On Friday Brian Cashman revealed that it is possible that Alex Rodriguez will miss the entire 2013 season. Cashman pointed out that he does think the Yankee slugger will be back on the field sometime in the second half of the season, but he gave a nod to reality when he indicated that there is also a chance A-Rod doesn’t lace ’em up at all next year. Whether A-Rod plays three, two or zero months this season, is it time to ask: Is Alex Rodriguez done?
Alex turns 38 in July. If he comes back at all in 2013 he will be coming back from his second hip surgery, this time on his left leg, the leg that faces the pitcher when he’s in the box. He will be attempting to come back after having not played in more than 140 games since 2007. He will be attempting to come back after suffering yet another leg injury, a recurring theme for A-Rod dating all the way back to 2008, when he first missed time with lower half trouble. How much can he possibly have left?
The answer may be more than we think. Alex may not be the player he was from 2004-2009, his best years with the Yankees, a time when Fangraphs says Rodriguez was the best player in the American League, but he has always been an above average hitter. Whether your preferred metric is wRC+ or OPS+, Alex still rates as a solid hitter. In 2012 he posted a 114 wRC+ and a 112 OPS+. If he can come back to about 110 in either, he’ll still give the Yankees production, albeit at an onerously elevated cost.
But what if Alex doesn’t make it back in 2013? What if he misses the entire year? Then what? The Yankees still owe Rodriguez over $100 million on his last contract (one of the worst in the game’s history). That’s not the kind of money you walk away from. It is possible that a well rested, healthy Alex comes back and gives the Yankees something worth paying for in 2014, similar to what Derek Jeter managed after his DL stint in 2011, but is that something worth betting $100 million on?
The Yankees seem destined to eat every cent of Alex’s awful deal. No matter how frustrating it may be for Alex to continue to play as his abilities diminish, playing baseball is all he’s ever known. He won’t just walk away from the game, especially not when enormous money is still on the line. Unfortunately, it seems more and more likely that whatever is left won’t be worth paying for.