Recently, to the subject of much hoopla, the best player in Baseball talked about being traded. Alex Rodriguez was prepared to finish his career in Arlington when he signed a 10-year, $252 million contract in December of 2000. This was by far the largest contract in history, and no other deal has flirted with the $200 million barrier since.
The reason teams are hesitant to devote so much money to one player is the result Texas has had since signing A-Rod:
2001: 73-89, last place
2002: 72-90, last place
2003: 53-67 through 8/14, currently last
It is unfair to say that A-Rod contributed to this failure, especially considering how the team's pitching staff did in those seasons:
2001: 5.71 team ERA last in Majors (5.29 is next)
2002: 5.15 is 27th in Majors, 4.96 relief ERA is worst
2003: 5.86 team ERA last in Majors (5.11 is next)
Those are horrid numbers, and the reason behind those horrible numbers. I mean, you mean to tell me Alex Rodriguez has hurt this franchise? C'mon:
2001: .318/.399/.622 52HR/135RBI 18SB
2002: .300/.392/.623 57HR 142RBI 9SB
2003: .305/.399/.583 32HR/82RBI 15SB
And remember that he missed significant time this season with a back injury, one which he recently recovered from. He's giving teams a reason to consider him this August, posting numbers of .405/.537/.952, hitting 7HR in just 42AB.
What's really not fair of the Texas franchise is to say that A-Rod has hurt them become true players on the free agent market. The team's payroll this season was $72.941,367, or about $49M after A-Rod. If Billy Beane can consistently build a contender with $49M, why can't John Hart put 24 players around Rodriguez? I can answer that:
Chan Ho Park- 5-years, $65M
Zimmerman, Powell, Van Poppel- $19M through '04
Rusty Greer- 3-years, $21.8M
Gonzalez, Palmiero- $21M in 2003
Bad contracts have killed this franchise. The team has consistently overpaid for pitchers, and re-signed hitters at insane prices. Greer is on the payroll for more than $7M next season, showing a huge mistake Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin made in his tenure. This team must allocate its funds better to compete, which John Hart should be able to do.
One positive for the Rangers is that Grady Fuson has assembled one of the best minor league systems in the minor leagues. The team has four great youngsters in their lineup with Hank Blalock, Mark Teixeira, Lance Nix, and Ramon Nivar. They also have Michael Young and Kevin Mench in their lineup to go with Rodriguez.
The team made some great trades at the deadline, getting talent that will help them for years to come. They acquired future 1B Adrian Gonzalez, SP Ryan Snare, and 4th OF Will Smith all for Ugueth Urbina. Carl Everett yielded them Frankie Francisco, Josh Rupe, Anthony Webster.
All that young hitting will come cheap for a few seasons, allowing the team to become big players on the free agent market. If Roger Clemens doesn't retire, the team should try to tempt him to come to his home state, as they did with Nolan Ryan. Clemens is still effective, and could teach these youngsters a lot. Pitcher Jose Dominguez made his debut this week, after being heralded as having the best changeup in all of the minor leagues.
Although these are all examples of why not to trade A-Rod, what if they did? What if John Hart is ordered to look at the bounty he could get for the best player in the world? Here are the team's that could do so fiscally, and have it be feasible in an organizational sense.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Majors worst offensive team desperately needs an offense, and Alex Rodriguez can provide that immediately. They play in the nation's second largest city, and have another new owner committed to winning. Unfortunately, the team has a ton of money committed to pitchers over the long-term.
Here's a small list of the Dodgers major free agents in terms of money, not including Hideo Nomo, whom I'm going to assume has his option get picked up:
Brian Jordan- 9M
Andy Ashby- 8M
Fred McGriff- 3M
The team will have 20M off the books this season, but will be left with holes in left, and on the corners, assuming Adrian Beltre is non-tendered. But, if they can add a bat like A-Rod's to the team, everything else isn't important. Here's my proposed trade to get A-Rod in Dodger Blue:
Los Angeles gets:
Texas gets a good defensive shortstop to play in their offensive minded-lineup, and an expensive, veteran pitcher with a lot of upside. They also get one of the Majors' best prospects in the 19-year old Jackson, a potential left fielder in Chen, and another good pitcher with Pilkington.
Los Angeles would then have about 7M more to spend on the team, which is just enough. They could move Paul Lo Duca to first, putting prospects Koyie Hill and Dave Ross behind the plate. Evans then would get a 3B at a decent price, possibly re-signing Robin Ventura. Then, trade Odalis Perez, yielding J.D. Drew from the Cards. They would have to spend their final money on a fifth starter, anyone from Wilson Alvarez to Rick Reed. LA's potential lineup:
1. Dave Roberts
2. J.D. Drew
3. Shawn Green
4. Alex Rodriguez
5. Paul Lo Duca
6. Robin Ventura
7. Koyie Hill
8. Joe Thurston/Alex Cora/Jason Romano
1. Kevin Brown
2. Hideo Nomo
3. Kaz Ishii
4. Joel Hanrahan
5. Wilson Alvarez/Rick Reed
I guarantee that team would win the NL West, and give LA the best marketing tool they could've imagined.
2. Chicago Cubs
This is really the only other team that could afford adding A-Rod, and giving up solid pitchers in return. Alex Rodriguez would solve the offensive woes that plague the team, and give Chicago a playoff team. Although, it would cost a lot for the team to get the young shortstop, and may do some harm to the vaunted pitching staff.
When my site premiered, I wrote a guest column over at the Cub Reporter. The article stated the Cubs had about $12M to spend on free agents, and the $24M that Rodriguez costs is well over that figure. But, not if this was the trade:
In this trade, Kerry Wood has the chance to pitch in his home state, where he could get advice from legends like Nolan Ryan and Orel Hershiser very often. It would give the Rangers a great arm at the top, and one capable of taking the franchise on his shoulders. Gonzalez is a good defensive shortstop with just enough pop to keep in a lineup. Kelton could be the left fielder next season, or be used in the DH role. And finally, Justin Jones is a second-tier Cubs prospect, but would probably make the Rangers top 10.
All in all, I think this trade would help both franchises. The Tribune Company would be reluctant to drop Wood, who has drawn so much attention. But if they are going to do it for anyone, its Alex Rodriguez.
I was trying to add more teams to this list, but it doesn't make sense. Here's why:
- Padres- Apparently have the cash, but not the pitching
- Giants- Would need to dump way too many contracts
- Yankees/Red Sox- Umm...Jeter, Nomar?
- Mariners- Have cash and pitching, but a little too much irony
Trading Alex Rodriguez would do harm to his franchise, John Hart should spend his time worrying about getting the youngsters in his lineup while building a pitching staff. This team has playoff potential in about two seasons, but need to add some arms first.