On the surface, the New York Yankees would seemingly benefit greatly from a suspension that would keep third baseman Alex Rodriguez out for the entire season and possibly beyond—he is currently appealing a 211-game ban and a decision from the arbitrator is expected any day now.
For one, they wouldn't have to pay him his $24 million salary for the upcoming season, which could have an effect on how their offseason concludes. With several holes to fill, including at least one in the rotation and two in the bullpen, having that extra money at their disposal would certainly help.
Secondly, no Rodriguez in 2014 would mean no potential for any distractions that could come with continued questions over his alleged usage of performance-enhancing drugs and his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal, his declining performance, bloated contract or his commitment to the team.
But let's put all that on hold for a minute.
What if his suspension is decreased to a number that would allow him to return at some point during the 2014-15 season? Wallace Matthews of ESPN.com reported that Rodriguez could accept a penalty of 100 games or less without putting up any more of a fight.
What if he's granted an injunction—he's expected to file for one if his suspension isn't overturned to his liking, according to the New York Daily News—that would allow him to start the season with the team and play until another decision has been made?
While they'd have less money at their disposal to help fill out their roster, it's really not all that bad of a scenario to have the 38-year-old manning the hot corner for at least part of the season.
As was the case in 2013 when Rodriguez missed the majority of the season recovering from hip surgery, the Yankees' backup plan at third base isn't a very good one.
Overall, Yankees third basemen posted a .633 OPS with 12 homers and 52 runs batted in last season. It was worse without Rodriguez.
In 27 games at third base after returning to the field in early August, Rodriguez had a .906 OPS with five homers, six doubles and 10 runs batted in. His return, regardless of the sideshow that came along with it, had a major impact on the lineup.
In 2014, Rodriguez's backup plan includes some combination of Eduardo Nuñez, who has a career .692 OPS, only 62 career starts at third and a .933 fielding percentage as a third baseman, and Kelly Johnson, who made his first 12 career starts at the position in 2013 and is also currently slated to share time with the oft-injured Brian Roberts at second base.
While there's still a chance that the team can bring back Mark Reynolds, or another free agent like Michael Young, neither is likely to have nearly the impact that Rodriguez would in 2014.
In a scenario where Rodriguez's suspension is reduced to, let's say, 100 games, the Yankees would still save close to $15 million in salary.
For $15 million, the team could land a closer—Grant Balfour (pictured) shouldn't cost more than the two years and $15 million he would've gotten from Baltimore had they not backed out of the deal due to medical concerns; Balfour claims he is as healthy as he was last year when he was an All-Star closer for Oakland—setup man and lefty reliever—Francisco Rodriguez shouldn't cost more than $3 million on a one-year deal; Oliver Perez's cost could be two years and $5 million—and re-sign Reynolds to a one-year, $3 million deal to help bridge the gap at third base until Rodriguez returns.
Not to say they couldn't afford those players anyways—they are the Yankees, after all—but the savings from a 100-game suspension could technically still be re-invested into the 2014 team.
If they can land Masahiro Tanaka or one of the top free-agent starters, which they are trying to do regardless of the Rodriguez outcome, this roster has a chance to be very good by the time Rodriguez would return sometime in late July.
1 Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
2 Derek Jeter, SS
3 Carlos Beltran, RF
4 Mark Teixeira, 1B
5 Brian McCann, C
6 Alex Rodriguez, 3B
7 Brett Gardner, LF
8 Alfonso Soriano, DH
9 Brian Roberts/Kelly Johnson, 2B
Francisco Cervelli, C
Brendan Ryan, IF
Kelly Johnson, IF/OF
Ichiro Suzuki, OF
1 CC Sabathia, LHP
2 Masahiro Tanaka, RHP
3 Hiroki Kuroda, RHP
4 Ivan Nova, RHP
5 Michael Pineda, RHP
CL Grant Balfour, RHP
SU David Robertson, RHP
SU Francisco Rodriguez, RHP
MID Oliver Perez, LHP
MID Shawn Kelley, RHP
MID Cesar Cabral, LHP
LR David Phelps, RHP
Money and potential sideshow aside, Rodriguez would likely give the 2014 Yankees a better chance of making the playoffs.
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