Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
November 1, 2007
BASEBALL: A-Rod On The Block

Thoughts and observations on what is certain to be the #1 headline story of the offseason:

A. Yeah, announcing his free agency in the middle of Game Four was a totally classless move, and seemed uniquely designed to peeve the Red Sox, who would be one of the likely bidders...but it may be that Boras had a significant conversation that day with another owner and felt the need to make the announcement to avoid any suggestion of tampering.

B. Nobody can be happier about how this worked out than Texas, which gets off the hook for $21.3 million at a stroke. A-Rod should get a standing O next time he comes to town.

C. For the most part, A-Rod should and will be remembered in NY roughly the way Clemens is in Toronto - he came, he played well, he took the money and ran - but of course his postseason failures will overshadow the two MVP seasons.

D. Where does he go from here? An awful lot actually depends on whether A-Rod is regarded as a credible shortstop. He was a good defender at short and keeps himself in good shape, and in the post-Ripken era, big men are no longer discounted at the position...still, at 32 years old, after 4 years away from the position, I don't know how many teams are willing to gamble $25-30 million a year on him being able to play short again. Let's review the main options, understanding that there's only so much credibility we can give to public reports that various teams are or are not interested, given especially that (i) Boras likes to use the media to drum up a belief that 45 big-market teams are pursuing his player and (ii) the teams, presumably growing wise to this tactic, have every reason to publicly downplay their interest. This list is not really in order:

1. The Angels do look like the main suitors - they're a contender, A-Rod could stay in his comfort zone in the AL, their third baseman (Chone Figgins) can easily move to any number of other positions, and ownership has shown a willingness to lay out big bucks.

2. The Cubs are a large-market contender that could use the buzz, but (1) their ownership situation remains unsettled (that didn't stop them last winter from signing Soriano, but A-Rod will want a lot more money than Soriano), and (2) with Aramis Ramirez signed comparatively cheaply, they would only interested in playing him at SS.

3. The Red Sox, if they re-sign Lowell, will similarly be more interested in supplanting Lugo. They have the money and the audacity, and with Manny entering the last year of his deal, they could do it, but they have been publicly coy.

4. The Yankees. I actually don't see this happening - A-Rod just stiffed them publicly and took their $21 million subsidy from Texas off the table. Particularly if the point of hiring Girardi is to take a harder line in the clubhouse, it would be a bad precedent for the team to go back on the public pledge that the deal was take it or leave it. Also, Yankee fans will pretty much universally blame Rodriguez, not the team, for letting him walk. That said, they don't have a Plan B at third base (Wilson Betemit would have the job if the season opened tomorrow).

5. The Giants have a gaping hole at pretty much every position, and they certainly won't let A-Rod's unpopularity and postseason failures deter them. But after the Barry Zito debacle, they may not be eager to take Boras' calls again.

6. The Dodgers would actually make a huge amount of sense giving their crying need for a power bat (they were next to last in the league in HR), but I don't know about their willingness to spend money. Certainly they have the resources if they decide to get in the game.

7. The Mets. Minaya has the budget and the daring, but with Reyes and Wright in place on the left side of the infield, A-Rod simply isn't worth as much to the Mets as to almost any other team - one of the three would need to be relocated to 1B, 2B (where Reyes was already a failure) or LF (where they just re-upped Alou).

8. The Phillies have no credible 3B and could probably swing the money, plus an A-Rod signing would give them the best infield in the game's history. But the Phils are another big-market team that hasn't gone big in the free agent market. They probably need to be chasing a closer so they can get Brett Myers back in the rotation, but the list of options isn't extensive, with Joe Nathan re-upped by the Twins and Rivera unlikely to leave NY (that leaves Isringhausen, Francisco Cordero and some risky or low-quality closer candidates like Wickman, Todd Jones, Jorge Julio or Kerry Wood).

9. The Orioles are a stop of last resort for free agents with no real rationale for going anywhere else, and they could use an upgrade from Melvin Mora.

10. The Rockies, like the Mariners, are something of a stealth big-market team - their payroll has gone as high as $71 million in the past, and coming off the high of 2007, a big splash with a new marquee star could help give them ongoing credibility. Many of their players are still young and signed cheaply, so they could afford it. But Garret Atkins is 28 and a solid player at third - also signed cheaply - and they may be focused instead on planning ahead at first base, although Todd Helton sounds like a man who is no longer contemplating retirement.

