It's not unheard of for a team to be unfazed by the loss of one of its stars for a month or so. The Yankees themselves have survived similar blows in the past. In 2003
The obvious way for a team to survive the temporary loss of a star is with a strong backup. Last year the Rays had reclamation project
This year the top candidate to replace Rodriguez at third is veteran minor league infielder
The good news for the Yankees, and Ransom especially, is that there are other ways to compensate for the short-term loss of a star, the best being an improved performance from other members of the team. If Rodriguez's teammates can pick up his slack for six weeks -- assuming his return occurs closer to mid-May -- his absence may well have been forgotten about by the All-Star break. The Yankees are actually in a great position to do that as there was so much slack on the roster last year that needed tightening to begin with.
Of course the Yankees don't just need to hold the line for Rodriguez, they need to improve over last year's 89-win performance in order to challenge the Rays and Red Sox atop the division, but that's where the big additions that New York made over the offseason come in, and once Rodriguez returns in mid-May, all of the improvements made by Posada, Cano, Matsui and Gardner -- who also had his swing retooled by Long in order to allow him to hit the ball with more authority rather than simply slapping at it -- will be applied to the bottom line.
Looking at Baseball Prospectus's
Without factoring in Ransom's production, any marginal improvement from Cabrera to Gardner or the positive effect of benching Molina -- who had a -11.4 VORP last year -- the potential rebounds from Posada, Cano and Matsui alone would not only compensate for Rodriguez's absence but would also do so by so much that the Yankees would actually improve by six wins even with Rodriguez gone for six weeks. Adding those six wins to their 2008
That's all best-case scenario stuff, to be sure. Yet, even if you downgrade the expectations for Posada, Cano and Matsui, after factoring in Teixeira, Sabathia and company, the Yankees are right back in the thick of the AL East playoff hunt, as the Red Sox claimed the wild card last year with 95 wins and the Rays took the division with 97. Losing Rodriguez for six weeks isn't going to help the Yankees in their quest to return to the playoffs --- the win-and-a-half of VORP that they're losing could well be decisive in the major leagues' best division -- but it isn't going to hurt them as much as one might expect. The key is that New York will still have Rodriguez in the lineup for four-and-a-half months, and he's a player very capable of making up for lost time.