WTNYFebruary 16, 2004
The Trade
By Bryan Smith

Sometimes there are moves that make me post when I don’t plan on it. Sometimes the history of baseball is changed on a certain day, when no one saw it coming. I thought the largest news of this weekend would be the Tampa Bay Devil Rays opening camp...I was wrong.

Alex Rodriguez, the best player in baseball, the best non-Bonds player of my lifetime, has gone to the Yankees. My hate of the Bronx Bombers is like many baseball fans, hate born from pure envy. Being a Chicago Cubs fan, that envy grows considerably. And today, my envy grows even further.

George saw a problem when Aaron Boone went down, and like he always does, sent Brian Cashman out to fix it. While we all mocked the Yankees for acquiring the likes of Tyler Houston and Mike Lamb, it was the Yankee front office that was laughing. They have no problem pushing their payroll over $200 million for a winner, for Alex Rodriguez.

Alex’s resume is fantastic, and he deserves a lot more than one MVP trophy on his mantle. His OPS has been above .900 each of the last six seasons, although it has dropped each of the last four. Rodriguez slugged above .600, and got on-base at above a .390 clip every year since 2000. He stole 17 bases last season, and brought in 118 runners.

By comparison, Alfonso Soriano isn’t too bad either. Soriano proved last year that 2002 was no fluke and that Juan Samuel is not his best comparison. Soriano’s OBP will never touch .390, and his SLG is far from .600. But Alfonso is good for 35-50SB a year, and should near 40HR yearly. In the last three seasons, Soriano’s road OPS is .118 better away from Yankee Stadium, and he has a 1.248OPS in 41 Arlington at-bats.

While Texas will catch a lot of flak for trading away the best player they ever acquired, this is not a terrible deal for the Rangers. They are only on the hook for $3M to A-Rod this year, although they will pay him $43M more, and owe him deferred money. Soriano will come fairly cheap as this year was his first with arbitration, but his salary should gradually increase each of the next two seasons. The Rangers will be able to afford a long-term contract with Alfonso when Chan Ho Park’s vicious contract comes to an end.

For the Yankees, this deal has nothing to do with money. Rodriguez is a great addition no doubt, although his home/road splits aren’t perfect. Arlington has been very nice to A-Rod, as his OPS has been .143 better there since becoming a Ranger. He’s hit six home runs in fifty-four Yankee Stadium at-bats though, so don’t look for Rodriguez to fall off the MVP ballot. He’ll provide better offense than Soriano did, but he’ll come with more controversy.

If you listen to the rumors so far, Alex Rodriguez will move to the hot corner next year, keeping Derek Jeter at short. This move is guaranteed to catch criticism from the sabermetric community, as Rodriguez is a much better shortstop than Jeter. Rodriguez is better with David Pinto’s probalistic model of range, significantly superior in range factor, and while Rodriguez ranks 10th using UZR, Jeter ranks last. But Jeter is Mr. Yankee, the newest captain of the Bronx Bombers, they can’t possibly ask him to move.

They should. Jeter could be a very good third basemen, or move to centerfield, a la Robin Yount. No matter what, this pushes the third base problem the Yankees had to second base. The team has the following competitors for this job:

Miguel Cairo
Enrique Wilson
Homer Bush

Yikes. This makes the team’s acquisition of Lamb look pointless, just as the Travis Lee addition raises questions to why they are paying Tony Clark. I’m fairly confident that Miguel Cairo will get the job in Spring Training, which is laughable. But as a friend pointed out, Jose Vidro will be available by the All-Star Break, and could give the Yankees this type of depth chart:

C- Jorge Posada
1B- Jason Giambi
2B- Jose Vidro
SS- Derek Jeter
3B- Alex Rodriguez
LF- Hideki Matsui
CF- Kenny Lofton
RF- Gary Sheffield
DH- Bernie Williams

Wow. The Yankees have assured their place as AL East favorites, and the Evil Empire has tightened their grip on the rest of Major League Baseball.

