Originally published October 13th, 2012
“The Yankees Win! Tha-aaa Yankees WIN!”
Sterling’s call rattles the airwaves as the Yankees storm the field after their win against Baltimore. They’ve advanced to the next round of the playoffs and are one step closer to the World Series, and there’s A-Rod charging in with them. You might not have noticed him at first – He was one of the players running in wearing a sweatshirt. It would have been easy to confuse him with someone out of the clubhouse or the bullpen, but he was there celebrating with the team, even as the organization tries so hard to ignore that he’s there. A-Rod is officially persona non grata in New York.
Starting against the Tigers, or not, Girardi sent a clear message by pulling A-Rod not once, not twice, but three times in games against Baltimore. The Yankees were not going to accept their #3 hitter costing them their chance at another World Series berth, and after Game 5’s benching, the message may have gotten even stronger. Is this the end of A-Rod in New York?
On the surface the idea of trading Alex Rodriguez may seem ludicrous. Rodriguez is still owed $114 million over the next 5 years. Trading A-Rod at $114 million is about as likely as the Mariners finding a taker for Chone Figgins. The Yankees can’t cut Rodriguez, because unlike the NFL, unproductive players can’t be callously cut, regardless of how many fans (and organizations) wish they could be. No, the Yankees will need to take the same path that Texas did when they traded A-Rod in 2004: Swallow hard, and bend over.
The Yankees got a spectacular deal from Texas when they picked up Alex in 2004. They were able to get Texas to eat $67 million of the $179 million left on his contract, and they inherited an A-Rod that was in the prime of his career that, enhanced or not, earned 2 AL MVPs and a World Series ring in the process. But the Yankees also raised eyebrows when they signed Rodriguez to a new 10yr contract after opting out in 2007, a contract that would pay him $275 million for the life of the contract before up to $60 million in HR incentives. Alex Rodriguez hit 54 HR in 2007, won an MVP, opted out of his contract, and hasn’t been the same since. A-Rod has seen a drop in his batting average, RBI production, and HRs nearly every year since 2007, and worse than that, he’s shown a sudden fragility on the field. Some call it the effects of age, some call it a result of years of steroid abuse, and some call it baseball kharma. The Yankees will be stuck with A-Rod unless they swallow their pride and open their wallets to make a deal — But even so, finding a home for A-Rod might be even harder than the check they will certainly have to write to move him.
There isn’t a more maligned player in baseball than Alex Rodriguez. When half of your home-team fans boo you, and the other half hold their breath, you have a problem. There’s a pretty clear list of potential suitors for A-Rod, but let’s start with the handful of teams that wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) touch him if the Yankees ate his entire salary:
No Chance In Hell
- Boston Red Sox — Remember when A-Rod was all but traded to Boston? Even A-Rod was talking about how anxious he was to join the team and how he loved the tradition and fans in Boston. It was 100% polished A-Rod, but it was far from final, so before fans could buy their #3 jersey, the trade was off. Alex wouldn’t be joining the Sox, Nomar was livid, and by the time A-Rod joined the Yankees he was suddenly “everything that was wrong with the League”. (The irony is that the reason the trade failed was because the MLBPA wouldn’t let A-Rod take a reduction in salary.) The fans that were ready to welcome him with open arms booed him harder than any fans in the League (next to Mariners fans) and by 2004 with the slap heard round the world, he was Public Enemy #1. Prospect that A-Rod could be traded to Boston? Less than zero.
- Texas Rangers — We’ve all heard the tired saying “You Don’t Mess With Texas”. I could stop there and be good, but just can’t. A-Rod fleeced this team. It’s one thing to practically run the team into bankruptcy, but it’s another thing to beg the GM to sign Chan Ho Park. Top that off with calling the team a bunch of kids on your way out of town, then later claiming that you only used steroids there, make the odds that A-Rod will go back to Texas slim-to-none. Some “Captain”.
- Seattle Mariners — Even in his best years, A-Rod wasn’t the most popular player on the team. Griffey left the Mariners for family and took less than market value in Cincinnati. A-Rod turned his back on the team after going on a concocted promotional tour asking for his ass to be kissed at every turn. He took the highest paying contract in history to play for a last place team, turning his back on a playoff contender that only got (temporarily) better after he left. Griffey could come home again. A-Rod? No.
- Los Angeles Dodgers — I don’t know why people see the Dodgers as a fit. Dodger Stadium plays big. Even with as great of a player as Matt Kemp, the park has the 4th lowest HR in the National League. It’s 330′ at it’s shortest point in LF and A-Rod is averaging less than 30 HR in Yankee Stadium. What makes people think his production will get better there, and is A-Rod better than Hanely Ramirez? He certainly isn’t more durable. A-Rod is a bad fit, even with a new ownership that’s desperate to win games and draw an immediate buzz to the park.
- Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim) — The Angels have already signed an aging future Designated Hitter. Pass.
The Right Fit (There Are Some!)
It’s easy to look at A-Rod’s production and rapidly declining (and already anemic) approval rating and think that there aren’t any teams that would want him, but there should be, and probably are. Here are the Top 3 teams that should give trading for A-Rod serious consideration:
- Miami Marlins — The Marlins couldn’t be an easier choice, and is definitely the “safest” team of the 3 for fortune tellers. A-Rod has been vocal before about the idea of playing for the Marlins. He lives in Miami, the team is a complete cluster that couldn’t draw fans to a brand new park, and the owner couldn’t be more clueless if he tried. If that wasn’t enough, the Marlins are Omar Mineya away from being the New York Mets; they love overpaying for players. The real challenge for A-Rod is taking down the behemoth that is Greg Dobbs at 3B and his 5HR over 120 games… Odds? High.
- Tampa Bay Rays — Don’t forget the “other” team in Florida (even if their fans have). A-Rod would have to be next to free for the Rays to pull the trigger on a trade, but A-Rod could be a good fit. While Tropicana has the 2nd lowest HR in the American League, it’s only 315′ down the LF line. Luke Scott has been the team’s primary DH and hit a respectable 14 HR with less than 100 games, but where Scott has failed is in his BA. A-Rod would be sure to put up more than Scott’s .229 with more HRs. Rodriguez’s presence in the lineup could be a big offensive boost to a solid young team that’s always on the cusp of big things.
- Houston Astros — When you have the worst record in Major League Baseball and are getting set to move to the American League West, you know you have to do something, anything, to stay relevant in the League. Adding Rodriguez to the Astros could be just the thing the Astros need to get a boost both in their division, and in a state that’s rapidly moved it’s allegiance to a Texas Icon in Nolan Ryan and his Texas Rangers. At 315′ down the line (and for a good chunk of LF,) A-Rod would be sure to see an uptick in production. Expect the Astros to do a number of things in the offseason, and adding a player like A-Rod to the roster could be a first piece for the right price. But would A-Rod agree to a trade?
The Yankees are ready to move on from Alex Rodriguez. The biggest mistake they could have made was signing him to a 10yr extension in 2008. The player they signed to a virtual career-ending contract was suddenly overpaid and underperforming. Worse than that was the bad press that dogged him through steroids, infidelity, divorce, and fractured relationships with his teammates. His contract is an albatross for the League, and now it’s up to the Yankees to try and figure out a way to rid themselves of the contract, while realizing they will need to eat a large portion of it while potentially paying out another $60 million in HR bonuses that could happen with another team. It’s a mess, but a mess that the Yankees look like they’re ready to be done with.