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This is a question I raised on Twitter earlier this week, and I thought it might be fun to address it in a longer format: if you could have cut Alex Rodriguez at the start of this offseason (obviously theoretical, as there is no “cutting” in baseball), with the knowledge that he would sign with another club after doing so, would you have done it? While on the face of it, the suggestion seems ridiculous, I think there are plenty of reasons it would make sense. Let’s look at the pros and cons of such a move:
Pros: The most obvious reason that the Yankees would cut A-Rod is financial. Here are the terms of his contract, courtesy of Cot’s:
08:$27M, 09:$32M, 10:$32M, 11:$31M, 12:$29M, 13:$28M, 14:$25M, 15:$21M, 16:$20M, 17:$20M
$30M marketing agreement based on home run milestones ($6M each for reaching 660, 714, 755 and tying and breaking major league HR record)
Alex has 8 years and 186M dollars left on his deal, plus another 30M available in bonuses that he has a solid chance of reaching. After he resigned prior to the 2008 season, Dan Szymborski ran a Zips projection for the balance of the contract, and found the following:
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The dollars and production start to be incongruent around 2013, and this projection was produced prior to Alex having major surgery and missing a month of the 2009 season. A similar projection run today would be even more frightening. As such, the last few years of Alex’s deal have a decent chance of being a disaster. If the Yankees were to cut Alex, they could take that same money and invest it in replacing his production and improving in multiple areas around the diamond. For example, you could have used that money this offseason to bring in Matt Holliday and Adrian Beltre, and likely would have lost little production.
Another reason that some might want to cut Alex is that he is always surrounded by drama. While I have contended that this is often through no fault of his own, it is simply the nature of being the game’s most expensive player that people will turn everything you do into a story. While this is not something that bothers me and would certainly not be a reason for me to cut him, I could understand if some people believe that it should at least be considered when weighing all options.
Cons: Alex is one of the best players in the game at this moment. While you could likely take his money and upgrade at a number of positions, it usually makes sense to concentrate as much value as possible in one position. Put differently, replacing a 7 win player with a 4 win guy and a 3 win guy means a loss in value, because it cost you an extra roster spot to create the same amount of value.
Now, the argument may be that as Alex ages, his production will decline to the point where that argument no longer holds true. For most clubs, this would mean that cutting Alex and reinvesting in younger players would be the most sensible solution. However, the Yankees can afford to carry some dead salary in the latter years of the deal in order to benefit the club now. Furthermore, the front-loaded nature of the contract will likely make the salary to production ratio a bit more palatable than it would be if the contract was considered in AAV terms. Finally, the publicity sure to follow Alex as he approaches various home run records will likely bring plenty of revenue to the Yankees, mostly in terms of merchandising, thereby offsetting some of the loss in value caused by declining production.
Personally, I would not have cut Alex, as the Yankees financial power allows me to sacrifice some money later for greater value now. However, I think it is a much closer call than it first appears. How about you? What would you have done?
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