Could This Be The End Of Rodriguez At Third Base?

Another year deeper into Alex Rodriguez' 10 year contract, and we're already on his second hip surgery. The 37 year old third baseman is in a perpetual decline, and health isn't helping much. While he's dealt with some fluke injuries over the last two years, Rodriguez is barely starting half the games at third base. In 2013, he'll be lucky to start on the field for a couple of months, as the team only plans for him to return in June or July. When Rodriguez returns to baseball next season, he could very well have already turned 38 already, and coming off his second major hip surgery, amongst a number of other leg problems in recent years. Assuming he's able to make a full recovery, and cartilage damage hasn't dampened his range, he'll still be a valuable fielder at the hot corner. The Yankees still have $114 million invested in him though, and pushing him any further on the field may carry a huge risk for his future.

No team wants to lose the type of glove he possesses at third base, but at what cost? If it's true that his most recent hip injury impacted the way he hit in the playoffs, what's to say his string of leg problems hasn't influenced the last two sub-.500 slugging seasons? I wouldn't bet against it, and as he ages, his ability to recover will only degrade.

This could be the year he becomes the team's designated hitter, considering he's only played half the games at third base over the last two years . Doing so protects his legs, his bat, and a $114 million investment. With the amount of games we saw Jayson Nix and Eduardo Nunez play last season, replacing third base with a legitimate and productive starter would prevent below average players from getting months worth of starts.

It would seem that the Yankees have more important positions fill this winter, but trading for a longterm third baseman doesn't appear so crazy with the type of resources they have tied up in Rodriguez. From where it stands, the organization lacks a serviceable third base option in Triple-A or Double-A. They're going to have to go somewhere else, and as I pointed out yesterday, the rumor about acquiring a third baseman have largely contradicted themselves. It seems that Cashman is purposefully leaking misinformation.

There are some signs on the rumor-mill that indicate the team is looking to simply upgrade at third base, but then why didn't they ever seriously consider Eric Chavez? With Mark Reynolds and Kevin Youkilis available as free agents, the Yankees could have easily re-signed Chavez and one of the former for a cheap one-year platoon. But the team didn't even bother making an offer. The same is true for Jeff Keppinger, where the team reportedly offered him a three-year deal, but again didn't make an offer. Who's to say the same guy leaking bad information about Keppinger and Chavez hasn't done the same with Youkilis and his recent offer from the Yankees?

With every stopgap infielder coming of the board, there seems to be a growing likelihood that the team is looking in a different direction than just upgrades. Moving on from Rodriguez at third base makes a lot of sense for the future, but I'm still left wondering who could be available. Maybe the Royal's desperation to win this season forces them to trade Mike Moustakas for a deal centered around that Curtis Granderson and Phil Hughes package that's been supposedly floating around. Or maybe the organization targets a young near-MLB ready prospect like Jedd Gyorko or Mike Olt. We'll have a better idea of the organization's plan once we learn Youkilis' decision.