The Price of A-Rod

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Alex Rodriguez is no stranger to controversial success. But after another disappointing postseason performance in the 2012 MLB Playoffs, in which he hit just .120 and was benched for the Yankees’ final two games, many people are left to ask: What exactly is New York Yankees third-baseman Alex Rodriguez worth?

In 2007, the final year of the 10-year $252 million deal he had signed with the Texas Rangers, Rodriguez strung together an impressive season: hitting .314 with 54 home runs and an impressive 156 RBI.  Deciding to opt out of that deal seeking a larger, more secure contract, Yankees ownership, essentially panicked, outbidding themselves.  On November 13, 2007, Rodriguez and the Yankees agreed to a 10-year, $275 million deal, which covers A-Rod until the 2017 season, when Rodriguez will turn 42.

While Rodriguez saw his OPS remain a robust .965 in 2008 and a .933 in 2009, father time has not been so kind to the former three-time American League MVP: In 2010, A-Rod’s OPS declined to .847; .823 in 2011 and finally, a mere .783 in 2012 (a season in which he made $29 million).  While games played are a factor with OPS—Rodriguez only played 122 in 2012—it is clear A-Rod is no longer the prolific slugger he once was.

After an 0-for-18 showing with 12 strikeouts against right-handed pitching in the 2012 playoffs, trade speculation in the New York media involving Alex Rodriguez increased.  But, with five years and a staggering $114 million remaining—the question is, who would take him, if anyone?

Many have pointed the finger at the free-spending Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  With a combined $42 million owed to outfielder Vernon Wells in 2013 and 2014, there could perhaps be a bad contract for bad contract swap between New York and Los Angeles. Currently, the Angels need a third baseman and the Yankees need a corner outfielder due to free agent outfielder Nick Swisher’s impending departure.

Coupled with the fact that Vernon Wells can’t hit (.222/.258/.409 the last two seasons) and the fact that the advanced metric WAR (Wins Above Replacement) tags Wells at a -0.3 WAR since the start of the 2011 season, this hypothetical trade would appear to benefit the Angels, as Rodriguez has been worth 2.85 WAR since 2011.

However, Yankees fans should not get their hopes up, as the trio of General Manager Brian Cashman, Manager Joe Girardi and even Rodriguez himself have stated they anticipate Rodriguez’s return to the Bronx in 2013.

Another perspective to look at this is the free agent route.  If Alex Rodriguez were to hit the open market 15 days after the World Series is over, what would he be worth?  In a free agent class that features the names  over-the-hill veterans like Miguel Cairo, Eric Chavez, Placido Polanco and Ty Wigginton, it’s safe to assume Rodriguez would be the premiere talent at his position.

Going by WAR again, the closest third baseman would have to be the Angels’ Alberto Callapso, who manned 122 games at the hot corner this season and featured a WAR of 2.7.  For a salary comparison, MLBTradeRumors.com lists Callapso, who is arbitration-eligible for the third time, at a salary around $4.2 million.  A far cry for the $28 million A-Rod is slated to make in the 2013 season.

Considering the Rodriguez brand, the whole idea of A-Rod as a “clubhouse leader” according to teammates and the still consistent batting average (.272 in 2012) the Rodriguez that is a hypothetical free agent would probably receive a contract in the 3-year $15-20 million range.

Unfortunately, it looks as if Yankees President Hal Steinbrenner will be asking himself this same question for an additional two years and at least another $94 million.

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