Another Spring Training, another Alex Rodriguez controversy for the New York Yankees to deal with. That has been the blueprint ever since Rodriguez joined the team via a trade with the Texas Rangers prior to the 2004 season. Whether it was his on and off relationship with Derek Jeter, his past playoff failures, injuries or most recently his PEDs issues, Rodriguez can’t seem to go through baseball’s preseason without being plastered on the back page of the New York newspapers. And yet, throughout all the A-Rod drama, the Yankees find a way to get thru it, qualifying for the postseason in eight of the nine seasons the third baseman has been on the team. So even with this new dark cloud hovering over the team thanks to Rodriguez, the Yankees shouldn’t be counted out in this upcoming 2013 season.
Even before this new A-Rod mess hit the Yankees, they had prepared themselves for life without him at least for this season, signing former Boston Red Sox nemesis Kevin Youkilis to a one-year deal worth $12 million. Youkilis is coming off the worst season of his career, hitting for just a .235 average and a .336 on-base percentage, both career low numbers. However, it was also a season in which he first dealt with controversy with then Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine who said Youkilis wasn’t, “physically or emotionally into the game” as he had been in the past. Then it was a back injury that cost him 22 games from April 29th until May 21st. Upon his return to the lineup, he saw his regular third baseman’s job go to rookie Will Middlebrooks. Finally, he was traded to the Chicago White Sox on June 25th. Talk about a man in need of a refresh for 2013.
Every player in baseball, especially All-Star type talents like Youkilis, are entitled to a bad year. So instead of focusing on his 2012 season, if you look at his and A-Rod’s past three seasons, the two have put up similar levels of production. Since 2010, Rodriguez has appeared in more games (358-344) and has out hit (.272-.264), out homered (64-55) and driven in more runs (244-202) than Youkilis. However, in fewer games, Youkilis has scored more runs (217-215), earned more walks (177-157) and posted a higher on-base percentage (.372-.351). He’s also posted a higher WAR in the past three seasons (10.1-9.6). As long as Youkilis can stay relatively healthy, he should be able to produce offensively at an equal and even better rate than Rodriguez.
Another way Youkilis can help the Yankees in a way Rodriguez can’t is in his versatility. Where as Rodriguez is basically entrenched as the Yankees third baseman, Youkilis can not only play third base but also give Mark Teixeira the occasional day off from the field. In fact, Youkilis has played more first base in his career (607 games) than third base (442) and the lone Gold Glove he won in his career (2007) was playing first base. As for his work at the hot corner, Youkilis has posted a higher career fielding percentage at the position than A-Rod (.966-.964), proving he can play the position as well as Rodriguez while also providing the flexibility to move him around that Joe Girardi covets in a lineup where he enjoys giving his regulars as many days off as possible.
So while the Yankees will have to deal with the constant questions this season about A-Rod’s hip surgery rehab and now his connections to the new BALCO East in Miami, they can at least have the peace of mind that they have a more than adequate person replacing the fallen superstar in their lineup.