Is Yankees' Best Shot at a Playoff Run Platooning Alex Rodriguez, Eric Chavez?
Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE
Alex Rodriguez is being paid $29 million this season by the New York Yankees. For the sake of this discussion, let's assume he still has approximately $10 million of salary to be paid through the rest of the regular season.
For that reason alone, the idea of platooning Rodriguez with Eric Chavez at third base once A-Rod returns from a broken hand seems absurd. But just look at some numbers and consider the possibility for a moment.
In 197 plate appearances against right-handed pitching, as of Aug. 14, Chavez has a triple-slash average of .315/.376/.590 with 13 home runs and 27 RBI. Meanwhile, Rodriguez is batting .275/.346/.425 with eight homers and 27 RBI in 269 plate appearances.
With Chavez's .990 OPS against right-handers versus Rodriguez's .771 mark, don't the Yankees have to at least consider the possibility when Rodriguez is activated from the disabled list sometime in September?
Regardless of platoon matchup, Chavez is having an outstanding August. Yes, eight games and 29 plate appearances is a small sample size, but Chavez is batting .464/.483/.964 for the month. He's been more than a capable replacement for Rodriguez at third base.
Still, we're talking about platooning the highest-paid player in baseball here. No, it shouldn't be just about the money. Although with the Yankees, isn't it typically about the money? But it's not like Rodriguez was stinking up the pinstripes before a Felix Hernandez changeup broke his hand on July 24 in Seattle.
Prior to suffering the injury, Rodriguez was also swinging the bat as well as he had all season. For July, he batted .315/.367/493 with five doubles, two homers and nine RBI in 79 plate appearances. Rodriguez also hit his first triple of the year during the month.
No, Rodriguez is highly unlikely to just resume that sort of production when he returns to the lineup. His timing and swing mechanics will surely be off. If it took three months for everything to start clicking for him, how can he be expected to do so in a couple of weeks during September?
That could be one argument for platooning Rodriguez when he's ready to play again. He's going to be rusty, so why not keep a player in the lineup who's sharp and hitting well? Of course, that's presuming that Chavez will continue his current production into August and through September.
But Rodriguez needs all the plate appearances he can get once he returns to the Yankees' lineup. Playing just against left-handed pitching isn't going to get him nearly the repetitions he'll need to get back into baseball shape, both at the plate and in the field.
Fortunately, the Yankees play in the American League, so this dilemma is easily solved.
Chavez and Rodriguez can be rotated between third base and designated hitter through the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs. Either player would probably be a better choice at DH, though Raul Ibanez has an .819 OPS, 15 homers and 48 RBI against right-handed pitching this year.
Given that Chavez is appearing in the most games he's played in five seasons, Yankees manager Joe Girardi might feel it necessary to give him some rest down the stretch to keep him as fresh as possible for the playoffs. That would allow Girardi to give Ibanez and Andruw Jones at-bats while also providing days off in the field for players like Nick Swisher or Mark Teixeira.
This question could be revisited later on, however.
If the Yankees make it to the World Series and Chavez is still swinging a strong bat, while Rodriguez is trying to work back into form, Girardi might have a decision on his hands. Who would Girardi play at third base in the National League city with no DH available in the lineup?
Oooh, you can almost see the New York media rubbing its collective hands together and turning on laptops at the mere thought of writing about a possible third-base dilemma during the World Series. Can't you also imagine FOX cameras trained on a cheerleading A-Rod in the dugout, with eyebrows furrowed in appropriate intensity during a pivotal at-bat?
Rodriguez tends to attract controversy anyway, so this would be nothing new for him or the rest of the Yankees' clubhouse, really.
We probably shouldn't be trying to stoke controversy before it's even developed, either. Oh, who am I kidding—this is what we do! The $275-million man benched because a $900,000 reserve is outplaying him? That would be delicious.
But until it happens (if it happens), we should probably snack on other stuff. There will surely be plenty of fretting over Phil Hughes to do in the meantime.
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