The teams in the AL East, particularly the Yankees, have already seen quite a bit of change this offseason. Fans have already seen significant players such as Robinson Cano and Jacoby Ellsbury change hands, and the scope of this offseason just continues to change. Today, Major League Baseball announced that Yankees’ third baseman Alex Rodriguez will be suspended for the next 162 games– in order words, the entire 2014 season not counting the postseason.
A-Rod has been mired in controversy over his enormous contract, injury troubles, steroid concerns, and even attitude issues. However, he has still been an above average player when he has been on the field, posting OPS+’s of 111 both in 2013 and 2012. While he has not lived up to his contract, or even come close, he has been a solid player and will be missed in the Yankees’ lineup.
However, that is not the main reason that this decision will change the scope of the AL East. This suspension also takes $24.3 million off of the Yankees’ books for the 2014 season, which would likely allow them to make one more big move and still stay below the $189 million luxury tax threshold. This flexibility could allow the Yankees to bolster their porous rotation by picking up a big arm such as Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, or Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka.
If the Yankees do indeed use this added flexibility to make a move of this caliber, then that makes them an immediate player in the playoff battle. Currently, the Red Sox and Rays project to compete for the AL East lead, but the addition of a top-of-the-rotation starter in New York could massively change that perspective. It will be interesting to see how Yankees GM Brian Cashman plays with this newfound financial flexibility.