The sudden availability of the DH role can give the New York Yankees extra leverage that will aid an aging team down the road.
By Emmanuel Berbari
Unfortunately, the moment Alex Rodriguez pulled up lame the New York Yankees lost a powerful bat that had just hit his stride. However, the subtraction of an everyday designated hitter can only mean more flexibility for an aging roster.
The designated hitter, especially in the Yankees’ case, can be used to relieve a lot of burden from players or, in other words, give them a “half-day off.” This is essential for a team with an average age of 32. Things have not looked great for the Yanks, but they can spin completely out of control if the injury bug sets in.
The team will certainly miss the presence of A-Rod for the next 15+ days, but with that absence comes the opportunity to take the wear and tear off players.
For instance, a 39-year-old Carlos Beltran hurts more than helps the Yankees out in right field. He is the definition of a DH candidate. As the Yankees have displayed right off the bat, they can DH Beltran and use Aaron Hicks, a much more capable option, in right field.
They can find more consistent at-bats for Hicks, who has struggled mightily in a platoon role early on, and still keep Beltran’s bat in the lineup. If the time comes to give Beltran and his old legs a full day off, a plethora of options still exist.
Mark Teixeira and his 36-year-old injury prone body should by no means be forced into everyday first base duties. Teixeira has played 22 of the 24 games this season at first base and has seen success in limited DH time throughout his career (54 RBI in 64 games).
The Yankees should have the luxury of keeping one of their more capable power bats physically intact. Preferably, Dustin Ackley should be manning first base once a week with Tex assuming DH duties.
The same goes with Brian McCann. 32 is not old in baseball years but is equivalent to 40 when it comes to a catcher with the body frame of McCann. The 6’3” 225-pound backstop often takes a beating behind the dish and it was evident with his tail off at the end of 2015.
McCann was working on a career year, only to slash .200/.306/.395 in the second half and, more notably, .174/.301/.279 in September/October.
McCann’s power bat is crucial to the middle of the order, and when he is not catching it does not mean he needs to be on the bench. Four at-bats can be thrown his way with Austin Romine handling catching duties on given days.
Even the likes of Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner, guys not considered as power bats, need half-days here and there. Why sacrifice their offensive production when you want to give their legs a rest?
Of course, the Yanks will miss their team leader in home runs dearly, but Rodriguez’s inability to play the field at this stage of his career creates a severe stopgap. The designated hitter varies per team as some rely upon it much more than others. For a team like the Yankees, the DH is imperative when used correctly.
All signs point to this talented of a Yankee lineup breaking out of this catastrophic slump. When and if that does happen, Joe Girardi needs to do everything in his power to keep it from transpiring a second time. One of those tactics will be utilizing the flexibility that the DH provides.
When A-Rod returns from injury, his return to his pre-injury everyday role is inevitable. At that point, the Yankees need to look back and know that they took advantage of the leverage that only American League teams have.