Alex Rodriguez. To say that the shadow of his 2012 campaign looms large over Yankee decision makers this year would be an understatement. It would be akin to saying the that economy will be one of many topics on the minds of voters this November. A-Rod isn’t an issue, he’s THE issue. Everything about him is enormous. The contract, his star status, his presence on the team and in the clubhouse. Moving on from Alex will represent a bold shift for the franchise, both on and off the field. He’s called the ‘lightning-Rod’ for a reason, the gravitational pull from his star engulfs all that surrounds him. You barely heard about the benchings of Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher during the ALCS. It was all about Alex, all the time. Been like that since that cold day in February when he showed up here in 2004.
First thing I’d like to address. Anyone who says his contract is ‘untradeable’ without the Yanks eating around 100M is presenting a false dichotomy. Remember how this time last year everyone agreed AJ Burnett couldn’t be moved? Just yesterday Heath Bell was traded with 2 years left on his deal, a player who looked even more shot than Alex did by the end of this season. Every contract can be moved, the question is how much value will be exchanged between clubs, and there are a variety of ways teams can transfer it between one another. One is actual dollars, another is in talent and a third way is taking back a bad contract. Another concern is A-Rod has 10 and 5 rights, meaning he has to approve any deal. But if the Yanks make it clear they want to part ways, or that he would have a diminished role on the team going forward, then it would be best for both parties to move on. Alex has records to chase and being a part time DH would make it impossible for him to get there.
To illustrate, lets do a quick and dirty deal for Alex to the Dodgers. LA could use a starting pitcher, 3B and 2013 salary relief ($181.3 in commitments next year). Alex was worth about 10M last year, though his star value goes well beyond that to a team with a network, but lets assume a sliding scale of just on-field production and say he’s worth 30M over the next 5 years. David Phelps has 5 years of team control left and is a MLB ready back-end starter, lets call that 36M of value. Dodgers want to rid themselves of Juan Uribe (8M) and Ted Lilly (12M), both of whom have expiring contracts after 2013, which works nicely for the Yankee 2014 payroll aspirations. Dodgers send Ted Lilly and Juan Uribe to the Yanks, who send Alex Rodriguez, David Phelps and 28M in cash, all of which is to be paid in 2013 (and conveniently is A-Rod’s salary for next year). Grand total 114M, give or take a marginal prospect going one way or the other to make up for the value of Lilly (0.5 WAR) and Uribe (0.1 WAR). If Lilly and Uribe don’t produce anything the Yanks DFA both of them June 1st as a sunk cost, and have Alex completely off the books for 2014. From the Dodgers perspective they upgrade 3B and fill a rotation slot at virtually zero cost for next year, while lowering their net 2013 payroll by 20M. Point being, a deal can be done and frankly its not all that difficult.
We as Yankee fans tend to be New York centric. We see Alex as a diminished player, a shell of his former self and not being worth a damn in the post season except for 2009. But consider who the Dodgers had playing 3B for them last year. Or the Diamondbacks, and the Miami Marlins. Clearly, even a fading A-Rod would represent a huge upgrade from the players they fielded at the position in 2012. Fangraphs has Alex’s value at 9.8M for the 2012 season. Not worth the contract, not worth the distractions that come with a star of his magnitude for a team like the Yanks, but still good for 15th in WAR at his position, meaning that half of the teams in baseball fielded someone who produced less than he did. The question the Yankee brass have to answer is do they think Alex can still be a valuable contributor to a championship caliber club, or is his on field production no longer worth the distractions that come with a star like him. If I could venture a guess, I’d say the Yanks very publicly answered that question with their benching of him during the ALCS. If he’s of no use to you in October, then its time for both parties to move on.
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