11. Finally, what about the Nationals? They've got the new ballpark, no real payroll and the need to make a splash and prove they won't be Expos Part Deux. But they, too, would need to play him at short, given that their best young player is a third baseman (Zimmerman had some defensive struggles this season but he's still very young and a highly talented defensive player).

On the whole, I'll be surprised if A-Rod ends up with a significant upgrade compared to what the richest team in baseball could offer him with the added advantage of a $21.3 million subsidy - but there are enough possible bidders out there that he will probably end up with at least a few more years at a salary similar to what he was getting.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:40 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (21) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

I would expect him to wind up with either the Angels or Dodgers. I think the Dodgers would really make the most sense - LA is the ultimate star-driven market, and the Dodgers really haven't had a true star since Piazza left town a decade ago. The Angels would probably continue to regard Vlad Guerrero (correctly) as the face of their franchise even if A-Rod came to town.

On the other hand, it's the Angels, not the Dodgers, who have shown the willingness to write those kinds of checks.

Posted by: Jerry at November 1, 2007 10:24 AM

What about St. Louis? Scott Rolen isn't getting any younger. Plus Edmonds is probably gone. Their other power bat, Rick Ankiel, used to be a pitcher and probably won't be able to use HGH next year... I think St. Louis should be considered -- certainly before someone like the Rockies.

Posted by: Wes at November 1, 2007 10:45 AM

The Cards make a ton of baseball sense but they don't go after pricey free agents.

Posted by: The Crank at November 1, 2007 10:56 AM

What needs to happen is for A-Rod to end up having to take a pay cut. I think it is a shot in the arm that baseball could use right now.

Crank, another possibility that has been mentioned is Miami. The rationale is that a big splash with the home-town boy would help them get a new ballpark. I don't think it is likely, but it could be a fallback position for A-Rod if the numbers are not as high as suggested. Boras could spin it as the prodical son coming home at a discount.

Posted by: maddirishman at November 1, 2007 11:08 AM

A-Rod will not come to Boston. The franchise would lose all credibility with the fandom. I think they'll try to keep Lowell for a reasonable amount of money;if that fails, they'll pick up some on else, but not A-Rod.

Posted by: Patrick at November 1, 2007 11:27 AM

ESPN Page 2 ran a whatif scenario that puts him in Atlanta. And not out of the realm - considering Andruw's money is coming off the books, along with Renteria's. And Hampton's comes off next year. Low pressure situation, just making the playoffs is OK, they are used to offensive futility in the playoffs, in need of a power bat and a SS or 3B and move Chipper back to left. Not likely, but still a chance exists, no?

Posted by: Ryan at November 1, 2007 11:35 AM

A-Rod going to a last place team makes perfect sense. That is his comfort zone. Big numbers, no pressure. That's his sweet spot.

I've been working so much lately I haven't been able to stay up on certain things. Can someone explain the Renteria to Detroit trade? Don't the Tigers have Carlos Guillen? Why would they need Renteria who has shown he stinks in the AL?

Jorge Julio is a closer? I guess AZ let him do it for awhile a couple of years ago but does anyone consider letting that guy have the ball with 3 outs to go? You'd be better off with Joe Table even if he is 100.

Posted by: jim at November 1, 2007 11:42 AM

The Tigers said they are moving Guillen to first base. Which I would think greatly decreases his value, but I suppose it makes some sense if he can't really play SS anymore.

Posted by: Jerry at November 1, 2007 11:50 AM

I think Whoras and (no)Stay-Rod already have a 'suitor,' otherwise they would not have pulled out when they did (remember how JD Drew mysteriously turned down The Dodgers offer last year?). It's probably not Boston; otherwise the Whoras Duo would not have gone out of their way to rain on Boston's parade, so to speak.

Posted by: Jane at November 1, 2007 11:55 AM

Didn't know. Guess they are allegedly the same age though Renteria has some Livan Hernandez to him. I thought Guillen was a decent SS but I guess he really isn't so hot. If all Detroit could muster at 1B was Sean Casey then I can see the team upgrade in moving a much more productive Guillen to a spot that needs to hit. Assuming Renteria does not return to his 2005 form once back in the AL and Brandon Inge has more of a 2006 season that is a pretty tough line-up.

Posted by: jim at November 1, 2007 12:51 PM

The Tigers moved Guillen to 1st because they've got him signed for another 4 years, and his knees aren't going to hold up at SS. So he goes from excellent-hitting, below-average defense SS to average-hitting and excellent defense 1B. He could see some increase to his offensive statistics without the physical stress of playing SS, as well.

