The writing is on the wall; despite two straight walk-off wins, the New York Yankees are 39-39 and seemingly going nowhere in the standings as they persistently hover around the .500 mark. The Yankees performance this season should push them to make some changes to their roster and the best way to do that is by selling off soon to be free agents and other appealing players in an effort to bring in some fresh bodies for the future.
If the Yankees go into sell mode, I suggest manager Joe Girardi should not have to write Mark Teixeira or Alex Rodriguez's name on a lineup card after the trade deadline.
Teixeira and Rodriguez have full no-trade clauses in their contracts, giving them the ability to block any trade, but if the Yankees are smart they will do everything in their power to convince the players that life elsewhere will be brighter for the remainder of 2016 (and 2017). If they cannot do that, they might be wise to buy out the contracts in order to open up the roster spots.
Both Teixeira and Rodriguez have endured disappointing seasons after enjoying a renaissance in 2015. Team expectations for 2016 leaned heavily on their anticipated performance and as such, the team has struggled. For the club, ridding Teixeira and Rodriguez as part of any sell-off provides immediate roster spots for players currently in the Triple-A system or new faces acquired in other deals.
There are some cons for the Yankees.
First, finding suitors for these players will not be easy. Second, the Yanks would certainly have to pay down most or all of the remaining contract value for any interested party, and New York would likely receive little in return. If the club were unable to find an interested team, then they would have to eat the entirety of their contracts. This is not something to scoff at, when talking about $43.9 million between Teixeira and Rodriguez (each player's pro-rated salary for 2016 from this point, plus Rodriguez's $21 million owed in 2017).
It might be easier to find a trade partner for Teixeira because he represents a strict summer rental and can play a position, whereas Rodriguez is solely a designated hitter and his contract runs through the 2017 season. Teixeira's abilities at first base have not diminished much, if at all, and the potential for his bat to warm up are decent considering he is typically a better hitter in the second half of the season (14 points better in OPS+ in the second half in his career).
Teixeira has battled multiple injuries over the last three seasons, which will only continue to pop up and this drags down his value. However, Teixeira's health might also be a signal for himself. He might be willing to waive his no-trade clause in an effort to land with a team that has a legitimate shot to reach the playoffs this season. Moreover, if Teixeira aids a club in making the postseason, his free agent stock increases, which is quite important for a 36-year-old player.
As for Rodriguez, the question is, is there is a market for him at all? He comes with off the field baggage that some teams simply do not want to deal with and he has shown weaknesses of late, which have relegated him to more time on the bench against right-handed pitchers (.583 OPS, 49 wRC+ in 130 plate appearances versus righties). Worse, Rodriguez has had his share of injury concerns and quite honestly has not hit well since August (.660 OPS, 74 wRC+ in 404 plate appearances). A team could surely take a chance on him if the Yankees were paying down the entire salary, and then just release him if it did not pan out, but the likelihood of this happening is still slim.
This leads me to believe that the Yankees would have to resort to buying out the remainder of his contract if they wanted to use the roster spot for someone else. Considering the Yankees owe Rodriguez approximately $32 million that also seems like a long shot. Nevertheless, in a season in which he is not providing the necessary production and there are players in the system (Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez) that could benefit from a half season of hitting in the majors or the Yankees could utilize the DH as a means to rest others.
The decision for the Yankees to become sellers will not be an easy one. It is an unfamiliar situation for them to be in, but if they have the gumption to go through with a sell-off, they should not stop with Aroldis Chapman, Carlos Beltran and whomever else they deem expendable. Why go through the clearinghouse effort yet keep two players who have provided little production in 2016 and show not much better is coming down the line?
Teixeira and Rodriguez had positive contributions during their tenures, but it could be time to cut bait and look to the future instead of wasting roster spots and the chance to test other players in the system in what feels like a season in which they are not true contenders.