There are headlines aplenty going around the Yankee infield right now. When you've got $50-60 million worth of players whose statuses for next year are all in some sort of doubt, that'll happen. The one name that is absent from the conversation is that of Mark Teixeira, and that's probably just fine with him. Never one to draw a lot of media attention with what he does on or off the field, Teix has slid almost into Kevin Youkilis "don't even both talking about him" territory after having season-ending wrist surgery in early July. Considering his importance to next year's team, it's probably time to dust him off and get him back in the offseason discussion.
What little of Teix we have seen and heard lately hasn't been baseball-related, at least not on the field. He did a little studio analyst work for the MLB Network, which I'm still waiting for a review on, and when he's not doing that he's tweeting out inane college football questions. There's been little information on his rehab progress, which was initially expected to take 4-5 months. Teix himself said he expected to be back to 100% physically in 6 months, and with it now being over 3 months since the surgery took place we should be hearing some kind of good news.
Because his injury status has drawn far less attention than Derek Jeter's, it's easy to forget that Teix actually played fewer games than Jeter in 2013. His 15 games played and 63 plate appearances were the fewest out of all the anticipated lineup regulars and a more dramatic acceleration of the disturbing downward trend in Teix's game that's been happening since he first joined the Yankees. While it very well could have been different had he not missed so much time, the fact remains that 2013 was Teix's 4th straight year of decreased OBP, wOBA, and wRC+, and his 3rd straight year of decreased ISO and games played.
At age 33, Teix appears to be rapidly losing both his best offensive skills and his ability to stay on the field. This wrist tendon sheath problem in 2013 was not an isolated incident. Teix's wrist problems go back to July of 2012, when he first hurt himself on a swing in a game against Baltimore. He spent the rest of the 2012 season dealing with it through cortisone shots and scattered days of rest and then re-injured it very early in March, again on a swing. It's encouraging to hear that the surgery was going to have him ready for next season in plenty of time, but to think that the wrist is ever going to be 100% again is overly optimistic at best, naive at worst. Add to that the calf problem he had in 2012, thumb injury in 2011, and the hamstring strain that ended his 2010 ALCS, and the concerns about his health only grow.
The Yankees were counting on Teix experiencing some natural regression over the course in his contract, but I don't think they were expecting to see it get this bad already. At $22.5 million per year for the next 3 years, Teix has the 3rd-biggest contract on the team right now, and that contract is only going to look worse if 2014 is another season of diminished power production and DL stints for him. With A-Rod facing a possible suspension, C-Grand and Cano possibly leaving via free agency, and Jeter a major health question mark in his own right, Teix could be the most important bat in the middle of the lineup next year. He's not as sexy a name as the others, but it's probably time to start getting his back in the mix because he's definitely going to be around next year and the Yankees definitely need him.
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