Renteria is an upgrade because he's essentially replacing Sean Casey (and providing a better arm, better health and fewer errors at SS).

As a Tigers' fan, I'm cautiously optimistic about the move... we gave up a couple of very good prospects for Renteria.

Incidentally, the Tigers are often mentioned as a possible destination for A-Rod, though Dombrowski has stated an aversion for tying up huge percentages of his payroll with individual players. While he kind of backtracked on that with the Ordonez signing, he's no longer trying to lure players into a baseball dystopia.

madirishman:

Since A-Rod is going to request a 10-year deal worth at least 25M/year, the Marlins could just take the shortcut and spend that money on their own new stadium. They'd be more than halfway there...

Posted by: Joel at November 1, 2007 3:57 PM

Crank - I expected more of a writeup on him joining the Mets.. What would your opinion be?

I've been guessing Angels-Mets-Cubs-Dodgers, though I think Baltimore would be.. interesting.

Posted by: Dave at November 1, 2007 4:47 PM

Like I said, I don't see it working with the Mets because of Wright and Reyes.

Posted by: The Crank at November 1, 2007 5:01 PM

Here's a Cubs scenario that I believe is very possible:

1) Cubs sign Arod to be their 3rd baseman.
2) Cubs put together a three-player package centered around Felix Pie and send them to Baltimore for Miguel Tejada. Tejada plays SS in Chicago for the next two years.
3) Cubs then trade Aramis Ramirez to the Yankees for one of their young stud starters.

The Yankees are going to have to find a 3rd baseman somewhere, and if Lowell resigns with Boston it'll almost certainly mean they'll have to trade for one. And pretty much all they've got as trade bait is their young pitching. There's a lot of buzz in Baltimore about Tejada going to the Cubs soon for Pie+, and that makes sense for both teams. If the Cubs make these moves they'll go from being competitive in a mediocre division to being the prohibitive favorites for the NL pennant.

Posted by: Joe at November 1, 2007 5:17 PM

Was Reyes really a failure at second? I seem to remember him being fine, with Matsui being the failure. The bigger problem seemed to be that it was a waste of Reyes' arm strength and ability to go into the hole to put him at second.

Posted by: Marc at November 1, 2007 6:05 PM

Reyes was okay at second, but as you noted, it squandered a lot of his defensive value. He was also hurt most of the season, although I don't think that was related to the position shift.

I had thought that if the Mets went after A-Rod, they'd move either A-Rod or Wright to first base, and show Delgado the door. That would require writing off a big chunk of money, but I could get behind it as long as A-Rod's price tag wasn't totally insane (which it would be). However, the papers have been talking about Wright possibly moving to second base, which would be in a long tradition of the Mets taking good players and asking them to play positions for which they are thoroughly unsuited (Hojo in CF, Hundley in LF, Piazza at 1B). The move of Edgardo Alfonzo to second is the only such position shift that I think they've ever made work. And I particularly don't like moving star players who've never played there to 2B, because of the risk of injury on the double play.

Posted by: Jerry at November 1, 2007 7:16 PM

Well, Biggio moved around a bit and he seemed to handle things fine.

If Jeff Kent can play 2B then I think DWright could.

In the end, as a Mets fan, I think this team would be better served putting their resources towards pitching.

Posted by: Keith at November 2, 2007 2:45 AM

As a Yankees fan and someone who has defended A-Rod over the past 4 years, I am shocked at his decision to leave the team in the manner that he did. Indefensible to announce his opt out during the world series, and even more shocking that he would turn down upwards of 30 million a year playing for a team like the Yankees, with the chance to be remembered among the greatest players on a team with a great history, and also the chance to play in the post season every year. How much more money does a guy need? I have never seen such greed in my life. What a jerk.

He could have been remembered as a class act who broke baseball's most glamorous records in a Yankees uniform. Instead he'll be remembered as a greedy nomad with his head up his rear-end.

Posted by: steve at November 2, 2007 8:41 AM

Steve-O blasting away! Sing it dude.

Posted by: jim at November 2, 2007 11:21 AM

I can understand people being mad at A-Rod. I can't understand anyone being surprised.

Posted by: The Crank at November 2, 2007 11:25 AM

Anyone who has Boras as an agent should never be surprised at the money grab.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at November 3, 2007 7:46 AM
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