Jun
16

Keeping A-Rod fresh for the long haul

By

Photo credit: Frank Franklin II/AP

Once upon a time, Alex Rodriguez was the very model of perfect health. From 2001-2007, he averaged 159 games and hit .304/.400/.591 with 329 home runs. Once upon a time, Alex Rodriguez wasn’t 34 and didn’t suffer from hip problems. Oh, to be young and an All Star again.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen A-Rod suffer through some injuries. He hurt his leg in 2008; he underwent hip surgery in 2009. Since June 9, A-Rod has seen game action just once, and he had to pull himself in the 2nd inning with hip pains. The team diagnosed his injury as tendinitis, and after much rest, A-Rod says he wants to play tonight.

The decision last night to rest A-Rod for at least another game didn’t sit well with many pundits. Even though Jorge Posada left Sunday’s affair complaining of a sore foot and was due for a turn in the designated hitter role, with Roy Halladay on the mound, the team could have put its best lineup forward with Posada, healthy enough to catch, behind the plate and A-Rod as the DH. The Yanks’ bats made the point moot by the third inning, but the Yanks seemed to be playing A-Rod’s injury close to the vest.

As with many decisions the team needs to make, this one had a good reason behind: Alex Rodriguez is still owed a lot of money by the Yankees for a lot of years, and although the team has to play to win this year, it also must be mindful of the money it has invested in A-Rod. Once 2010 ends, the Yankees will still have to pay A-Rod $164 million over the next seven years. Although the megadeal A-Rod signed in the halcyon days of 2007 is front-loaded, an average annual value of $23.4 million for a player who will be playing his ages 35-41 seasons is simply immense.

We could debate the A-Rod contract for the next seven years. Based on his WAR value numbers, A-Rod’s last deal with a steal, but he has yet to outplay his new contract. As he continues to age and as his offensive numbers — and in particular, his home runs — continue to dip, the contract will look just as bad as it did on Day One. Even when A-Rod as a 39-year-old in 2015 is making just $21 million, it’s hard to see A-Rod’s production outweighing his salary, and since signing the new deal, he hasn’t topped 138 games in a single season.

The Yankees know this. In fact, they knew it from the start, and this knowledge is why I believe Hank Steinbrenner has taken a silent back seat to the goings-on in the Bronx. Armed with this knowledge, the Yanks could either push A-Rod into the ground now by playing him against the Astros and Phillies in a mid-June game or they could sit him for an extra day or two to ensure that hip conditions, often known to be degenerative, do not stunt his career or the team’s investment.

Once upon a time, the Yankees almost signed Albert Belle to a five-year deal that would have been worth upwards of $80 million. It would have made Belle the highest paid player, and the similar deal the slugger in fact signed with the Orioles did just that. Two years later, Belle had to retire because of a degenerative hip condition. Belle’s injuries and A-Rod’s aren’t similar, and A-Rod shouldn’t be forced out of the game at an early age because of his leg woes. Yet, the Yankees know how fragile these injuries can be, and while it’s easy to get up in arms over A-Rod’s resting, it’s all about protecting a very long-term investment. Seems like a good idea to me.

Categories : Injuries

98 Comments»

  1. Speaking of Belle, when his degenerative hip did force him out of the game with 3 years and 37M left on the deal, insurance policies the O’s took out covered most of that money. I’d imagine we’ve done the same with ARod, so if he did totally break down and retire with 3-5 years left on the deal, we probably wouldn’t be totally screwed.

    Not saying we should run him into the ground or anything, though.

  2. Steve H says:

    If A-Rod is forced out of the game early due to injuries, at least insurance would cover it. That would be a better solution than getting 100 games a year out of him for 5 or 6 years at $20 mil/year. Not that I hope it happens, and while age is a factor, A-Rod certainly takes care of himself and I think he’ll have bumps and bruises, but there’s nothing that says he definitively will suffer injury after injury.

    • Chris says:

      Are we certain that the Yankees have insurance on his contract? I remember hearing somewhere that it has become more and more difficult to get insurance on the contracts of older players.

  3. nsalem says:

    What pundits did the decision not to play him sit well with??

  4. Guest says:

    If we get four more really good/great years out of alex and three mediocre to bad, win a couple of championships, during the period, etc., what does that mean for his contract?

    I think we can all agree that no matter what, it was a very bad contract if for no other risen than we outbid ourselves. No one was going to come close to giving him what we gave him.

    However, if we pay him seven years to get four more really good/great years, maybe then the contract goes from atrocious to merely “ill-advised.”

    • Without running the numbers, I’d say there’s a very good chance the Yanks end up overpaying A-Rod by at least $100 million and that’s not counting his HR-milestone performance bonuses. A-Rod will have to defy age and get better a la Bonds as he enters his late 30s for this to be even an ill-advised deal.

