Joel Sherman writes about Alex Rodriguez today -
Let’s play a game. Try to imagine what Alex Rodriguez would have received had he been a free agent this past offseason.
Some teams would have abstained because they did not want the circus that comes with A-Rod. But even just the baseball — normally an asset for Rodriguez — would not have been a strong selling point.
This will be his age-36 season, and just four times in major league history has a third baseman 36 or older qualified for the batting title and produced an OPS over .900. The only person to do it twice was Mike Schmidt, but he was done as a useful player after his age-37 season. Rodriguez turns 37 in July, so how long would you want to make his contract?
Especially when you consider Rodriguez’s OPS trend line the past five years: 1.067-.965-.933-.847-.823. Then throw in revelations of a failed steroid test, hip surgery in 2009 and injuries to his shoulder, knee and thumb last season that contributed to .276 with 16 homers and 62 RBIs — his worst full major league campaign.
And Rodriguez grew less effective as the season transpired. His second-half slugging percentage was .353, which was the same as the season-long result for Tony Gwynn. Unfortunately for Rodriguez that is Tony Gwynn Jr.
Once a graceful athlete, Rodriguez was not running smoothly and, without solid legs, his swing lacked fluidity and fury.
So, of course you can see the Yankees’ problem. They have Rodriguez, from this point forward, at six years, $143 million.
So they need him to defy both his trend line and the history of the game by being really good, and not just for 2012. This became even more vital when the Yankees traded Jesus Montero.
I think Montero was a for-real hitter. I believe he would have begun the 2012 season hitting seventh or eighth in the Yankees lineup and slowly worked his way up. I think in the near future the long-term 3-4 would have been established as Robinson Cano followed by Montero.
But now Montero is gone, and the Yankees do not have another hitter of his potential on the horizon. For financial reasons pertaining to the new collective bargaining agreement, they also are determined to stay under the $189 million luxury-tax threshold in 2014. Thus, it will be difficult to obtain an outside hitter for big dollars. Heck, in part because of the presence of Rodriguez’s contract (and also those of CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira), it will be problematic for the Yankees to stay under $189 million and keep Cano and Curtis Granderson long term after their pacts expire following the 2013 season.
Even if A-Rod does get 500 PA this season, it would not shock me to see him top out at 25 HR and 90 RBI. And, what about 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017?
Let’s just say this: In 2016 the Yankees will be paying $67.5 million to three very old players: A-Rod, Teixeira and Sabathia. Sure, maybe they can think of way to get out of that over the next four years? Or, maybe they will be fine with that as these three wrap up what should be Hall of Fame careers? It is interesting that their G.M.’s contract is up after 2014. Maybe he doesn’t want to be around in 2016 when this all comes crashing down?
What would I do? I would pray that A-Rod, Tex and CC all perform to a high level this year and in the next two years that follow. And, if, by chance, the Yankees were not in the chase during 2013 or 2014, then I would beg a contending team to take one of them, even if it meant eating some contract, in exchange for some prospects and salary relief. Granted, it would be a hard sell. And, I’m not even sure if the players would approve a trade. So, this plan might be a waste of time…just like A-Rod is going to be for the Yankees, in the near future, and for a long time.