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January 27, 2004
Bye, Bye Boonie
Aaron Boone hurt his ACL playing basketball on Monday, which could mean that he's out for the season. His contract isn't guaranteed if he plays basketball, which he did, so the Yankees aren't going to pay him his full salary, which they shouldn't. It may be a different situation if it's a minor tear and he'll be healthy for spring training in less than 30 days, though, so we'll have to wait and see. (I can't express the jolt of joy I just felt typing "spring training in less than 30 days," by the way--only a month of this seemingly interminable purgatory remains, where I'm forced to watch whatever my wife has found on one of the 80 different home improvement channels DirecTV was kind enough to cram into my package.)
If it's minor and he'll miss a little time, the Yankees might decide that 90% of Boone is worth 100% of the deal he signed (though that seems difficult to justify). But more likely they're going to set fire to his contract and then mail him the ashes. Boone at $5.75 million for a year was high when he signed it, and considering comparable signings this off-season (Adrian Beltre was the only close signing, and he's way younger, though BP's PECOTA forecasts have Boone hitting better in 2004, while others like Scott Spiezio came much cheaper). The Yankees might just even call do-over and see what Boone will take, now that almost everyone else has signed their third basemen and are probably not going to offer Boone anything close to what he was scheduled to receive.
I don't think there's been a situation like this since 1994, when Ron Gant busted his leg in a motorcycle accident and the Braves cut him. But here's the big problem: there's no one left out there. Nobody. And that's counting Todd Zeile. The Yankees are staring a season of Erick Almonte or Enrique Wilson right in the face, and even from Boone's contributions, that has to be considered a too-steep drop. And unless Drew Henson learns to recognize the curve ball in the off-season, they're screwed.
I don't think we've seen this version of the Yankees face this type of situation. Their money hasn't bought them infield depth, and there's nothing it can find them on the open market. Or...can it?
The Red Sox tried to bring Alex Rodriguez over, but were unable to make the deal work. I can see the idea entering Steinbrenner's head even now: What better way to turn this injury into a huge Yankee victory and stick it to the Red Sox at the same time? Oh yeah...you trade Jorge Posada to the Rangers for Rodriguez. The Yankees can afford the salary the Red Sox couldn't, even now, even with their monster payroll. Then they sign Ivan Rodriguez, the only real star hitter left out there, to catch. Derek Jeter moves to third (which, as Joe Sheehan has pointed out repeatedly, solves little, but this is the Yankees). The Yankees go on to score 1,100 runs while running Luis Sojo out there every day as a super-utilityman. Sure they'll be old, and the contract Pudge wants is too long for too much, but they could win over 120 games easily. By August.
What if Jeter doesn't want to move, though? How can the Yankees use their money to patch this hole?
It's certain that these, and even more nefarious, ideas have already been considered in the darkened halls of Yankee headquarters. The only question now is how crazy the move is going to be. We're told that the cornered rat is deadliest, but what about an already-insane baseball owner with essentially infinite resources, denied in consecutive years a championship he believes rightfully belongs to him? Is anything too outrageous? Maybe moving Giambi to third. Other than that, though, remember you read it here first.