Boone Out! Who's In?

Well, spring training is less than a month away and the Yankees are all set, right? Wrong. The team was dealt a crushing blow when they found out that they are now without a third baseman with the 2004 season bearing down on them. It has been reported that, a week ago, doctors found that Aaron Boone had suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) while playing basketball and that it is likely that he will miss the entire 2004 season.

However, many agree that financially the Yankees have nothing to worry about when it comes to paying his salary because of the fact that he was under a direct violation of his contract that stated that he could not play basketball. Therefore, the Yankees will be seeking partial or complete relief of Boone's $5.75 million contract. Despite his ALCS game 7 heroics against the Boston Red Sox last season, Boone looked to truly prove his worth in the 2004 season and show the fans that he was worth giving up their top pitching prospect (Brandon Claussen). Now, all of those hopes are gone and the New York Yankee organization is going to need to find a way to fill a gaping void left at third base.

At this point, many Yankee fans may already be in panic mode and saying that, despite Aaron Boone's numerous struggles since arriving in New York, at least he was a certified brand-name third baseman. Now the Yankees have nothing and are going to have to rebound from this loss and consider their options. This late in the off-season it may be very difficult for the Yankees to reel in a big name player but with an owner like George Steinbrenner don't count anything out as unrealistic. Nothing is out of the ordinary for the New York Yankees these days and there are still many ideas for them to contemplate.

For the Yankee organization, this idea seems very unlikely but still possible. They may choose to go with the players that they currently have on their roster by filling the void with the likes of Miguel Cairo or fellow bench member Enrique Wilson as a possible platoon situation but again, with George Steinbrenner running the show, it doesn't seem likely that the Yankees would go into the season with either of these men as their starting third baseman.

Another uncharacteristic, but possible, move for the Yankees would be to bring in a young player from their depleted farm system. The only possible suitors for this opportunity would be the former top prospect, AAA farmhand Drew Henson and late blooming and recently-budding third-base prospect Brian Myrow. It seems more likely that, of the two of them, it would be Henson that would get the nod, not because of his production numbers but more so as a result of the fact that Henson is already in AAA and has played in the big leagues before. However, it is still within the realm of possibility that Myrow, who is scheduled to start the season in Columbus could make a the big leap to the big leagues because of his age (27) and because of his superior statistics to those of Henson (.306 BA, 18HR and 78 RBI in 2003). On the other hand, it is unlikely that the organization would take such a risk as to move a minor leaguer along that quickly and be forced to wonder what they would get from a young player that played his last season in only AA ball.

There is one other scenario in which the Yankees would look to dip into their minor league system for third base help and it would be in the person of Erick Almonte. Almonte has shown that he can fill very big shoes before when he stepped in to play shortstop last season when Derek Jeter went down on opening day of last year. He has played third base before and has certainly proven that he can hold his own in the big leagues. Again though, it doesn't seem typical for the Yankees to do something like that and it doesn't look as if that trend is going to change anytime soon.

Right now, there are very few options for the Yankees on the free agent market so it is nearly impossible for them to throw their financial weight around by landing a third baseman with the benefit of their deep wallet. On the other hand there are still a few possibilities floating around out there. One possibility is former Yankee and free agent Ron Coomer. Others could include Jose Hernandez, and Mark McLemore. Out of the group it seems that the likeliest of options for the Yankees would be McLemore and he would probably be a very cheap option for them and has proven that he can fill any hole while playing for Seattle. Despite a very desolate free agent market, it is still possible that the Yankees could either sign one of these players or pull off a blockbuster trade of some sort or even a trade of lower proportions in order to acquire a third baseman.

There are only a few options that the Yankees could turn to in order to acquire a new third baseman via a trade on such short notice. One of these places would be the Anaheim Angels. As recently as last month, they were shopping their superstar third baseman Troy Glaus. The Angels have been looking to cut payroll since the signings of their big name, high priced acquisitions (Bartolo Colon and Vladimir Guerrero) and the $9 million salary that Glaus now has may be a good place to start. Glaus would be the natural fit in this situation with his proven playoff experience and his overall tremendous talent and would fit quite nicely into the Yankee lineup. However, as it has been noted more and more recently, the Yankees have an incredibly depleted farm system and simply may not have enough to offer to the Angels if or when discussions opened. The only legitimate prospects that the Yankees could conceivably offer would be Dioner Navarro, Rudy Guillen, Danny Borrell and Jorge DePaula and maybe a few others, but those are really the only recognizable prospects in the organization. If the Yankees were to offer two of these players as a base offer they would get a very negative start to the negotiations. On the other hand, it is very possible that another team could get involved and, with a lot of cash involved from the Yankees end of the deal, it would still have a chance to get done.

The Yankees do have other places to turn, however, and that place is to the San Francisco Giants in an inquiry about their third baseman and former Met, Edgardo Alfonzo. Out of all the possibilities, this one may be the most likely to become a reality. Earlier in the off-season, it was rumored that the Yankees and Giants discussed a deal that would send Alfonzo, along with reliever Felix Rodriguez, to New York. At this point in time, sources said that Alfonzo was the sticking point of the deal and that the Giants were looking to move his contract. But the Yankees weren't interested in taking this so-called throw-in to go along with what they really wanted at the time, Rodriguez. The deal fell apart as a result of this, and now the Yankees would love to have Edagardo Afonzo on their team. However, it is still possible that the Yankees could start up negotiations with San Francisco and this time Alfonzo would be the centerpiece of the deal. Unlike a possible deal for Troy Glaus, the Yankees could much more easily swing a deal by offering similar prospects but getting different results. It is very possible that Alfonzo could be in the Yankees' immediate off-season plans and they could be acquiring the ex-Met before spring training begins. Of course this is only speculation to what the Yankees may have up their sleeve.

In baseball, you always must consider the strange and out of the ordinary even if it may seem illogical in any other sport. The Yankees do have some of these options to try and fill the hole at third base. One of these would be to try to make a blockbuster trade for Chipper Jones. Don't call this idea too crazy just yet. It was rumored early this off-season that the Braves wanted to unload one of their Jones' (Andruw and Chipper) but it seems likely that it is off now with the loss of Gary Sheffield to the Yankees. So don't look for Jones to be joining the Yankees anytime soon. Another even crazier idea, but still within the realm of possibility would be for Gary Sheffield, thats right Gary Sheffield, to move back to third base - a position he hasn't played since 1993 - and Bernie Williams would then remain in the outfield. Those are just a few out of many crazy ideas for the Yankees to consider.

There may be several other off-season moves to fill the void at third base that are not even being speculated about at this time. Don't be too surprised if the Yankees make a move that nobody saw coming and also improves the team. Because, you must remember, that they are the Yankees and that they are owned by George Steinbrenner. We will soon see how the Yankees react to the loss of their third baseman and what their plan of action is to come up with a new one for the 2004 season.



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