News takes look at which could be next A-team
BY ANTHONY McCARRON
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER
Tuesday, July 10th 2007, 8:21 AM
He's pulled off a successful switch to third base, won an MVP and is now taking aim at a hallowed home run record owned by Roger Maris. But Alex Rodriguez's tenure in the Bronx also is pockmarked with boos, poor Octobers and racy tabloid tales.
Will the man who has eaten up more New York newspaper inches than anyone since Reggie Jackson be around to polish his pinstripe legacy or will he use the opt-out clause in his contract to become a free agent? It will be the biggest winter question for the Yankees - and sooner if their season tanks early in the upcoming second half.
Where will Alex end up? Should he stay or should he go and leave $81 million on the table? How much can he get if he leaves?
Some believe he's gone. One executive thinks he'll stay in New York. One GM mentioned Seattle as a sleeper candidate. The Yankees say they want him back, and A-Rod stands by what he said in March about staying, too.
But his agent, Scott Boras, has a reputation for convincing clients that the free-agent years are too valuable to ignore. Last winter, J.D. Drew, another Boras client, opted out of the $24 million left on his deal with the Dodgers to sign a five-year, $70-million pact with Boston.
"(Rodriguez) is going to opt out and he's going to get more," said Minnesota's Torii Hunter, a free agent himself after this season. "People want to say it's all about the money, but it's all about not being stupid."
One agent estimated that Rodriguez could get "$30 million per year or close, especially after the year he's having. He's not going to get an eight-year contract, though." Another agent and a GM estimated that Rodriguez would get seven or eight years, but not exceed the $27 million he's making this year.
J.C. Bradbury, a professor at Kennesaw State University and the author of "The Baseball Economist", said an average annual value of $30 million "isn't unreasonable."
"I don't envision him breaking $40 million, but somewhere in the mid-30s is probably his ceiling," Bradbury said.
There are perils to opting-out. Would Rodriguez get a reputation as a New York failure? Maybe, considering his brutal Octobers as a Yankee. He's never been on a team that has gone to the World Series, something some baseball people believe is not a coincidence. That could impact his marketability.
In spring training, Rodriguez said he wanted to stay, but didn't say he would not opt out. Asked Sunday if his stance had changed, he said, "Zero percent." Then he began walking away, saying, "We'll talk at the end of the year, man."
Here's what we might be talking about, complete with odds, on where A-Rod will land. Oh, and stay tuned next year, too. If he stays, there are scenarios in his contract based on whether he's the game's highest-paid player that would allow him to opt out in 2008 and 2009, also.
1. Angels, 4-1
Owner Arte Moreno has given mixed signals about a run at A-Rod, but Rodriguez hasn't been shy about his admiration for the Angels. That, plus the proximity to Boras' Newport Beach offices, might make the Angels the unofficial favorite.
Rodriguez, interviewed after Friday's Yankee victory over the Angels, went out of his way to praise manager Mike Scioscia and the Halos' style of play.
Moreno has called Rodriguez "one of my favorite players," a quote that doubtlessly got the attention of Bud Selig's tampering police. But Moreno is also hesitant to pay anyone on his team more than he doles out to Vladimir Guerrero, who is in the middle of a five-year, $70-million deal.
Still, several baseball people tabbed the Angels as A-Rod's landing spot. One agent said, "If I was negotiating it, I'd try to the get the Angels and Dodgers to bid against each other." The agent added that Moreno "is not going to get out-bid if this is what he decides he wants."
2. Dodgers, 5-1
The team set firmly in a star-driven town doesn't have anyone to match the wattage of some of the Hollywood types sitting in the expensive seats at Dodger Stadium, but Rodriguez would offer that cachet. Nomar Garciaparra starts at third now, but he can play other positions. Shortstop Rafael Furcal could change positions, too.
3. Red Sox, 5-1
This would be a coup that Larry Lucchino would appreciate, taking A-Rod away from the "Evil Empire" and then setting him on the pinstripers 19 times a year. "They love that kind of PR," one competing GM said. Several baseball executives called the Red Sox the likely landing spot - after all, the Sox tried to trade for him before he became a Yankee. Rodriguez might have his pick of positions, too, because third baseman Mike Lowell will be a free agent and the Sox are disenchanted with shortstop Julio Lugo, who's hitting .197. The Sox might have to move Lugo's contract, though, a four-year, $36-million albatross signed before this season. But they could have plenty of A-Rod dollars free if they get rid of Manny Ramirez and don't re-sign Curt Schilling.
4. Yankees, 8-1
George Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman want Rodriguez to return, with Steinbrenner's spokesman, Howard Rubenstein, stressing that The Boss wanted an exclamation point in his statement: "Of course, we want him back! He's one of the finest athletes ever, he's just magnificent and the Yankees really hope he returns to us." Ultimately, Cashman realizes that the Yanks are powerless, unless they offer a tempting extension. Asked if he thought Rodriguez would leave, Cashman said, "You'd have to ask him. He makes the decisions." Doug Mientkiewicz, A-Rod's friend since high school, says that Rodriguez likes New York. Plus, Mientkiewicz says, "I've never heard Alex talk about money, since I was 15 years old. I don't have any idea what he's going to do. I don't even think the people in his house know," Mientkiewicz added. "But when I signed here last winter, he couldn't stop raving about it."
5. White Sox, 8-1
Rodriguez and Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf became chummy at the 2003 All-Star Game at Comiskey Park, bonding over a shared interest in real estate investing, and GM Kenny Williams told Cashman that if ever wanted to trade A-Rod, count him first in line among suitors. Someone familiar with the White Sox's thinking said that the team would be interested, but might not be able to compete, money-wise. Reinsdorf doesn't have a history of overpaying, unless you count Albert Belle.
6. Cubs, 8-1
The Cubs committed nearly $300 million to free agents last winter, including Alfonso Soriano, who got $136 million, so it's unclear whether they would splurge again. But A-Rod is tight with Lou Piniella. Last spring, in an HBO interview, Rodriguez called Piniella "a second father." He once signed a bat for Piniella's wife, Anita, "To my second mom." Plus, Cubbies could really use a shortstop, a position currently manned by Cesar Izturis.
7. Mets, 50-1
Try this infield on for size - A-Rod at third, Jose Reyes at short and David Wright at second base. While pointing out that it was a premature discussion, Wright said in spring training that he'd move to second if Rodriguez wanted to relocate from the Bronx to Queens. "Yeah, he's Alex Rodriguez," Wright said.
But there is a been-there, done-that feel to the possibility of Rodriguez at Shea, only because it didn't work out in the 24-and-1 controversy of 2001. Plus, if Rodriguez wanted to stay in New York, why wouldn't he just remain a Yankee? Still, there would be sizeable sizzle attached to the move. "It makes perfect sense, baseball-wise and business-wise," one GM said. "But ultimately I don't think they'd go for the money."
8. Giants, 50-1
When the Yankees played in San Francisco in June, Bay Area papers were full of theories about how the Giants would replace Barry Bonds with A-Rod. Rodriguez, who has a lifetime OPS of 1.793 at AT&T Park, said all the right things about how much he likes the City by the Bay, too, though he disappointed locals by bowing out of the All-Star Game's Home Run Derby. Several baseball people say that the Giants have too much rebuilding to do to sign A-Rod. "You'd have to have a lot of building blocks already around," one said. "If you're trying to build a team around him, you ain't building much after paying his salary."
I hope he leaves the NYY, serves the NYY right for not supporting the best baseball player in the league.