By all accounts – whether they be based in statistics, mechanics or what’s perceived as intangibles – Alex Rodriguez has had a very bad postseason. So bad, in fact, that the only way he could possibly make it worse is by actually continuing to play, at least according to manager Joe Girardi, who has decided to use one of the greatest players we’ll ever have the privilege of seeing as a pinch hitter off the bench primarily against left-handed pitching.
To each their own.
However, Rodriguez’s play combined with the reaction of his manager and his new role on the New York Yankees have conspired to spawn more speculation than the history of real estate in the state of Florida regarding his future in the city that does not sleep.
The most legitimate (and I not only use the term loosely but also as a means of expressing how terribly reactive all considerations involving Rodriguez tend to be) piece of rumor mongering comes to us by way of Keith Olbermann. Yes, it seems that when not orchestrating a strange career arc or convincing himself of his own importance, the broadcast journalist is idolizing Ken Rosenthal.
Olbermann suggested the following on Wednesday, via his MLBlog account:
The New York Yankees have held discussions with the Miami Marlins about a trade involving their third baseman in crisis, Alex Rodriguez.
Sources close to both organizations confirm the Yankees would pay all – or virtually all – of the $114,000,000 Rodriguez is owed in a contract that runs through the rest of this season and the next five. One alternative scenario has also been discussed in which the Yankees would pay less of Rodriguez’s salary, but would obtain the troubled Marlins’ reliever Heath Bell and pay what remains of the three-year, $27,000,000 deal Bell signed last winter.
What Olbermann is most likely referring to is what Wallace Matthew of ESPN New York reported later in the day:
What began as a casual, joking conversation between New York Yankeespresident Randy Levine and Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria about the possibility of Alex Rodriguez playing for the Marlins may develop into serious trade talks this offseason, according to a source with knowledge of the conversation.
According to the source, Levine and Loria discussed the possibility of A-Rod playing in Miami, his hometown, but characterized it as a joke between old friends.
This makes much more sense than the specifics that Olbermann earlier suggested, considering that 1) Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman vehemently denied having any discussion whatsoever with the Miami Marlins; and 2) Despite their currently uncomfortable status in the American League Championship Series, they remain in the American League Championship Series. If the Yankees are shopping a player, especially one of A-Rod’s stature during a playoff series, they might just have a more serious problem on their hands than Rodriguez’s sudden inability to make good contact.
While I’m certain that New York would love to avoid the back end of a deal that hasn’t really worked out too well in the front end, there are a few logistics in the way of moving Alex Rodriguez. Chief among this lack of feasibility is the player’s no-movement clause. We’re assuming a lot in anticipating that A-Rod would want to leave Manhattan to play closer to where he makes his home, and we assume even more when we suggest that he’d willingly accept an assignment anywhere else.
There’s also the $114 million still owed to him, that would have to be picked up at least in part by the Yankees. What’s their motivation to move a player who has provided ten wins above replacement over the last three years, as he enters his decline phase? Is it because he flirted with two girls during an important game, after he was taken out of it? The Major League Baseball Players Association would consist of approximately 25 players, most of whom would be Mormon, if there was no place on baseball teams for players who flirt with women when given the opportunity at a baseball game.
Beyond these logistics, there’s also the fact that all of this is a categorical overreaction to a slump, one that’s assumed to be caused by his decline into mediocrity as an aged superstar. However, the 37-year-old’s assumed true talent hasn’t been on display this last month. What has, is a player that’s only a month into a return from a broken hand, thrust into the spotlight of the playoffs.
Criticizing Rodriguez’s play this postseason is like visiting the alley behind a French bistro, eating out of the dumpster, and then rating what’s served inside the restaurant based on the food that was thrown away. It’s inaccurate. Look at A-Rod’s numbers this season before he went on the Disabled List for 40-days with a fractured bone in his hand. They’re quite good. In fact, even his much criticized power numbers were picking up as the season was progressing before his injury.
If we take his numbers from the beginning of his season (April 6th) to his hand injury (July 24th), and then imagine those rates over a 162 game season from A-Rod, we find a player with this slash line: .276 AVG/.358 OBP/.449 SLG, who hits 26 home runs, collects 25 doubles and steals almost 20 bases. Offensively, that’s pretty close to what Jayson Heyward provided the Atlanta Braves.
So, in addition to logistics standing in the way of a transaction, Alex Rodriguez, at his true talent level, isn’t a player that the Yankees would want to move in the first place. Yes, that’s partly due to the fact that they would have to foot the bill in terms of picking up a sizable portion of his remaining contract, but the fact remains that A-Rod is worth more to the team playing on its roster than he is playing on someone else’s.
Have we all forgotten about the last time New York jettisoned a player, agreeing to pay the majority of what he’s owed, simply for the sake of him being off their roster? It was A.J. Burnett prior to this season beginning, and if he had remained on the Yankees, he would’ve provided more value than any starter on the team not named C.C. Sabathia or Hiroki Kuroda.
Implementing a similar exit strategy for Rodriguez would be even more foolhardy. Thankfully, for Yankees fans, even the ones that want to see him go, it’s not going to happen anytime soon.