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August 1, 2003

6-4-3

Alex In Wonderland

by Gary Huckabay

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Alex Rodriguez, who might as well have the number 252 tattooed on his face a la Mike Tyson, inspired a media circus this week by suggesting he would accept a trade if the Rangers believed it to be in the best interest of the franchise. This was immediately misinterpreted as a request to leave Arlington, and brought out the same yahoos who are going to follow Rodriguez around for the rest of his career, criticizing anything he does short of tossing 225 innings with a 3.10 ERA for the Rangers.

But let's put aside for a second whether or not it makes sense for the Rangers to make a deal that moves Rodriguez. Let's similarly put aside any ridiculous, ill-informed tripe that suggests Rodriguez isn't a team guy, or that "winning obviously wasn't a priority" when he signed with Texas in 2001. Let's ignore that the Rangers have done an impressive job of blowing money down the toilet on a number of other players with a heck of a lot less return. And for this exercise, let's not even admit that the Rangers develop pitchers about as often as TV producers improve a show while it's "on hiatus."

Let's just consider this: If the Rangers want to deal A-Rod...

  1. What has to happen in order for the deal to get done?
  2. What are the potential deals?

First, there's money still owed A-Rod over the course of his deal...


Year	      Salary
--------------------
2003	$  6,000,000
2004	$ 18,000,000
2005	$ 21,000,000
2006	$ 21,000,000
2007	$ 23,000,000
2008	$ 24,000,000
2009	$ 24,000,000
2010	$ 24,000,000
2011	$  0,000,000
2012	$  0,000,000
2013	$  1,343,916
2014	$  4,031,749
2015	$  5,375,666
2016	$  5,375,666
2017	$  5,375,666
2018	$  4,031,749
2019	$  4,031,749
2020	$  4,031,749
--------------------
Total   $194,597,910
And that's assuming A-Rod is dealt in August, and assuming he clears waivers. (The 2003 and 2013 numbers are in there just in case, really. If a deal were to occur, it would probably happen in the off-season.)

That's probably too rich for several teams' blood, even with the large amount of deferred compensation. Rodriguez would probably have to restructure the deal, but it's hard to imagine a club being willing to go too much further out in the future for deferral. Can you imagine Allard Baird putting that kind of encumbrance, even at 0% interest, out to say, 2030? "Assistant GM Prince Fielder told the Topeka Capital-Journal that the Royals wanted to sign Phil Plantier III, but with the $6 million still being paid to President Rodriguez, the budget was simply too tight. President Rodriguez was unavailable for comment, as he was headed to Times Square to join Dick Clark for New Year's Rockin' Eve 2029." Also, I can definitely see the league offices getting upset about deferring compensation to the point where the monetary unit has changed from dollars to some bizarre dollar/Euro/Drachma hybrid.

There's not really much room for Rodriguez to restructure the contract in a meaningful way. He's already under contract until well into his expected decline, and adding (relatively) inexpensive years at the end of the deal makes it less of a value for any potential trade partner--paying a ton of money for a middle infielder in his late 30s, no matter how great he is now, is just plain too risky. Whoever makes the deal for A-Rod is probably going to have to deal with a contract that isn't materially different than what's already extant.

So who could take on the contract?

Well, technically, any team could take the plunge. But in reality, it's unlikely that a team without a major cash boost from its local broadcast contracts, or a major appreciation boost from ancillary properties, could consider bringing on that kind of burden.

On the baseball side, however, it's hard to imagine a club that couldn't use A-Rod. Given the financial contraints involved, though, not every team would be a good fit. But let's scan the landscape for clubs that could be a good fit:

  1. New York Yankees. Yes, they're paying a fortune to Derek Jeter, but they've got the money, and George Steinbrenner might actually explode if A-Rod ended up replacing Nomar Garciaparra in Boston. Of course, in order to get the most out of the contract, the Yankees would have to rid themselves of the fantasy that Derek Jeter's an adequate defensive shortstop, and perhaps move him to third or the outfield. Of course, the Yankees have traded away about 89 guys since I started typing this, so they may not have anyone left the Rangers would be interested in. I'm sure they'd be willing to package Jeff Weaver, Drew Henson, Adrian Hernandez, a number of Nazi War Criminals, Telemarketers, Political Consultants, Car Dealership Finance Managers, and Scientologists, but Grady Fuson and John Hart would probably want slightly more than that.

  2. Los Angeles Dodgers. Well, the revenue base is probably big enough, you've got a new owner looking to make a splash, and an offense that's more sickly than a mono-stricken Edgar Winter after a weekend bender over at Hunter S. Thompson's place. Clearly, the Dodgers could use Rodriguez in the middle of their offense. They've also got a few players that could theoretically be packaged into something resembling a fair package, especially if John Hart overvalues closers.

  3. Boston Red Sox. Nomar's coming up on free agency, John Henry and the front office understand that A-Rod's a significant upgrade, and there's enough available cash. The Red Sox could package Hanley Ramirez and some of their organizational depth and end up with an attractive package, if you're operating under the assumption that Alex is too expensive for Texas. Otherwise, the talent going back to Arlington would probably be a little thin.

  4. Chicago Cubs. Remember when Alex Gonzalez was a young stud shortstop? Well guess what? He's not anymore. The Cubs certainly could come up with an attractive package of live arms, and given Dusty Baker's track record of working with hitters, it'd probably be an attractive destination for Rodriguez.

  5. San Francisco Giants. Rich Aurilia's one of two Bay Area shortstops on the market this off-season, and from a Giant Hater's perspective, the idea of seeing a lineup that started with Ray Durham, Somebody, Barry Bonds, and Rodriguez is pretty obscene. The Giants have a full park on a regular basis, and they understand the value of having a bona fide star to build around. (You can make the argument that Bonds is the best free agent signing in history, but that's another column.) Any package going back to Texas would probably have to include the entirety of the Giants' youth, including Jerome Williams, but it might well be worth it.

All that being said, A-Rod's probably not going anywhere. Texas may not have done a good job developing or buying pitching, but they've got a vicious young core of hitters, and eventually they'll either learn that you need to have a set of nine bashers, and stop doing things like acquiring Doug Glanville, or that you need to have some semblance of a pitching staff, and quit throwing tons of money at mediocre relievers coming off of what are demonstrably fluke seasons. Besides, in the meat grinder that is the AL West, you want to build around players like A-Rod, not find a reason to ship him off just because you haven't brought a flag home in three years.

--

And just a reminder for all of those in Northern California: our Menlo Park Pizza Feed still has spaces available. Join Baseball Prospectus authors Gary Huckabay, Ryan Wilkins, and Michael Wolverton for an evening of pizza and baseball talk, and pick up a free BP T-shirt while you're at it! Ten dollars per person buys food and non-alcoholic beverages. Capacity for this event is 55 people, and it's filling fast. If you'd like to attend, please RSVP to huckabay@baseballprospectus.com as soon as possible.

We'd love to have you, so come on out!

Gary Huckabay is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Gary's other articles. You can contact Gary by clicking here

Related Content:  A-rod

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