Baseball BeatOctober 07, 2006
...and That's Why They Play the Games on the Field Rather Than on Paper
By Rich Lederer

I believe in Jeremy Bonderman and am not surprised that the Tigers won today. However, I was blindsided by Detroit beating the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series. I'll tell ya, I just did not see that coming at all.

But so what? I also had the Twins defeating the A's. In other words, I'm 0-2 in my playoff predictions thus far. And I'm not looking too keen in the Padres-Cardinals series either.

As far as the Mets-Dodgers NLDS goes, I don't know who I had. I picked the Mets on Tuesday, then took the Dodgers on Wednesday when I learned of the injury to Orlando Hernandez. It wasn't that I was all that enamored with El Duque as much as I was concerned about the team's starting pitching depth.

Unfortunately for the Dodgers, they may not extend the series to get to Oliver Perez or John Maine a second time. L.A. is losing 4-2 through four innings as I write this. We know it will be the Tigers and A's in the American League Championship Series. The participants in the NLCS are still to be determined but odds would point to a Mets-Cardinals showdown right now. But the way things have gone thus far, who knows?

The last time Detroit and Oakland faced each other in the ALCS was in 1972. (Speaking of the 1972 Tigers, getting a chance to listen to Ernie Harwell call the action in the DET-NYY game on Friday night was a special treat.) Will 2006 turn out to be more like 1973 when the A's outlasted the Mets in the World Series in seven games or 1984 when the Tigers defeated the Padres in five? Dodger fans are no doubt hoping that a rematch of the 1988 Fall Classic is at hand. (In the meantime, Kirk Gibson is on standby, not knowing if he should dress in a Tigers' uniform or in a Dodgers' uni.)

More likely than not, 2006 will have its own script - one that none of us would have foreseen ahead of time . . . well, at least not me.

*******

On a somewhat separate note, the Yankees' lineup in Game 4 seems like the death knell for Alex Rodriguez. I mean, batting eighth? Wow. I'm not going to jump all over A-Rod like many in the mainstream media. Instead, I'm just making an observation about how he is being used more than anything else. If you ask me, the guy is as good as gone. Rightly or wrongly, I don't see him in pinstripes next year.

Do you think Rodriguez *will* be back with the Yankees in 2007? Do you think he *wants* to return to New York next year? If A-Rod is traded, where will he go and how will he do with his new team? If you were the owner or GM of one of the other 29 clubs, would you give the Yankees an everyday player and a prospect *and* take on his contract in full? (Remember, the Texas Rangers are still picking up a significant portion of his salary.]

Rodriguez stands to make $27 million per year from 2007-2010. According to Cot's Baseball Contracts, he may opt out after 2007 unless he gets an $8M/year raise or $1M more than MLB's highest-paid player. The likelihood of him opting out is slim and none - and slim just left the room. His complicated deal can be found here. The bottom line is that a new team would only be on the hook for $16M per year or $64M over the life of the remaining contract.

Is A-Rod a good or bad risk at that price? You make the call.

Comments

Depends on the team and the position you put him in. If the Mets were to take him, he'd displace either Reyes (to 2B?) or Wright (to LF?). Neither is ideal, although Reyes to 2B probably isn't bad. You downgrade your defense significantly either way. If Wright moves to LF, you have a Hundley Situation. If Reyes moves to 2B, you have your best shortstop playing a different position. (But such is life for ARod, huh?)

The other ARod-to-Mets problem is that, arguably with the exception of 2B, they can easily make big upgrades at their other offensive weak spots (the corner OF) in the free agent and trade markets. $64m goes a long way there.

But if you put him in a White Sox uniform, he plays SS. He's a huge upgrade there, and there's not many places that they can make huge upgrades easily. They can't really throw $64m at 1B or DH and expect improvement to match the investment.

So, it depends.

Figgins, Shields and Bootcheck for A-Rod, maybe throw in Orlando Cabrera as a salary sponge on it all.

Ha! Yeah, then flip Maicer Izturiz over to the Cardinals for that kid Pujols.

If I were Rodriguez, I'd want out of the Bronx in the worst way. The Yankees wouldn't have made the postseason in 2005 without his MVP season, and this is what he gets? This year, he goes .290 / 392 / 523 for an OPS+ of a mere 140, and he's practically burnt at the stake.

If I were a non-Yankees GM, I'd nearly inevitably be interested in picking up Rodriguez, but I sure wouldn't overpay for him. I'd let Cashman try to get value for him and realize that nobody wants to rescue him from Rodriguez's contract and give up players.

I wonder if the Angels would offer New York the same package they did Baltimore for Tejada. The Yanks don't need Aybar, but Santana would be a nice addition to a rotation that needs to get younger, faster. And maybe you could flip Aybar to KC and gamble on Teahan. DNL's White Sox suggestion is a good fit for Chicago, although they can't offer the same kind of package as Anaheim.

