Thursday, July 12, 2007

Yanks All-In on Hot-Rod

Brian Cashman and George Steinbrenner pushed all the chips to the middle of the table. They went all in, showed their cards, now they await the dealer’s hand. The dealer is one Scott Boras, famous for his stern poker face.

The Yanks front office had little choice here. Texas still pays about $8 millions per year for A-Rod, meaning the Yanks only chip a mere $17-18 each season. Allowing Rodriguez to opt out, then signing him to a new contract makes no business sense, since they lose the $20+ million Texas contribution over the next years. A-Rod has only 15 days after the World Series to decide whether to opt out or not. A small negotiation window for a contract extension guaranteed to be the highest valued ever. If A-Rod opts out, meaning Texas no long frays the salary impact for the Yanks, I think the chances he returns are slim to none. Negotiating now is the only option.

On the flip side, do you think Scott Boras cares what helps the Yankees? Boras is all about dollars and cents, seeing what the market yields, then asking for more. Unlike A-Rod’s previous free agency, Boras will not require a 100-page binder to convince teams A-Rod deserves a blank check, one sheet with his final 2007 stats should do the trick.

No matter what the Yankees offer, Boras will want more. The super agent, with a penchant for setting new financial standards, expects to again reach unchartered waters making A-Rod the first $30 million a year player, or, dare I say, $40 million a year. Undoubtedly, Boras plans to pit the Dodgers, Angels, Cubs, White Sox, Yankees, and Mets, against each other, with Boston, and perhaps a sleeper like San Fran, in the mix, all with hopes to drive the price up. And you know what, that is exactly what will happen. And some team will pay up.

With both A-Rod and Boras refusing to negotiate until after the season, Cashman better start identifying contingency plans to add both a right-handed power hitter, and a third baseman. The minor leagues are barren of impact position players, nor can any rookie bear the weight of replacing A-Rod. Mike Lowell is a name that keeps popping up. If Florida unloads players, Miguel Cabrera is as close to A-Rod as the Yanks can come, and he comes cheaper and younger. Cabrera would cost a pretty penny in prospects, though.

New York opened a potential Pandora’s box by agreeing to negotiate with A-Rod in-season, against team policy, only to immediately have A-Rod refuse the request. Now, it is possible that A-Rod walks anyway, leaving the Yanks with egg on their face, and the Yanks damage their relationship with Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada, who they each refused to negotiate with this season, to the point where each walks after the season. As unlikely as it sounds, today the possibility is very real. If that happens, the 2007 season may seem like glory days compared to the 2008 edition.


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