The not-so-subtle Boras tango

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This stretch in between the end of the ALCS and the end of the World Series is pretty slow for teams not from Denver or Boston. The Commissioner’s Office tries to keep attention focused on the Series and asks teams not to make many grand announcements before the championship trophy is doled out next week.

But the Yankees are the Yankees, and they do what they please. While Joe Girardi may now be the presumptive front-runner for the Yankees’ vacant managerial job, today’s news comes to us courtesy of Tyler Kepner. Writing a piece that’s a mix between news reporting and news analysis, Kepner delves into the chess game that is the A-Rod/Yankees negotiations. Kepner writes:

The Yankees will soon confront Alex Rodriguez’s agent, Scott Boras, and the overriding issue is which side will back down first.

Neither side accepts the other’s premise. Boras does not seem to believe that the Yankees will remove themselves from negotiations if Rodriguez opts out of his contract and becomes a free agent. The Yankees are highly dubious that Boras can find a more lucrative contract than the one they plan to offer.

The Kepner piece basically puts into print what we’ve all believed this summer: The Yankees and Boras have been conducting quasi-negotiations through the press for the past few months, and right now, it’s a dance.

We know that A-Rod claims to like being in New York. On more than one occasion this season, he expressed his love for this town and its fans despite a tumultuous 2006 relationship. When the Yankees clinched the Wild Card, it sounded like A-Rod wanted to stay in New York. He’s even planning on buying a multi-million-dollar East Side townhouse.

At the same time, the Yankees sure could use A-Rod. He seems to put a lot of fans in the seats, and his offensive production would be impossible to replace. Now, while the Yankees seem firm on the opt-out deal, it’s hard to imagine this team simply walking away from its marquee player. Like it or not, Alex Rodriguez is the current face of the Yankees, and everyone involved knows that.

From a the Boras perspective – that is, from the money side of the equation – Alex Rodriguez is due for a raise. Fault Tom hicks for this one. He outbid himself by nearly $20 million for A-Rod and then felt the need to acquiesce to Boras’ demands of an opt-out clause following each season for the last three years of the deal. After turning in a 54-home run, 156-RBI season, Alex will earn more money amazingly enough.

And that’s where the Yankees come in. A few other teams could theoretically afford to pay A-Rod more than $25 million a year. Maybe the Red Sox could (but Theo is smarter than that); maybe the Angels or Dodgers could; if an ownership group were in place, maybe the Cubs could. But in reality, these teams are unwilling to handicap themselves with this big of a contract.

The Yankees, on the other hand, due in large part to their youth movement, can afford to do so. With Clemens gone and Moose and Giambi nearly off the books entirely, the Yankees will soon have a lot of extra cash lying about. Their stars of tomorrow – Joba, Phil, IPK, Cano, etc. – aren’t making that much money right now. The new stadium promises to be a cash cow, and the YES Network has seen its value increase by leaps and bounds over the last few seasons.

With the money coming to them from the Rangers over the next few seasons and already deep pockets, the Yankees can definitely afford to keep A-Rod. So in the end, it’s simply a matter of bending to Boras’ demands. Scott Boras knows that if he loses the Yankees, he loses his leverage in negotiations, and it behooves both parties to get this deal done.

Even if Boras and the Yankees aren’t ready to take money, as they define the parameters of the negotiations, my money’s still on A-Rod anchoring third base next year and for many more to come.

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  • JP Surget

    I agree, I think he stays in the Bronx. I also think this process will prove that there is no such thing as tampering. If A-Rod opts out, you can bet he already has a better offer from another team. He would be insane to opt out and loose the Yankees as negotiating leverage with other teams.

  • Jersey

    I also feel pretty good about ARod staying in pinstripes.

    It’s basically a big game of poker, like all negotiations: does Boras believe that the Yanks really won’t bid if his client opts out? And does he also believe that OTHER GMs believe it? If other GMs believe the Yankees are bluffing and will swoop in at the last minute with a big bid if ARod does opt out, then they might be more likely to offer the big money to hedge their bets. But that seems like a big gamble to make with that much money on the line – if Boras incorrectly calls the Yanks’ bluff, it could cost him millions.