Moving back to Texas, this creates some defensive questions in Dallas as well. Do you move Michael Young back to shortstop? Does Alfonso Soriano move to the outfield? Can Eric Young get in the lineup? I would assume that Soriano stays at his position, giving the Rangers this offense:

C- Einar Diaz
1B- Mark Teixeira
2B- Alfonso Soriano
SS- Michael Young
3B- Hank Blalock
LF- Brian Jordan
CF- Laynce Nix
RF- Kevin Mench
DH- Brad Fullmer

Not bad. Teixeira should breakout this year, giving the team a very good middle of the order. Hopefully Buck Showalter will realize what Joe Torre didn’t: Soriano is not a leadoff hitter. The problem is, no one really is on this team. If Eric Young could get in the lineup he would be, but that would entail beating out the young Nix in centerfield.

As it stands right now, no one knows if Jose Contreras will be in the deal. I’m very high on Contreras, and if he’s still a Yankee, will probably be in my top 5 Cy Young candidates for 2004. He would become the immediate ace in Texas, while he’ll be fourth in the powerful Yankee staff. I don’t think he’ll be included in this deal, which means the Bombers clearly win.

While the Yankees do win this deal, it won’t be as much as the media makes it out to be. These are the dog days of February, and any chance at drama will be exaggerated. This trade works on both ends, and I’ll give John Hart a thumbs-up if he can get Conteras in there too. But please Torre: move Jeter!


I made an arguement yesterday for Homer Bush on my blog to get the 2B job. I think he's the only one worth anything defensively and since they all can't hit, defense would be the way to go.

Soriano has hit well in Arlington in part because he was hitting against Texas pitching. The reverse is true for ARod who may hit better in the Bronx because he won't be facing Yankees pitching.

Does anyone else wonder why Brian Cashman even shows up for work?

Soriano has hit well in Arlington in part because he was hitting against Texas pitching. The reverse is true for ARod who may hit better in the Bronx because he won't be facing Yankees pitching.

Does anyone else wonder why Brian Cashman even shows up for work?

Cashman is one of the best in the business. The Yankees have got a heck of a deal. Getting the Rangers to eat enough money to make the deal 16 million per was a great move. If I was the Yanks I think I would try Jeter at second. He doesnt quite have the range for short but I think he could play second. At the very least he could do as well as soriano did last year. Then Lamb could play third. They real question is who plays short when Giambi gets hurt.

Also as for Vidro I think the yankees cupboard is about bare. Behind Navarro I'm not sure they have any prospects any team would want. They really dont have enough for Vidro.

Rodriguez can't let facing Yankee pitching be an excuse for his road OPS, as it's been .969 over the last three years in the Bronx. I think A-Rod is going to give a drop off of some sort, I mean, I wouldn't draft him first overall in fantasy baseball.

As for Soriano, Texas pitching may be a reason, although Arlington is a great place for hitters. I think 90 extra-base hits is a real possibility, and he could join the 40/40 club this year.

Still, Texas loses by a bit, especially since Contreras doesn't look to be in the deal.

Brian Cashman is a very good GM, simply because he keeps Steinbrenner sort of grounded. If George made all the moves it would be ugly. I really do think the Yanks could take on Vidro, I mean, how much more will the Expos want mid-season than Navarro?

Its also an issue for baseball as well letting the Yanks pick up Vidro. I'm sure most of baseball's owners would lynch Selig if Steinbrenner were allowed to pick up the final piece of his fantasy baseball team from under all their noses. Especially when 29 other GM's could easily field a better offer. It could happen but I doubt it. The Sox will likely field a better offer and snag Vidro to replace Pokey Reese before the Yanks.

Although I'm surprised at how much money the Rangers had to put into the deal, or, similarly, what little else they will get from the PTBNL, it's important to remember that ARod really wanted out of Texas and the tension might have been a huge distraction. That has always been the primary motivation for moving ARod.

As to his playing SS, just wait until Jeter gets hurt again, and you'll see it. The question will be for how long . . . . .