Strike two is that he has had a .226 batting average over the last three seasons combined. Strike three is that he strikes out... a lot. Nearly one fourth of his at bats ended in strikeouts last year. With Johnson in the lineup almost every day, expect some significant run producing problems in the latter portion of the lineup
Another dilemma is that the Yankees had their chance to nab a significantly better third baseman. Admittedly, they did not have the salary they do now because of the suspension, but the Yankees still had a ton of money to throw around this offseason. Brian McCann's signing was not the problem in New York. Neither was Jacoby Ellsbury's. Carlos Beltran's signing was. The Yankees seemed perfectly set to enter 2014 with a great set of outfielders in Gardner, Ellsbury, and Soriano but then they go and sign Beltran. While he is certainly not a bad player, the signing suddenly puts most Yankees in a jam for playing time.
The ramifications go like this: Beltran will now become the starting right fielder over Alfonso Soriano. Soriano will move almost all his playing time to DH. And then it gets even more problematic because Derek Jeter should be playing DH on most days in 2014. That is unless the Yankees want their revered captain to go out amidst limited playing time and playing second string on the depth chart. Jeter will most likely DH most days. People are probably yelling at the screen right now saying, "He'll play shortstop!". But, do the Yankees want to take that chance? Jeter's getting relatively old and doesn't possess the quick footwork needed to play there much anymore. His Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) has been spiraling downward since 2010. In 2012, Jeter possessed the worst UZR among shortstops with at least 50 innings, and was the sixth worst defensive player in all of baseball. In addition, that's how he broke his ankle in the 2012 playoffs and it would be incredibly risky to let him play shortstop most days. Brendan Ryan should have that role locked down. It would be a shame to waste his defensive talents at any other position even if he can barely hit. So now there is a logjam revolving around RF-DH-SS-3B-2B and the Yankees don't look like they will make any more major moves to ship someone away.
The bigger question is: why did they spend all that money on Beltran if they could have solidified third base (or second base) with Omar Infante. He sold for $30 million over four years and presented the most obvious solution to the problem. Maybe they were hoping Robinson Cano would suddenly drop the ten-year plea and settle for what the Yankees are offering. Spending $45 million on a fourth outfielder was probably the biggest blunder in the MLB this winter. Either way, that is possibly the worst spending agenda in the MLB.
New York must have been furious that they did not make the playoffs this season. After all, a spending spree on McCann and Ellsbury meant they were refueling en route to the World Series. Right? If so, how are they justifying placing Brian Roberts, Eduardo Nunez, and Kelly Johnson in charge of second and third base? With so many excellent players on the roster, its hard to believe they would completely ignore the problem staring them straight in their face. Everyone knew A-Rod was a goner and had just a matter of time before the official court ruling. Spending on unnecessary parts has left the Yankees defenseless in the infield.
Even when proposed with a Gardner for Brandon Phillips trade, (even if Phillips was asking for more money, the Yankees obviously had it) they felt set entering 2014 with Brian Roberts. Roberts has averaged 48 games over the last four seasons because he is so injury-prone. If he almost assuredly becomes plagued with injuries again, Eduardo Nunez will take over at second base. I'm sure most Yankees fans went through enough pain watching him fill in for Jeter while he was out. Imagine that but with him playing at a position where he has a combined 20 games started since 2010. 34% of New York City just shuddered at the thought.
Lastly, fans need to remember baseball is foremost a business. Like any other business, the Yankees want to succeed and earn as much revenue as possible. In an age where reputation is often pitted against reward, the Yankees have made it known on which side they stand. Baseball fans certainly know that the 27 World Series wins did not come from having the happiest or the friendliest roster in baseball. While many have been fan favorites, there have also been the occasional Roger Clemens and Reggie Jackson. While nobody can deny their on-field performances, they were never the kind of players people liked when off the field. It does not matter if most of the world hates Alex Rodriguez , because he can still help the Yankees reach the upper echelons of the postseason. In the modern business age, wins trump reputation. Just think about that before praising A-Rod's suspension.
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