I’m not sure it’s as significant as it’s often made out to be — it’s often portrayed as if every key piece of the roster is in his late 30s — but it’s certainly a problematic situation. The Yankees irreplaceable closer is in his 40s, and their left side of the infield is showing signs of aging while still signed to multi-year contracts.
Like Dan wrote in this morning’s Pinch Hitter post, the Yankees might very well need to make some position change decisions within a year or two. They might have to find a new closer next season, it’s unclear how much longer Derek Jeter will be a viable defensive shortstop and the team has to wonder how well Alex Rodriguez’s body will hold up while playing the field every day. It’s not a disaster, but it’s worth monitoring. And plenty of people are monitoring it.
What the Yankees do not have is an overwhelming problem at first base.
Mark Teixeira’s decline is similar to the Yankees aging roster: A concerning situation often blown out of proportion. The past two years, Teixeira hasn’t been nearly the all-around hitter he was in 2009 (and the Yankees are paying him to be that sort of all-around hitter). He’s struggled left-handed, his batting average has dipped, and he hasn’t been the perpetual MVP candidate the Yankees expected when they signed him to an eight-year contract.
But let’s not pretend he’s been so dreadful that the Yankees would be better off with his bat on the bench.
Teixeira is still a very good defensive first baseman, he’s still one of the game’s best power hitters, and he still does a good job drawing walks and getting on base. The past two years, he has failed to measure up against the game’s truly elite first basemen — Cabrera, Pujols, Gonzalez, Fielder, Votto, Konerko – but he hasn’t fallen into the lowest levels either. He’s been at the top of that second tier of first basemen, much closer to Ryan Howard than Mitch Moreland.
Is more expected of Teixeira? Absolutely. The Yankees expect more, the fans expect more and Teixeira expects more. He’s been hitting third in the New York Yankees lineup for three years, and that spot only goes to a player who’s supposed to be one of the very best hitters in the game. For the past two years, Teixeira has not been that kind of hitter. Right-handers have given him trouble, and he’s struggled through extended slumps. It’s a problem for a guy signed for five more years at 22.5-million per year.
But to say he’s become a devastating drain on the lineup — and Dan is certainly not alone in suggesting such a thing — is simply not true.
Associated Press photo