A morning K-Rod what-if


Unless something major is breaking, odds are good that the three of us are sleeping right now. It’s about 6:30 a.m. in Vegas, and while I woke up Joe with a 5:30 a.m. Vegas time text about Sabathia, I promised I wouldn’t do that today unless the sky happens to fall.

As we gear up for the last day of Winter Meetings and Mike’s upcoming Rule V draft live-blog, I wanted to play a little what if game based on an Anthony McCarron tidbit. In the few hours between K-Rod’s signing and the CC Sabathia news, the New York newspapers quickly filled up with glowing articles about Francisco Rodriguez. As part of the Daily News’ wall-to-wall coverage, McCarron unveiled a K-Rod timeline featuring this juicy tidbit:

September 24, 1998: Rodriguez, only 16 years old, signs with the Angels as an amateur free agent. The Angels beat out several other teams, including the Yankees, with a $900,000 offer. Yanks were reportedly ready to go higher than that, but Rodriguez believes Angels when they tell him he’d have a quicker path to the majors.

Now, I haven’t really been able to confirm this 11-year-old piece of news. 1998, the year the Yanks won 125 games and dominated the Padres in the World Series, was a year before time. We had no blogs; we barely had the Internet. No one paid attention to signings of 16-year-olds out of Venezuela. Jesus Montero would have been just a blip on the radar of the Yankee Universe a decade ago.

But it does pose an interesting “what if.” What if the Yanks had been the ones to sign K-Rod? What they offered him more money, as McCarron said they did, and he bit? It’s safe to say that the last six years would look much different.

In 2002, in the ALDS, K-Rod, then 20, had thrown just 5.2 innings at the Major League level, but because of a quirk in the rules concerning injuries, the Angels were able to add him to the Major League roster. He took the playoffs by storm. He earned the win in two of the Angels’ victories against the Yankees, and Anaheim would go on to capture a ring. All told, K-Rod earned the W in five of the Angels’ 11 playoff wins that year. It’s not a stretch to say that the 99-win 2002 Yankees would have suffered a far different fate had K-Rod been in their system.

Beyond that, it’s too tempting to play even more dangerous “what if” games. What if K-Rod and not Tom Gordon had faced David Ortiz in 2004? I’ll let you turn that one over in your mind, knowing that the Red Sox have beaten K-Rod the closer a few times. K-Rod the premiere set-up man would be an entirely different beast.

Of course, baseball is filled with these what if’s, and as Rodriguez finally comes to New York, it’s interesting and dangerous to imagine what could have been had he chosen the Yanks’ money over the Angels’ promise.

Categories : Whimsy


  1. Slugger27 says:

    it wouldve been nice, but there are teams we outbid for both soriano and el duque… and plenty of others that never materialized

    its not like we didnt spend ridiculous sums of money on amateur free agents in the 90s

    however, it would have been pretty sick to have him setting up mo…

  2. Matt B says:

    As per MLB Trade Rumors, Yankees are set to acquire Mike Cameron for Melky Cabera. At least they didnt give up IPK or anything!

  3. colin says:

    I was trying to come up with a What-If about Beltran the other day. If they Yanks signed him in ’05 do they also trade for RJ? Do they keep Vasquez and Navarro? They definitely don’t sign Damon before ’06. Does that mean that Melky never comes up? Or when he does, is it just to play LF? Would we have needed to trade for Nady this season? Who knows…

    • Slugger27 says:

      clearly, that would have been the much smarter move when compared to trading for RJ…. but the RJ thing i was think was mostly big george

      its hard to fault them for going after pitching, especially considering what happened in that 04 WS, but yes, beltran should have been ours

  4. Will says:

    interesting note, I didn’t know that. As you said, theres thousands of these what if scenarios. Personally, I don’t think the Yankees would have won out due to the oft talked about ‘closer mindset’ that closers want to close. K-Rod would have known that he would never be the closer for the Yanks with Mariano there and that Mo would never be going anywhere. Unless the Yankees offered ridiculous money, I doubt he would have came here.

    • Slugger27 says:

      true, but looking at the date on the article, mo had only been a closer for 2 years, and was yet to be a free agent

      krod was 16… so i doubt he put much stock into that

      • Will says:

        I dunno, if he took the smaller offer for a quicker path, it seems like he was thinking of the big picture even at 16. And while Mo had only been closing for 2 years, those two years plus the set up work pretty much locked him in as the closer for as long as he was a Yankee

  5. A.D. says:

    Damn K-Rod to Rivera would have been nasty.

    Too bad Torre would have abused the shit out of K-Rod

    • jsbrendog says:

      touche, i didnt even think of this. this would only add mroe weight to my point beow about tommy john lol that i was typing as you were posting this

    • Bruno says:

      Good point. I don’t think his delivery is that big of a deal one inning at a time, but getting Proctor-ized with his violent mechanics would’ve spelled disaster.