    Basically, by threatening not to bid on ARod if he opts out, the Yanks are leveraging their ability to singlehandedly change the market: “If you opt out, you’re taking the single highest bidder out of the equation.” It’s a smart tactic on their part.

  • Rich

    I’m more concerned with the length of contract. How good will Arod be at 39 or 40? I don’t envision wanting an Arod at age 42.

    I’d love to see him stay but I’d prefer overpaying by upping the remaining 3 years and extending another 3 at a high price. Boras won’t go for that but I don’t recommend resigning him if it’s going to cripple the team longterm.

    I don’t know if there’ll even be a luxury tax whenever the next Player’s agreement is reached but it’s going to hurt down the line.

    • kris

      30+ million/year for 10 years is going to cripple the payroll down the line. We know Scott Boras won’t let A-Rod sign for less than that. I hope he stays. This way I might witness a colossal media battle between Hank and Boras when A-Rod can’t play anymore in his 40s.

      • Relaunch

        Where would he sign for more than that? How many teams will pay one player $30mil? Very few if any.

      • steve (different one)

        how do you know it would “cripple” the payroll?

        the Yankees spent $40M to get NOTHING out of Giambi, Farnsworth, Pavano, and Igawa this year and were crippled all the way into the playoffs. they spent $26M on Igawa’s posting fee which was like throwing $26M in the trash. and they are still alive and kicking.

        i would guess that in 10 years, $30M will be a similar percentage of their payroll than that $40M is now.

        also, he’s not going to sign for 10 years. not one single player has signed a 10 year deal since A-Rod and Jeter did 7 years ago. A-Rod is not going to get another one at age 32.

      • Count Zero

        First, I doubt he gets a ten year deal — anywhere. Seven seems more realistic.

        Second of all, there are no sure things in FA contracts — even if they are only for three years. An injury can end anyone’s career tomorrow. Having said that, A-Rod is the closest thing to a sure thing long-term contract you will ever see. Consider that:

        He has played at least 154 games for each of the last seven seasons, his skills may still be improving at age 32.

        He is built like an NFL QB, and has no history of knee or shoulder problems.

        He hits for power and average.

        More importantly, in the sixth, seventh or eighth year of any deal (depending what his power stats look like for the next five) he will be chasing down the MLB HR record — which means his drawing power alone will make his contract worth it at that point.

        I would give A-Rod 7x$32MM…and not even fret over it.

  • Tommy

    Correct me if I am wrong, but if the Yanks and ARod can work out a contract extension–as opposed to a opt-out and resigning–Tom Hicks and the Rangers would be on the hook for several million dollars of ARod’s salary, at least for the next three years (the term of the original contract). I think the total amount the Yankees would forfeit would be about $30 million should they fail to extend his contract. Not only is that nothing, it gives the Yankees $10 million extra to work with in negotiations that no other team has.

    My prediction: the Yanks sign him for 6-7 years at around 35 million annually, but front-load it to some degree.

  • Peter

    No offense guys but the Yankees are kind of stuck. There will not be many teams that will be able to afford A-Rod & with the Yankees losing Torre & because he’s gone, might also lose Rivera, Pettitte & Posada on top of that!

    They need A-Rod (along with Jeter) to prevent a riot in NY. Plus, A-Rod is one of the biggest businessmen in baseball & unless he went to Boston (who would be much better off resigning Lowell) or LA, he would run the risk of losing out on his endorsments due to the change of locations. He needs a BIG market team to draw in those BIG $$$ endorsements.

    The Yankees would be well served by avoiding A-Rod’s opt-out clause by regetotiating his deal (& hitting up Tom Hicks for more cash: which will serve him right for negotiatig that deal) for the extra 7 years & increase his salary to $30K+ starting in 2008 (if that’s possible, if not, then after the remaining years left on the current contract). They just can’t afford NOT to do this with the direction the team is going!