February 14, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on  

Alex Rodriguez to New York for Soriano, huh? That’s the hot story of the day, though we’ll see when it comes through (or doesn’t). We’ve known Alex has wanted to move to a national market for a while now, looking for the added exposure and money to be made there.

And normally I’d be baffled about the reported decision to play Alex at *third* while “Past a diving” Derek Jeter continues to play short. Alex is in every way a better shortstop than Jeter: he’s a much better defender and a superior hitter, in both areas by such a margin that it’s not even close. A straight swap of Jeter for Alex is 60 runs over the course of the season, easily. Jeter’s got “athleticism” but his range is bad. Some argued Jeter could be the solution to the team’s center field defense problems, where he’d be able to track fly balls and use his speed without having to field those tricky grounders that give him so much trouble. If Soriano’s the trade bait, I don’t know who they scrape up to play second, but they could find some Dominican glove wizard at this point and offer Mussina & Co. some relief from last year’s single-fest.

I’m not baffled, though, because these are the Yankees, and they haven’t always looked at things in the same rational way I might (which is “what are our needs, what do we have, what can we get, how do we put together a winning team after we’ve answered those first three questions?”). For instance, the Yankees are able to look at an average right fielder and upgrade him to Gary Sheffield, and punt outfield defense entirely for a year (or more).

With Boone out, the Yankees discovered their stopgap solutions at third were all pretty shabby (but would one of them have been able to do a passable Boone impression? Probably). If Alex Rodriguez has been a third baseman last year, he’d have been the best-hitting third-baseman in baseball, which now that I’ve typed that strikes me as one of the strangest and most impressive things I’ve ever seen. Holy mackeral. An Alex-for-Boone upgrade gets the Yankees 30 runs, maybe more. Now it doesn’t solve the Jeter and up-the-middle defensive problems, but now second base is open. What’s weird is that leaving Alex where he can contribute most and then finding Jeter a position keeps thier offense the same (they’d both be in the lineup no matter what) but would improve their defense markedly.

But this isn’t the ideal solution. For all the carping I do about the Mariners and their ill moves, the Yankees got older and better without fixing their problems, which was expensive and not easy. That they are apparantly unwilling to face Jeter’s defensive limitations or ask him (as the captain) to make a move that would make the team significantly better (um, actually, maybe I should be happy that’s the case), maybe this is a great sign, that Bad George Yankees may win a ton now but will ultimately spend themselves into oblivion on contracts (like Jeter’s) that reward public regard and chemistry over performance and team-building.

Like the Mariners have done!