  6. jsbrendog says:

    f-rod (i refuse to call him k rod as that is stupid) probably would have had tommy john if he were with the yanks lol. but in all seriousness, the face of baseball as we know it for the past 6 + yrs would be diofferent. It’s really cool and really interesting to thionk back to these small tridbits of info we never even knew happened and ponder what if. Thanks Ben, articles like these arepartyly why i love this palce so much. Cause as a fan it’s these kind of things I love.

    Like, what if when pettitte and rivera came up in 94 or 95 (i forget) both as starters and pettitte did poorly in his few starts but mo did extremely well, instead of the opposite….what would’ve happened then?

  7. Reggie C. says:

    ESPN just reported that the Cameron to the Yanks for Melky trade is going to happen.

  8. Chris says:

    Based on the history of the Yankees from 1998-2004, my guess is that he would have been used as trade bait to land someone else. Maybe he would have been part of the Clemens trade…

  9. Greg C says:

    Tom Gordon was mostly great. Who knows if” K” Rod would have worked as a setup man.

    We don’t wonder “What if K Rod had been the closer so Mo didn’t blow that one game 7 of the WS.” Of course not, because Rivera > K-Rod.

  10. Sam says:

    He would have withered away in the minors. The Angels were right about a quicker path to the majors, at least in those years.

    • jsbrendog says:

      every xmas f-rod writes percival a letter saying thank you for being so rickity and old and giving me a chance to make many of millions

  11. Joe says:

    Is Cameron really that much better than Melky/Gardner? Whats the + of doing this trade? I dont get it.

  12. A.D. says:

    The Brewers originally had hoped to get the Yankees to include a young pitching prospect such as Ian Kennedy in a Cameron-Cabrera swap but New York does not want to do that.

    Also says the Yanks want to expand the trade to include Hall…I say just sign Punto.

  13. mustang says:

    “Jon Heyman says the Yankees have re-entered the Teixeira sweepstakes.”

    Come on Cashman break the bank.

  14. JohnC says:

    If they get Burnett done, then forget Lowe, Sheets and Cameron and get Texieria instead!

  15. Joe says:

    If we wanted to do this all over again we should just resign Pavano :|

  16. E-ROC says:

    Having a younger K-Rod and Mo would’ve been unfair and great to watch. I guess the allure of the pinstripes wasn’t good enough for K-Rod.

  17. Joe says:

    Im just wondering whos going to protect A-Rod with Giambi and Abreu gone? We banking on Posada having another 07 season and Hideki is actually healthy? Manny would be kinda nice for a couple of years if we had the room.

  18. Jesse G. says:

    To me the really interesting “what if” aspect with KRod is less about how he would have changed how the Yankees performed as a ateam and how far they got in the playoffs in a given year. For me, the fascinating question is what KRod’s career would have looked like? If he had been brought up and pitched at least the first couple of years as a super-setup man who pitched in high leverage situations of all type (think Mo in 1996), do you think he would have developed into one of those rare extra-valuable closers? As of now he is your standard one inning only kind of closer, albeit an excellent one. But the thing that separates guys like Mo and Papelbon (or Pap Smear, as my girlfriend likes to call him) is that it is known that they can and will transcend the role of a pure closer by being routinely available for longer outings and for spot outings in non-save high-leverage situations.
    Anyway, a lot of this would have depended on the manager’s bullpen usage patterns and I always thought this was one of Torre’s worst areas, but now that I think about it my anecdotal memory is that Torre was actually really good at this kind of stuff for a number of years before he developed this knee-jerk, calcified, and incredibly inflexible bullpen management style.

  19. Brad K says:

    If K-Rod had been in the fold would the Yankees have done the unthinkable and let Mo walk when he went FA. I’m not suggesting that I support that, at all, but you don’t see too many career set up men with K-Rod or even Mo type stuff. Look. That is pretty much the exact scenario that played out with Whettland and Mo.

    • Jesse G. says:

      Oh, no doubt, about that Brad. My musings were more related to my feeling that above and beyond his incredible, one of a kind, skills, what has made Mo so much more valuable than any other closer in his era is his usage patterns and the options that he gives managers especially in high leverage situations (high leverage in the sense of both the single game context and the overall “leverage” level in the season or playoff series context). Thus, I was just wondering if the Yankees development, nurturing, and eventual usage of KRod would have created a pitcher who, while clearly not as effective as Mo, was nonetheless similarly above and beyond even other top closers due to his usage patterns.

  20. Brad K says:

    Jesse I agree with your original point entirely. I was only doing the “what if” scenario from the “other” point of view. Either way it would have created a unique situation for the Yankee’s.

  21. DonnieBaseballHallofFame aka they guy who has well documented history of belligerent thickheadedness and anti-intellectual character assassinations says:

    Interesting post. We will never know but I would assume life for the Yankees, Mo and K-Rod would be very different the last few years.

  22. “But it does pose an interesting “what if.” What if the Yanks had been the ones to sign K-Rod?”

    A Joba fist pump in the 8th plus K-Rod histrionics in the 9th likely would have caused a fatal brain aneurysm for Mike Francesa.

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