The Alex Rodriguez Dilemma

“If it comes down to, would we want the player we signed to be playing that position without any problems? Absolutely, no question about that,” Cashman said. “I think if people think there’s some sort of benefit by losing that talent, I mean, you can’t replace it. It’s not like, ‘All right, well, Alex is gone.’ If he winds up getting suspended and it’s upheld, how do you replace that? It’s not easy.”

It’s common for Yankee fans to underappreciate certain players. Over the last couple of decades, we’ve been spoiled by hitter after hitter, home run after home run, and big money contract after big money contract. Alex Rodriguez is the most underappreciated Yankee. Standing next to Derek Jeter for 10 seasons is no easy task, but Rodriguez has both out-hit and out-fielded the New York icon. Yet if you polled the average Yankee fan, most wouldn’t take a second thought in pronouncing Jeter the fundamental piece of the last decade.

Rodriguez has averaged a .291/.386/.534 slash with the Yankees, good for a 140 OPS+, but his achievements are largely forgotten behind his flaky portrayal by the New York media. His 2009 postseason performance is lost among the majority of the fanbase, and the memory of his two MVP seasons in pinstripes have rotted away. While the numbers have deteriorated and his playing time has been lost to age and decaying health, the number of zeroes in his annual salary have remained. Fans have forgotten Rodriguez’ importance, many rooting for a 2014 suspension and the end of his Yankee career in the name of economic justice.

For most, rallying against the 38-year old isn’t a matter of anti-cheating, but the betterment of the Yankees. By most measures, Rodriguez is still being paid for what he did in 2009, his 2013 season was far from worth $28 million. The Yankees would be better off using that money in other ways, and losing Rodriguez to a PED suspension would help the Yankees in the long run.

But it’ll be difficult to replace the third baseman. Looking at the free agent market proves the task. Mark Reynolds is the flashiest name, a player who was released from the Indians just a couple of months ago. Rodriguez is undoubtedly an upgrade, but at what price? With an organization eyeing a $189 million budget, a rebuild, and a change of pace, rooting against a PED suspension is short-sighted. For the sake of 2014, Rodriguez is undoubtedly the best option at third base, but a team that’s eyeing a budget and a rebuild doesn’t need a $27.5 million obligation at third base.

As we saw in 2013, the Yankees seem to be in limbo on whether they’re competitive or rebuilding. Perhaps that’s a good thing, as we now witness the advantages of both a competitive team and one unwilling to sell future assets. The indecision could also be a negative, as draft picks for competitive teams remains relatively high, and teams that hoard their talent in the depths of minor leagues rarely have enough to win it all in October.

I don’t doubt the work done by Brian Cashman, there’s an argument that he’s been the most successful GM in the game. What I question is his honesty to the media. He didn’t earn his reputation by being an open book; Cashman is a liar and that’s a good thing. With Rodriguez in somewhat justifiable legal rampage, it’s in Cashman’s best interest to support his third baseman in the media, telling many that he wants him back for the 2014 season.  But by all measures, be it rebuilding or competing, the Yankees are better off with a PED suspension. The money opens up many more possibilities to invest in both “now” players and future assets. Rodriguez impact on an already worrisome 2014 team just isn’t great enough to justify his ridiculous salary.

The Yankees will undoubtedly take a downgrade at third base to save $20 million. That’s money they can use to invest in Masahiro Tanaka, Jose Abreu, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, Dalier Hinojosa, or Odrisamer Despaigne. It feels like the international free agent market has never been this flooded with major league ready talent, and with the restrictions of the new CBA in other areas of the IFA market, the Yankees look poised to spend as much money as possible towards this young talent. But see it for what it is, we’re not rooting against Rodriguez for moral justice, we want a better Yankee team. Unfortunately, we’ll be sacrificing the best third base option to take that step.