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January 27, 2004

Well, that was worth Brandon Claussen
by Larry Mahnken

The biggest question about the 2004 Yankees is whether or not they'll stay healthy. If the Yankees can keep away from injuries, they'll have one of the very best teams in baseball.

Well, so much for staying healthy. Now, the loss of Aaron Boone probably isn't going to cost the Yankees a playoff spot, or the pennant, or a World Championship, but it's definitely a major hit.

Wait...what? This is Aaron Boone we're talking about, right? You know, the suckiest suck that ever sucked? Well, yeah, but here's the thing: compared to the Yankees' other options, he looks like Mike Schmidt. As things stand, the Yankees will be forced to go most, if not the entire season, with either Enrique Wilson or Miguel Cairo at third base. Mmmm...outs.

Boone at least has the virtue of being able to hit a home run every now and then, and is pretty good with the glove. Wilson and Cairo don't get on base, they don't hit for average, they don't hit for power, and they don't play particularly good defense, but at least they do it at multiple positions!

When evaluating the Yankees' roster a few weeks ago, I didn't see this as much of a problem, but now it is. Wilson and Cairo clearly aren't viable options to play third, nor is Drew Henson. Brian Myrow had great numbers in AA, and could do an adequate job with the bat, but his defense at second base was poor, and his ability to adequately play third is very much up in the air. He's also a 27-year old who's never played above AA, putting not only his skill into question, but making it unliely that he'll ever get a serious look from the Yankees.

It's far more likely that Boone's replacement will come from outside the organization. The Yankees are not going to move Derek Jeter to third base, because, as sjohnny said:
Jeter won't move to third for anyone short of a resurrected Jesus Christ.
And even then, Joe Torre would make them compete in Spring Training. The Yankees are NEVER going to move Jeter, because they don't think anything's wrong with his defense.

The remaining free agent choices aren't inspiring: Jose Hernandez, Ron Coomer and Mark McLemore. The Yankees might try to make lemonade from those lemons, but a trade seems more likely. Some of the expensive options out there who could be had for practically nothing (which is pretty much what the Yankees have to offer) are not much better than the free agent options. Rotoworld floated a rumor that the Giants might be looking to dump Edgardo Alfonzo to free up money for Greg Maddux, and if that's the case, I'd jump on that.

David Pinto threw out the idea of signing Pudge Rodriguez and converting him to third base. Now, while this isn't a bad idea, A) There's no way Rodriguez goes for it, and B) it wouldn't feel right to have Pudge and Posada on the same team and catch Posada, even though you wouldn't really have any other choice.

I really don't have any idea who's going to start the season at third base for the Yanks, but I do know it almost certainly won't be someone in the organization right now. They might get lucky and get better with a player like Alfonzo, but I think they'll likely suffer some dropoff in production from the position. Hopefully, this will send a message to the front office for next offseason, that the bench is not a place to stock toys for Joe Torre like Wilson, Cairo, Bellinger and Sojo. The Yankees should be stocking up on backup players who can adequately fill in when someone goes down, as they inevitably will. Someone who would otherwise be starting on a second-division team. That's what the Yankees' money should be buying.