick start him for a year. The A’s, though, have no reason to simply give Crosby to the Yanks even in a salary dump deal.
So that’s that. The Yankees are facing the prospects of starting the season without their clean-up hitter and don’t have much of a back-up plan. With their overhauled rotation, the team is good enough to ride out the storm, but if this — a quad injury last year, a hip injury this year — is a sign of things to come for A-Rod, the Yanks have more than just the next ten weeks about which they should worry.