With the winter meetings in full swing, general manager Brian Cashman will be looking closely at the Yankees third base options. However, New York is in a difficult situation.
Rodriguez is owed $114 million over the next five seasons. Despite his large salary, the Yankees don’t know what they will get out of him in the future. In the 2012 postseason, he was unable to perform like an everyday player, and Joe Girardi was forced to bench him. After having hip surgery at 37 years old, there’s no telling if Rodriguez can be a solid starter when he returns.
Despite the concerns over his performance, it would be difficult for the Yankees to trade for, or sign, an everyday option at third base. New York likely won’t want to pay Rodriguez all that money to sit on the bench. That would make a deal for someone like the San Diego Padres Chase Headley very unlikely.
Kevin Youkilis might be the perfect fit in the Yankees unique situation. He is a veteran with playoff experience, but won’t command a long-term contract. The two sides have reportedly met and discussed a possible one-year deal.
New York wouldn’t be getting the same Youkilis that helped the Boston Red Sox win two World Series. He had the worst season of his career last year, splitting time with Boston and the Chicago White Sox. He hit .235 with 19 home runs and 60 RBI.
Jeff Keppinger is also on the Yankees radar as a potential replacement for Rodriguez. According to Danny Knobler of CBS Sports, New York “really wants him.”
Keppinger has been a utility player for most of his career, so he’d be an ideal candidate if Rodriguez does come back healthy, and is able to be productive. Even with Rodriguez in the lineup, Keppinger could play other positions and give players like Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano a rest at designated hitter. He’s played six different positions since entering the league in 2004, and would give the Yankees a lot of flexibility.
In 115 games with the Tampa Bay Rays, Keppinger might have had the best season of his career in 2012. He hit .325 with nine homers and 40 RBI.
Hal Steinbrenner has made it known that he wants his team’s payroll down to $189 million after the 2013 MLB season. With these financial limitations, Cashman doesn’t have much money to spend on a replacement.
Still, Youkilis or Keppinger could give the Yankees decent production until Rodriguez returns. With the way Rodriguez performed in the playoffs, New York may need one of those free agents for the entire season.