What A-Rod's return means for Yankees

Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY Sports

Alex Rodriguez is eligible to return to the Yankees’ lineup while his suspension is appealed.

Despite news of his suspension from baseball through the 2014 season, Alex Rodriguez should return to the New York Yankees’ lineup for the first time in 2013 Monday night. Rodriguez is eligible to play while his appeal is processed, and Yankees manager Joe Girardi has said that if Rodriguez is available, he will play him.

What does Rodriguez bring to a team that is 9.5 games out of first place in the AL East and fighting for playoff contention with 52 games left?

Injury crisis

The Yankees have been ravaged by injuries this season, with more than 35 combined All-Star selections missing significant time. As of July 10, the Yankees had more payroll on the disabled list (more than $97M) than 16 teams’ entire Opening Day payroll. With Rodriguez’s return, the Yankees get their highest paid player ($29M) back on the field.

The not-so-hot corner

For all the talk of Rodriguez’s decline, the Yankees have had a difficult time replacing him. Yankee third-basemen have been among the least productive in baseball all season, ranking last or next-to-last in the league in home runs, RBI, batting average and slugging percentage.

Yankees Third-Basemen

This Season

When taking a look at his numbers from last season, even a down year for Rodriguez was more productive than what the Bronx Bombers have had at third this season.

Through 122 games last season, Rodriguez had a slugging percentage of .430 with 18 home runs and 57 RBI. This season’s Yankee third-basemen have a slugging percentage of .285, 4 HR and only 32 RBI.

Superstar in decline

Postseason difficulties have haunted Rodriguez throughout his career. He was great in the 2009 postseason, batting .365 with six home runs and a slugging percentage of .808, but that appears to be an outlier.

Last postseason, he batted .120 while striking out in 12 of his 25 at-bats. His struggles against right-handed pitching were magnified, as he failed to record a single hit in 18 at-bats against righties.

During the postseason, pitchers beat Rodriguez with fastballs inside. His performance against such pitches has declined considerably in the last few years. His batting average against inside fastballs dropped from .349 to .267 from 2011 to 2012. In 2010, he was striking out 11.8 percent of the time on these pitches, whereas last season that number jumped to 17.1 percent.

Approaching milestones

Alex Rodriguez

Career Ranks Among Active Players

Rodriguez is tied with Lou Gehrig for the most grand slams all time (23) and needs 13 home runs to tie Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time list.

Aside from Rodriguez, only Barry Bonds and Willie Mays have 600 home runs and 300 stolen bases in their career.

With Rodriguez less than 100 hits away from 3,000 in his career, he could join Mays and Hank Aaron as the only players with 600 home runs and 3,000 hits in a career.