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Opportunity for Red Sox reflected in issues facing the Yankees

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  October 18, 2012 09:30 AM

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DETROIT -- We are coming up on the two-month anniversary of the Red Sox trading Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Nick Punto to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Only now, thanks to the Yankees, can the true value of that trade be fully realized.

Derek Jeter will have surgery on his fractured left ankle on Saturday in North Carolina, then face 4-5 months of rehabilitation. The Yankees hope he will be back for Opening Day, but admit they have no idea to what degree the surgery will affect his ability to play shortstop.

Jeter, who turns 39 in June, worked hard in recent years to improve his range. Now he faces the hurdle of playing with a surgically repaired ankle. Jeter has $17 million on his contract for 2013 and an $8 million player option for 2014.

Then we have the latest drama surrounding 37-year-old Alex Rodriguez. He has looked helpless in the postseason and the Yankees aren't interested in giving him a chance to work it out. Rodriguez has been pinch hit for three times in the postseason and benched three times.

The most expensive player in baseball has become almost useless to them -- and he has five years and $114 million remaining on his contract. On Wednesday, before the postponed fourth game of the American League Championship Series, the Yankees talked about A-Rod like he was some scrub call-up from the minors.

"We will go forward. Alex will go forward," general manager Brian Cashman said. "You're going to have some good times and you're going to have some tough times. But when you're going through the tough times, it doesn't have to be the end-all and be-all.

"Opportunities will exist to continue to get back off that mat and get back in the ring and battle. And Alex is going to wait for that opportunity. Right now it looks like, in theory, we'll do that against lefthanded pitching."

Manager Joe Girardi fielded questions about whether Rodriguez was still a viable player without blinking.

"No, no, I don't think he is a shot player," he said. "It's not that I want to sit Alex Rodriguez. It's not that I have sat him against every righthander, I haven't. He played against a lot of them. But the struggles have continued, like for some other players as well. And I've sat some other players just as well."

Unless the Yankees can trade Rodriguez, this is their new reality.

"This doesn't mean that he's done; that he's finished; that he is not capable. He is still a big threat," Cashman said. "But for whatever reason right now we are adjusting to what we are seeing."

The Red Sox avoided this kind of mess when they unloaded Beckett, Crawford, and Gonzalez on the Dodgers.

Instead of watching the 32-year-old Beckett throw 91-mph fastballs the next two seasons and become increasingly recalcitrant, they can go get somebody younger, better and more team oriented.

Instead of counting how many surgeries Crawford has over the length of his seven-year deal, they can invest that money in a player entering his prime.

And while Gonzalez was a hefty tariff to pay for unloading Beckett and Crawford, his diminishing power and problems hitting at Fenway Park are troubling signs.

Now, thanks to the Dodgers, the Red Sox have incredible roster and payroll flexibility.

Unless they pull off their own miracle trade, the Yankees are stuck with an aging and expensive roster.

They'll surely pay to bring back Mariano Rivera next season. He turns 43 in November. CC Sabathia, who is 32, is signed until 2016 with a vesting option for 2017. Mark Teixeira, also 32, is signed through 2016. Robinson Cano will be a free agent after 2013 when he is 31 and will command a long-term deal.

The Red Sox were a wretched team and finished in last place, a whopping 26 games behind the first-place Yankees. But the Sox might actually have the advantage moving forward.

Seeing Jeter go down and watching the Yankees wrestle with Rodriguez only confirmed that idea.

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