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A-Rod: Stating the Obvious

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Mostly this is a disgusted retort to Steve Phillips, the idiot former Mets GM who spews nonsense encased in pompous tones of faux seasoning on ESPN.  But it's also a retort to every BS story that has been written on this subject recently and will be written 1000 more times in the next eight months.

Of course A-Rod is going to opt out of his contract at the end of this season.  That's the story with opt-outs.  People opt-out or at the very least renegotiate.  Birds do it.  Bees do it.  Chronically injured J.D.'s do it.

It doesn't make any difference whether A-Rod can match the $81 million over 2008-2010 owed under his current contract.  He will easily double the guaranteed money, which is more than plausible as a financial decision alone.  And besides, he hates being in New York.  He may not admit that now, maybe not even to himself, but once he has the option to leave, he'll leave, and once he leaves, he'll admit how much he hated it -- even if only to himself.

And of course A-Rod is going to get more than the $18 million in annual salary other players got this offseason.  The market has not shrunk in terms of dollars, it's only shrunk in terms of talent.  No deals have matched Manny and A-Rod because no Manny and A-Rod have been available.

Scott Boras basically came right out and said it already:

There's a class of player that has not been fitted into this new market.  Obviously when Alex's contract was done, the revenues of the game were around $3 billion.  Now they are around $6 billion.  The elite position player has not been really graded in this new revenue stream we've seen.
Geez, do we have to draw you a picture?  Never mind the question of whether Boras' words reflect A-Rod's intentions. The better question is, who are you going to trust with the market analysis, Scott Boras or Steve Phillips?  

("Well, Pete, I figured it should be the one with the capacity for abstract thought.  But if that ain't the consensus view, then hell, let's put it to a vote.")

Let's look at A-Rod vs. Soriano vs. Wells.  First, note that while Wells is three years younger than Soriano, Soriano is only five months younger than A-Rod.  Next, let's rank their season performances by WARP:

12.2  A-Rod '00
11.6  A-Rod '01
11.3  A-Rod '96
11.1  A-Rod '02
10.7  A-Rod '03
10.6  A-Rod '05
9.6   A-Rod '98
8.6   Soriano '06
8.5   Soriano '03
8.3   Soriano '02
7.9   A-Rod '04
7.7   Wells '03
6.9   A-Rod '99
6.2   A-Rod '97
6.2   Wells '06
5.5   A-Rod '06
4.9   Wells '05
4.4   Wells '04
4.0   Soriano '05
3.5   Soriano '04

So let's see here ... Wells' three best seasons are roughly equivalent to A-Rod's 8th, 9th and 10th best.  Soriano is a notch ahead of Wells, but he's also three years older.  I'll tell you what, it seems like A-Rod has an unfair advantage here, just because he's one of the best five or ten guys ever to play the game.  So let's help the other two out by throwing out anything before the last three seasons:

10.6  A-Rod '05
8.6   Soriano '06
7.9   A-Rod '04
6.2   Wells '06
5.5   A-Rod '06
4.9   Wells '05
4.4   Wells '04
4.0   Soriano '05
3.5   Soriano '04

Yeah, it didn't really help that much; A-Rod is still a full eight wins better than the other two.  The point being:  Soriano, same age, got $17 million, and Wells, younger but not quite the hitter Soriano is, and nowhere near A-Rod, got $18 million.  Wells is a fine center fielder.  Soriano is, well, we'll call him a very good left fielder.  A-Rod is a third baseman, but if he goes to a new team, there's a good chance it will be as a shortstop, at least for a few years.  Position differences are already reflected in the WARP numbers above, but if teams are willing to pay $18 million for a solid-slugging outfielder with very good defense, how much will they pay for a Historically Great Slugger who's also a Gold Glove shortstop, and I mean, what the hell, he's only 31?"

If you said "252 million," you're on the right track.  And I'm sorry about the end of that last paragraph, I know it was kind of a trainwreck.

My guess:  A-Rod will get as many years as he wants, up to eight.  And he'll get a minimum of $22 million per year.  His new contract will edge out Manny's as the second-largest contract ever, second only to ... A-Rod's last contract.

Why?  Because somebody will offer it, and Scott Boras will explain to A-Rod why this offer shows how committed that owner is to fielding a championship club, that he has the resources to field a champsionship club.  He'll explain that any team that can afford A-Rod has as good a chance as the Yankees of winning it all.  In short, he'll explain why playing for the highest bidder is really synonymous with wanting to win a World Series.

And don't give me any of this talk about A-Rod being "tainted," either.  Some owner, and probably more than one, is going to see that perception as an opportunity.  He'll be congratulating himself for being wise enough to see past all the nonsense about taint, for agreeing with his GM that talent always wins in the end.  For the love of God, Magglio Ordonez got $75 million and he wouldn't even take a physical.

So don't bother having the discussion.  Don't bother reading the articles and speculation.  The matter is already settled.  You can take it to the bank.

UPDATE: Buster Olney, writing in his blog on ESPN.com, has found a new way to analyze A-Rod's situation and come up with the wrong answer:

There is some speculation that if A-Rod opts out of his contract after the upcoming season, he could simply renegotiate a new deal with the Yankees.  But the odds of that happening are probably worse than the chances of Hillary Clinton being the Republican nominee for president in 2008.  A big part of the reason why the Yankees made the trade for A-Rod three years ago was the Rangers' willingness to pick up about 40 percent of his contract, making him a relative bargain for New York at $16 million a year ... That means the Yankees would have to commit an additional $100 million to A-Rod, over the $50 million or so they already have budgeted for 2008-2010 ...
Oh, Buster.  You were so close, but you just didn't think it through.

First, Brian Cashman may not be a great GM, but he is far smarter than your average baseball writer.  Any halfway intelligent businessman knows you don't cry over spilt milk.  If A-Rod goes all the way and actually opts out, and the Yankees still want him at market value, they'll get him.  Why wouldn't they?  Just to spite themselves?  The Yankees seem to be run by grown-ups these days, so they'll pay the premium if they think he's worth it, irrespective of what Buster Olney thinks they have budgeted.

But even that isn't what'll happen.  The Yankees, since they're not morons, will see this whole scenario coming a mile away.  So if they're serious about keeping A-Rod, they'll work out a new deal with him before he actually pulls the trigger and opts out.  And this new deal technically won't be a renegotiation, it'll be a contract extension, one that leaves the current contract intact along with the Rangers' contribution of $20 million or so.  Again, we know that this is what they'll do because they're not morons.

There is a better chance of the situation playing out this way than most would guess.  Despite everything, the Yankees know that A-Rod is a greater player than Jeter, and probably will be greater for longer.  And despite everything, the Yankees still have more money than any other team, and only the Yankees get to use the $20 million subsidy from the Rangers -- they just don't get to use it in open bidding.