In the wake of the mega-deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto from the Red Sox to the Dodgers, a question popped up immediately in the minds of many Yankee fans, myself included. The Dodgers seem to have no regard for future obligations with their deep pocketed new ownership group. The Red Sox just got out from under 262M of contracts and have effectively hit the reset button for their franchise with one fell swoop. If there’s one contract the Yanks have on the books that they would love to get out from under, it’s the Alex Rodriguez deal. Would the Dodgers be interested?
One thing we know for sure, there’s no longer any such thing as a contract that can’t be traded. Anyone who thinks there is just hasn’t been paying attention. AJ Burnett, Carlos Zambrano, and now this mega deal by Boston which included a non-productive player who just had Tommy John surgery. The biggest stumbling block could be Alex himself. He has 10-5 rights, so has earned the right under the CBA to approve any transaction at this point of his career. Would he?
On the surface Hollywood would appear to be a perfect match for Alex. He dates starlets, appears in magazines, and craves the kind of attention he would get in LA. After a rough start in his first few years in New York with both the fans and the media, Alex has settled in to something of a routine where he no longer has the public missteps he did earlier. He has done this for the most part by A) Getting divorced, so his dating habits are no longer a story for the baseball beat writers B) Mimicking Derek Jeter’s ‘speak in nothing but cliches’ media approach. But I think its fair to say the real Alex was the one who showed up here in 2004. He’s won his ring here, would a new challenge in a new big market city be appealing? I don’t know what’s inside his head, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if he jumped at the opportunity the way Beckett and Crawford did.
Here’s the good news. If the Dodgers have one glaring hole on their current roster, its SS/3B. We all know that Hanley Ramirez prefers to play SS from his initial disapproval of the Marlins acquisition of Jose Reyes. Most talent evaluators think Hanley Ramirez is getting too big to play SS, and the move to 3B is warranted for defensive purposes. But he’s still just 28 years old, an age at which the reflexes needed to play up the middle should still be there, at least for the next few years. He’s experiencing an offensive resurgence (.885 OPS) in LA, where he’s played most of his games at SS. A-Rod may no longer be among baseball’s elite players overall, but at his position he’s still a top 8 player over the past few years. He’s also a huge star, and that could go a long way for a franchise that was just purchased as much for media related business reasons as anything else. He’s certainly a big upgrade over Juan Uribe (.181/.250/.275) who currently mans third for the Dodgers. Uribe is signed (7M) through next year, so the Dodgers may want the Yanks to take him back in any deal, particularly to help with their 2013 budget.
That leads us to the bad news. As Mike Axisa detailed on MLBTR earlier this week, the Dodgers are pretty much maxed out in terms of payroll obligations for 2013 unless the want to start paying luxury taxes. Here’s the table Mike posted through the end of A-Rod’s deal:
- 2013 ($188.68MM) — Gonzalez ($21MM), Crawford ($20MM), Matt Kemp ($20MM), Beckett ($15.75MM), Hanley Ramirez ($15.5MM), Andre Ethier ($13.5MM), Ted Lilly ($12MM), Chad Billingsley ($11MM), Clayton Kershaw ($11MM), Manny Ramirez ($8.33MM), Juan Uribe ($7MM), Aaron Harang ($7MM), Chris Capuano ($6MM), Mark Ellis ($5.25MM), Matt Guerrier ($3.75MM), Jerry Hairston Jr. ($3.75MM), Andruw Jones ($3.2MM), Yasel Puig ($2MM), Punto ($1.5MM), Juan Rivera ($500K buyout), Mike MacDougal ($350K buyout), Todd Coffey ($300K buyout)
- 2014 ($130.7MM) — Gonzalez ($21MM), Kemp ($21MM), Crawford ($20.25MM), Ramirez ($16MM), Beckett ($15.75MM), Ethier ($15.5M), Billingsley ($11MM), Jones ($3.2MM), Puig ($2MM), Harang ($2MM buyout), Uribe ($1MM deferred), Capuano ($1MM buyout), Ellis ($1MM buyout)
- 2015 ($88MM) — Gonzalez ($21MM), Kemp ($21MM), Crawford ($20.5MM), Ethier ($18MM), Puig ($4.5MM), Billingsley ($3MM buyout)
- 2016 ($84.75MM) — Kemp ($21.5MM), Gonzalez ($21MM), Crawford ($20.75MM), Ethier ($16MM), Puig ($5.5MM)
- 2017 ($88.5MM) — Gonzalez ($21.5MM), Kemp ($21.5MM), Crawford ($21MM), Ethier ($18MM), Puig ($6.5MM)
As you can see, the Dodgers are already over the luxury tax limit next year before they would add A-Rod to the roster. His annual salaries from 2013-2017 are 28M, 25M, 21M, 20M and 20M. First time offenders pay a 40% tax under the new CBA, so the Dodgers would be over the 178M threshold for 2013 by 40M before we even get into arb raises and filling out the roster. If you want to estimate they’d be over by 50M when all is said and done, they’d be subject to a tax of 20M. That’s not chump change, even for a team that has been spending like the Dodgers have of late. The A-Rod contract alone would cost LA 28M x 40%=39.3M. For 2014 and beyond there does appear to be some room, but the Yanks would have to kick in some serious cash to help with the 2013 budget. Maybe pick up his entire salary for 2013, so the Dodgers just pay the tax.
When the Yanks re-upped with Rodriguez after his huge 2007 season, a big part of the rationale was going to be his chase of the all time HR record. Dodgers stadium has a well deserved reputation as a pitcher’s haven, but for a right handed hitter the dimensions are far more favorable than that of Yankee Stadium. Here are the two parks side by side:
As you can see Dodgers Stadium is perfectly symmetrical, as opposed to YS3 which penalizes righty power hitters. The hard core east coast baseball fans will take A-Rod’s pursuit of the record far less seriously in the wake of his steroid admissions, but the more casual fan base in LA would likely still embrace it. As we saw with Bonds in nearby San Francisco, all of the accusations surrounding his assault on Ruth and Aaron did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the locals. Dodgers Stadium would also work in A-Rod’s favor. Here’s Alex’s spray chart over the past 3 seasons from Texas Leaguers:
Looking at his spray chart over the past 3 years, you would have to subtract some of those Yankee Stadium specials down the lines, but you could add some of those warning track outs to his HR total. The standard length of a warning track is 15 feet. By my count (sorry, no overlay available) you should subtract 4 and add 16 HRs to his totals over the past 3 seasons, giving you net+12 dingers. Even if I’m off by a few, its safe to say Alex would have a far better chance to break Barry Bonds’ record if he was playing for Los Angeles.
One thing I haven’t addressed is whether the Yanks would be willing to do this. For all their talk of the 189M payroll target and fans bemoaning the albatross this contract is, the simple fact of the matter is A-Rod is an important fixture in the Yankee lineup. He lengthens it significantly, and provides a righty bat that is difficult to replace. He’s the only right handed power bat they have, and opposing teams often toss every lefty they have against the Yanks to take advantage of the ballpark and turn around some of their switch hitters. If something like this were to happen, it wouldn’t happen in season. The Red Sox are out of it, they don’t have to worry about facing the players they just dealt away in the 2012 post season. But as I laid out I do think the elements of a deal are there, assuming the Yanks kick in some cash to help the Dodgers with their 2013 payroll.
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