Either way, there's just one thing to keep in mind: a deal means there's no way the Yanks can hope to match A-Rod's production from a 3B in '07.

A-Rod needs to leave New York the way Garciaparra needed to leave Boston. That's just the way it is.

Poor Yankees. Apparently Jeter and his magical leadership and mystical winning philosophy weren't enough to lead his rag-tag hard-nosed $195 million teammates to victory over the big bad Tigers.

At $16 million a year, the guy's contract is manageable for a team with money to spend, and he's still among the top 3 or 4 players in the game. I agree the Angels make the most sense, and a team like Houston that is freeing up a lot of payroll at the season's end could definitely afford him, but I think there are plenty of teams who would be willing to take him. It's not necessarily a smart move on the Yankees' part, but I don't know why A-Rod wouldn't want out. No matter how many MVPs he wins, he'll never get a fair deal in NY as long as he's playing next to their Golden Boy.

If I'm an opposing GM, I think of it this way: A-Rod, at age 31, is due $16 million per year for the next four years (assuming NY doesn't pick up part of his salary in a trade). The top FA on the market, Alfonso Soriano, is 30 years old and probably looking for a minimum contract in the $75 mil/5 yr range. Granted, Soriano's only going to cost a couple of draft picks, but who would YOU rather have?

From a personal standpoint, I'm hoping he goes somewhere that allows him to return to SS. It's always bugged me that his legacy, however slightly, is being lessened by playing 3B. How many more Gold Glove caliber 50 HR middle infielders are we going to see in our lifetime?

I don't see A-Rod going anywhere. He still has no trade protection and if he waives it, he practically concedes that he has failed in New York. In my judgement, he's not the kind of guy who will openly admit his failure. He'll stay.

"Alex Rodriguez. I mean, batting eighth?"

Fifty years from now, little Scotty Dorkswaggler will see on the back (from the cool 10-card "Untimely Baseball Suicides of the Past" subset) of one of his Flopps (Topps will have co-joined at the unhip with Fleer's ashes by then) 2056 Baseball Card Set (with newly built-in Retrosheet capabilities!) cards, the fact that Joe Torre batted inner-circle HOF Alex Rodrez 8th.

and wonder...and then silently lay his not nearly completely formed head under a roaming Mayflower truck.

I think Rodriguez and New York are in a situation similar to the one with Boston and Manny Ramirez. Assuming that both teams truly wanted to deal their respective players (not necessarily true), the fact of the matter is that neither team could expect much return for their player.
I've said before in the Ramirez situation that it doesn't make much sense to trade him. The typical package for him includes Boston picking up a huge chunk of his salary and getting only marginal prospects back...for a hitter who is almost impossible to replace, what's that point?
The same goes for Rodriguez...he isn't nearly the best player in baseball, but he's still an excellent one, and very hard to replace. If the return is similar to the one in Ramirez's case, what's the point? The only reason for New York to deal Rodriguez would be in the event that they deal away his entire contract (highly unlikely, even for almost no prospect return) or if they got a player they liked, and only picked up a portion of his contract.
Given what Rodriguez does have to offer, NY fans are probably stuck with him, whether they like it or not (and I bet the media is far more eager to see Rodriguez traded than the Yankees are).

Also: I'd take Soriano, hands down.

Just some conjecture:

Chipper Jones & Mike Hampton for A-Rod.

Would solve some problems and create others.

Thought another scenario would help liven the conversation.

Cards should offer Eckstein straight-up for A-Rod. Yanks save $, get a sparkplug. Cards get a guy to bat behind Pujols. If they Yanks can do better (as they likely can), then so be it. The atmosphere in St.L. would give Rodriguez a new lease on his baseball life.

The Dodgers need more sock -- homeruns -- in their lineup. How about A-Rod to the Dodgers in exchange for Betimint -- who, by the way, the Yanks inquired about when he was still a Brave -- Elbert, and another prospect? Or in exchange for Elbert and LaRoche? Or Elbert and Loney? It seems to me the Dodgers could put together a better package than the Angels. Also, I have to believe the Yankees would prefer to trade A-Rod to a NL team instead of a big-market AL rival.

Just for comparison's sake:

Player A 2004: .286/.375/.512 .307 EQA 9.9 WARP2
Player B 2004: .280/.324/.484 .268 EQA 5.1 WARP2

Player A 2005: .321/.421/.610 .350 EQA 12.5 WARP2
Player B 2005: .268/.309/.512 .283 EQA 5.5 WARP2

Player A 2006: .290/.392/.523 .315 EQA 6.9 WARP2
Player B 2006: .277/.351/.560 .304 EQA 9.9 WARP2

Obviously, Player A is A-Rod and B is Soriano. If I'm a GM with my heart set on Soriano, A-Rod isn't a bad consolation prize. He's a year older than Soriano, but their contracts are both likely to expire at age 35.

