A-Rod appears stuck

Originally Published: November 26, 2003
By Sean McAdam | Special to ESPN.com

Last weekend, while in the Dominican Republic, Alex Rodriguez told reporters that there were two teams to whom he had urged the Texas Rangers to deal him -- the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

Alex Rodriguez
The Yankees did what the Red Sox couldn't -- close the deal.

Understand, those weren't exactly A-Rod's hand-picked options. Instead, the Yanks and Sox are about the only teams capable of absorbing Rodriguez' oversized contract. A third club, the Los Angeles Dodgers, would otherwise be an option, but with the franchise in the process of being sold by Rupert Murdoch to Frank McCourt, now is the not the time to be adding nearly $170 million in future salary obligations.

Some other teams might have the resources (New York Mets, Baltimore Orioles), but can't offer Rodriguez the opportunity to immediately compete for a championship. The last thing Rodriguez wants is to undergo a change of address, only to find himself playing for another second-division team.

In terms of stockpiled talent, neither the Red Sox nor the Yankees can offer much of what the Rangers need most -- young pitching.

The Yankees stripped themselves of their most attractive advanced pitching prospect when they sent Brandon Claussen to the Cincinnati Reds for third baseman Aaron Boone. As for the Sox, what top-level pitching they have is at Double-A or lower.

But then, the idea of trading Rodriguez isn't really a baseball trade. Rather, it's an enormously complex financial deal in which the Rangers rid themselves of a contract that is beyond their means -- unless they wish to consign themselves to last-place finishes.

For all but a handful of franchises, Rodriguez takes up too much of the budget. But the Red Sox and Yankees, whose revenues are among the highest in the game and are locked in a fierce competition with each other, Rodriguez' contract could be absorbed.

Here's a look at what it might take to get it done for both teams.

To the Red Sox?
Any Boston deal for A-Rod begins and ends with Manny Ramirez. If the Rangers aren't willing to take Ramirez in return, there's no sense in the discussions going any further.

Ramirez
Ramirez

Texas owner Tom Hicks approached the Sox several weeks ago to measure the Sox's interest in Rodriguez. Hicks was told that it might be worth pursuing if the Rangers would take Ramirez in return. That ended talk abruptly.

If the Rangers had their choice, they'd much rather accept Nomar Garciaparra in return. Garciaparra is eligible for free agency after 2004, when he will earn $11.5 million. Should the Rangers want, they could keep Garciaparra for the year, then be free of his contract. Or they could move him to a contender at the deadline for some prospects. Finally, they could attempt to sign Garciaparra to an extension, likely at 60 percent of the value of A-Rod's AAV (annual average value) of $25 million.

But while Garciaparra makes perfect sense for the Rangers, it makes virtually none for the Sox. They would still be left with two players (Ramirez and Rodriguez) who stand to make a combined $42 million or so next season, and down the road, as much as $50 million combined.

(Next year, in fact, with Pedro Martinez in the final year of his Boston deal, the Sox would be paying about $60 million to three players -- Rodriguez, Ramirez and Martinez -- or more than the total payrolls for half the teams in the game).

The Rangers have to ask themselves is it worth ridding themselves of Rodriguez for the sake of saving an average of $5 million over the next five years.

On first blush, the answer is likely no. But if Rodriguez continues to press them for a deal, it may be their only option.

To the Yankees?
Again, the Yankees aren't so much a perfect trading partner as much as they are the perfect salary receptacle.

They don't necessarily have a lot to offer the Rangers, or the need for another shortstop. But they do have the ability to accommodate his salary and the strong, owner-driven desire to keep him away from the Red Sox.

Jeter
Jeter

Nick Johnson, one of the few low-salaried players the Yankees have on their roster, isn't a good fit for the Rangers, who are happy to have Mark Teixeira as their first baseman for another five seasons.

Alfonso Soriano, too, doesn't represent a much of a match, since the Rangers like Michael Young at second base. Beyond pitching needs -- the Rangers wouldn't be interested in Jeff Weaver, whom the Yanks would gladly include -- the Rangers could use some outfield help, specifically in center field.

The Yankees have been concerned enough about Soriano's erratic defense at second base to consider moving him to the outfield, where his rangy athleticism could be put to better use.

Even if the Rangers aren't convinced of Soriano's ability to cover center for them, they could always use him in left field.

An offense which includes Soriano, Teixeira and Hank Blalock would be plenty explosive enough for the Rangers for years to come. Then, it would be a matter of constructing a better pitching staff to quicken their road to contender status.

Of course, the deal would not be without it consequences for the Yankees. For one thing, it would send their payroll close to -- if not bypass completely -- the $200 million mark.

For another, it would give them two shortstops whose once healthy friendship was damaged two years ago when Rodriguez publicly dissed Derek Jeter, a slight which the Yankee captain hasn't totally forgiven.

Beyond the hard feelings, there would be the matter of what to do with Jeter, since, as a condition to waiving his no-trade clause, Rodriguez would undoubtedly want some assurance that he would be the team's shortstop.

Perhaps with some prodding, Jeter could move to second, replacing Soriano and giving the Yankees the most expensive and talented double-play combination in the history of the game.

He's always said he would do what's best for the Yankees, but it's doubtful he anticipated that would include vacating his position -- and stature as No. 1 Yankee -- for someone who has been so dismissive of him.

Sean McAdam of the Providence (R.I.) Journal covers baseball for ESPN.com.