A-Rod Injury Shows That Yankees Need to Add Depth

Josh BAnalyst IMarch 6, 2009

Who would have thought that a team could struggle with Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, Derek Jeter, AJ Burnett, Mariano Rivera, Johnny Damon, and the rest of the all-star roster?

The answer is a void at third base that sets the team back about as far as their off-season haul sets them forward.

And what did the Rays, Angels, and Red Sox have in common last year? The answer is one word: DEPTH.

The Rays had enough talent to compensate for injuries to key players such as Carl Crawford, Scott Kazmir, Jason Bartlett, and Troy Percival.

The Angels were able to win with early injuries to John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar, and Chone Figgins.

The Red Sox stayed competitive with injuries to David Ortiz, JD Drew, and Mike Lowell.

The Yankees cannot blame their failure to make the playoffs to injuries to Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Chien-Ming Wang, and Hideki Matsui.

The problem was replacing their starters with players who most teams wouldn't feel comfortable playing every day.

The Yankees may have addressed rotational depth by signing Sabathia, Burnett, and re-signing Andy Pettitte. They won't be surprised if any young pitchers struggle to find consistency.

The position players are the problem. The Yankees shouldn't have to count on Jose Molina and Angel Berroa to make big contributions.

Now this situation is more than hypothetical. Alex Rodriguez isn't healthy and he could be missing a lot of games.

Unless the Yankees feel like losing more games, they won't replace his production with Cody Ransom or Alberto Gonzalez.

However, the Yankees were smart enough to acquire versatile players such as Teixeira and Nick Swisher over the off-season. Therefore, they could acquire a player not only third base, but just about every position.

Third Base Possibilities

Bobby Crosby: The former rookie of the year is a free agent after this season and Orlando Cabrera has all but won the shortstop position in Oakland. Crosby hit 39 doubles last year, which is more pop than most players coming off the bench.

Bill Hall: Hall hit 35 home runs in 2006, but since then his power has regressed with a 125 OPS+. Last year, he hit 15 HR's with a 79 OPS+. Although he's a below average defender, he can play third base, shortstop, center field, and second base.

In AA last year, Brewers' stud prospect Mat Gamel hit .329/.395/.537 and is likely to be the Brewers' third baseman soon.

Miguel Tejada: In today's economy, it's hard to find a team not looking to cut salary, and Astros GM Ed Wade has admitted that he doesn't want to raise payroll.

Tejada is still an above-average hitting shortstop, but his range will put him at third base sometime in the near future.

Jack Wilson: He's a free agent after 2009. Wilson is an above average defender and decent at making contact, never striking out more than 74 times in a season.

However, he has very little power and has struggled to find consistency working with the Pirates' incompetent hitting coaches.

First Base Options (if Teixeira moves to third)

Ryan Garko: If Victor Martinez plays first, Garko will either play outfield or be traded at some point. He's only 28 and hit 21 home runs in 2007. The Indians might not have a place for him, but he's cheap enough to come off the bench.

Nick Johnson: Adam Dunn will likely play first with the Nationals, and one lucky team may be able to take the low risk of Johnson for the season.

In his last healthy season, he hit .290/.428/.520 with 110 walks. He's played 38 games in the past two seasons, but he might be able to get his team a draft pick if he's healthy this season.

Adam LaRoche: Going into a contract year, LaRoche has hit 20 HR's the past four years. Hinske should be able to carry the load for the Pirates if it even matters. And there won't be room for LaRoche once Pedro Alvarez reaches the majors.

Max Ramirez: Ramirez could be up for trade with Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden at the catcher spot of the Rangers, but Ramirez projects to be a first baseman in the future.

Ramirez hit .354/.450/.646 in AA. He can play first base, play catcher if Posada's injured, catch in the minors, or be an upgrade over Molina.

Center field (if Teixeira moves to third and Swisher moves to first)

Rick Ankiel: Ankiel's 25 home runs could be lessened with more playing time to Chris Duncan and Colby Rasmus. The Cards now have five outfielders worthy of being everyday players. Hell, maybe Ankiel could even help out the pitching depth.

Marlon Byrd: The versatile outfielder could be shopped along with Ramirez if the Rangers are confident with an outfield with Josh Hamilton, Daniel Murphy, and Nelson Cruz. He hit a .380 OBP last season and is moving into a contract year.

Delmon Young: Hold in your laughter, but the Twins realize their surplus of outfielders and have put Young in trade discussions. They'd probably have to give up Phil Hughes, but they'd be getting equal upside in return.

Those are the top candidates. None of near the player that A-Rod is, but the Yankees need an upgrade on the bench if they want to win it all.

Data from baseballreference.com, cbssports.com, mlbtraderumors.com, and scoutingbook.com was used in this article.