From a baseball standpoint, I agree that trading A-Rod does nothing but hurt the Yankees. They can't really replace his production in the lineup. But it seems like everyone is calling for his head in NY, and if they have the gall to fire Joe Torre, there's no reason they wouldn't be willing to move A-Rod.

If I were a GM, I'd give them the 4 non-prospects that Cashman got for Abreu. Why would you want to help the arrogant Yankees by giving them , Santana-Angels, etc. The Yankees are between a rock and a hard place and there is no reason to help them out.

trading alex rodriguez to the angels would be an incredibly stupid thing to do.

the angels are a team that seriously scares me.
they play in a large market, have an owner who has proven a willingness to spend money, and most importantly have the best core of young players in baseball. they are going to be a fantastic team for the next five years, and not to mention that the yankees can never beat them.

trading them one of the best players in baseball in return for salary and media relief would be a horrible decision.

The same goes for Rodriguez...he isn't nearly the best player in baseball, but he's still an excellent one, and very hard to replace.

"Isn't nearly" might be over-stating the issue. With Bonds no longer a guarantee for anthing more than 120 games, Pujols is the only guy in the game I'd take over A-Rod ten times out of ten. OK, I'd be tempted by Miguel Cabrera, too. But seriously... anybody else?

johan santana maybe.
and maybe ryan howard.

but that's the point.
he's still one of the elite players in the game, and probably stands to improve next year, like the improvement from between 2004 and 2005.

If I was a GM, I'd take A-Rod in a New York minute (pun intended) and put him back at SS. I'll take a 35 HR/121 RBI/.290 "off year" any time.

The thing to do is to wrap up the trade ASAP. Once word gets around, the offers will come in fast and furious.

ARod to the Mariners for Beltre and Washburn. Both teams take on the salary. ARod comes back home to where he had success, the Yankees get a slick fielder at third and a decent and non-graybeard 4th starter.

I hear the BoSox are looking for a SS that can hit. I'm sure they'd love to have a .300/35/120 guy in the infield and hey they've even got a bloke they can get rid of who earns about the same amount of cash! 2 future HOFers traded nearly straight up for a fresh start for each....

Also: I'd take Soriano, hands dow

This is at least part of why you don't run a major league baseball team. Soriano is not significantly younger, is a significantly worse hitter, and is a terrible fielder at 2B or an adequate one in LF. A-Rod -- back at SS, and anybody who asserts that he can't do it doesn't remember how well he played the position not that long ago -- is better than Soriano at his best, and waaaay better than the Soriano you're actually going to get, ie, the one who is roughly comarable to Carlos Lee.

Let's look at it this way, the Yanks probably do want to get A-rod out, but they have no utter need to do so, they definately don't lack money, and A-rod isn't even in the top 3 of the most overpayed player ON HIS OWN TEAM (Pavano, RJ , Wright .. even Kyle Farnsworth..)

While teams like the Dodgers and Angels are pretty damn desperate for a bat... and they can up their payroll if they want... AND the Yanks can eat some of A-rod's money anyway...

Looking at it this way, unless old man Geoge goes ballistic in the next few days ... if A-rod gets moved.. the Yanks will get quite a bit in return.

Dodgers might make the most sense for both sides, the Dodgers need the bat at 3rd... and they have enough young players/prospects to make very interesting packages... the Yankees sure as hell would rather send A-rod to the other league than a team that eats them from breakfast both in the regular season and the playoffs.

If it's the Dodgers.. the Yanks might ask for...

Kuo + Martin +Laroche. Dodger take all the money, or Yanks take some moeny and Dodgers throw in a few more guys.

It would be interesting, this package seem to fit the Yanks need completely, Kuo is a very interesting lefty who's only downside is health. (which hasn't acted up in the last 2 years...) Martin is obviously a future star and possibly the best replacement for Posada possible. Laroche is hurt right now, so his stock might be low, but he's probably a future 3B that the Yanks need.

For the Dodgers, Martin will definately sting, but they have excess pitching that Kuo might not sting (in the short term anyway) and with A-rod they have no real need for Laroche anyway.

Or they might take out Martin (who will probably hurt too much for the Dodgers to lose) and throw in a few other arms like Bronxton or Billingsly or Elbert + Betimet as well.

For the Angels... considering what they have... the most likely case in which both party feels right is something along the lines of.

Jeff Mathis
Joe Saunders
Chone Figgins
Ervin Santana.

Given A-Rod's so-called "issues", I can't imagine a character-obsessed GM like Colletti would want him. Honestly, the situation seems ripe for Beane. I wonder if the A's could put together some kind of package (and bump the payroll) that would do the trick.