      • Steve H says:

        I’d consider the HR-milestone bonuses separate though. If he gets there, they’ll be making money off it, so in some way what they pay, and what they earn will cancel each other out. Certainly not how they’d hoped when they signed him and he’d be breaking the record “clean”, but it’ll pay nonetheless.

      • A-Rod will have to defy age and get better a la Bonds as he enters his late 30s for this to be even an ill-advised deal.

        Let’s get Alex some more PEDs, stat. Get Yuri Sucart on the phone. Call Andy’s Mexican connect as a backup.

      • Chris says:

        I don’t think that you’re giving enough credit to the impact that A-Rod approaching and passing the all time home run record will have. Just look at the impact that Bonds had on the Giants. The last few years he was playing, the Giants averaged just over 39,000 per game in attendance. Since he’s retired, that number has dropped to just over 35,000 (and the numbers for both are pretty consistent year to year.

        If you assume that A-Rod has a similar impact in his last 3-4 years, then you’re looking at roughly $24M extra revenue per season for the Yankees (they average about $90 per fan in revenue, but I assume that the new fans brought in will tend to be at the lower end of the range, so I used $75 per fan).

        I agree the Yankees overpaid because no one else was likely to go over $200M for him, but there is more to his deal than simply the on field performance.

        • Well said.

          Furthermore, I don’t think the whole “the records/milestones don’t matter because he took steroids and he’s not clean” angle will matter as much as people think. Baseball writers may not pen monologues about how awesome ARod passing Ruth/Aaron/Bonds is, but Yankee fans will still show up at the ballpark to see one of their own, tainted or not tainted, wrest the all time home run championship away from guys who didn’t play for the Yankees.

          They’ll still be moneymaking events, even with ARod’s slightly diminished reputation.

          • Captain Jack says:

            That and they still haven’t pulled him off the Angels or Joe Nathan. If he’s huge for them for the rest of this season and next year and gets another two rocks…I’m pretty sure the extra revenue over those two years would have been worth it. With those long ass megadeals you always end up overpaying in some form or another.

    • Steve H says:

      Agreed. Bad contracts are Carl Pavano, Kei Igawa, Mike Hampton, etc. where you get no production for your money.

      A-Rod’s contract is likely an overpay, but not necessarily a terrible contract. The Yankees will likely get a ton of production out of A-Rod, just not their money’s worth. That’s a big difference between a just horrendous contract like above, and a simple overpay.

    • A.D. says:

      I think we can all agree that no matter what, it was a very bad contract if for no other risen than we outbid ourselves.

      Exactly, even if A-Rod does out-produce this contract, its still a bad contract since they vastly overpaid vs market rates.

    • Angelo says:

      I didn’t know we were paying A-Rod. Damn it this is going to be tough. Okay I have a plan.

      TSJC will become a pimp.

      He’ll come up with the money. Trust me.

  5. steve s says:

    Didn’t quite understand the reference to Hank Steinbrenner. Care to elaborate Ben?

    • I’m not Ben, but:

      Hank and Hal took over for their dad just before ARod’s opt-out. Hank took the lead in negotiations and was largely responsible for ARod getting the megadeal he got, while Hal and Cashman wanted to take a more hardline approach (since we were the only team really bidding on him at that price).

      After the contract, Hank has taken more of a backseat role to Hal, probably because the org agreed that we overpaid on the contract. Hal’s much more in charge now.

      • TSJC’s got it. Hank was the very public face of the Yanks during the opt-out/renegotiation debacle, and it’s widely believed that, because of Hank, the Yanks outbid themselves for A-Rod. He’s been much less public with his wheelings and dealings since then.

        • steve s says:

          Thanks to you both for the reply but hard to believe Hal’s consent (and probably George’s as well if they were able to catch him in a lucid moment) wasn’t needed for that big of a deal. Also, if true, why wasn’t Hank taking the public credit for Arod’s great performance last year if he was solely or primarily on the hook for the decision to keep him? I think (just my guess) that his under the radar existence more likely has to do with the family clamping down on him for his prior public buffoonery than anything to do with the Arod contract.

          • The Three Amigos says:

            At this point, it was reported that Hal wanted nothing to do with running the Yankees and its been reported and pretty much confirmed for years that George has Alzheimer’s disease. Hank was in charge at this point and overrode Cashman, as Hal wasn’t very involved yet.

            Once this contract was signed, apparently with just Hank and Arod in the room, Hal stepped back in and realized that Hank would likely bankrupt the team and Hank was laid out to the pasture.

      • Steve H says:

        Are we sure he has been pushed aside, or is he just spending more time courting Jennifer Love Hewitt?

  6. rbizzler says:

    I really don’t care what the pundits have to say about anything. Being that they are not privy to any of Alex’s (or any of the other players) medical records, they are only acting out of blatant self-interest.

    To paraphrase old friend PeteAbe: reporters/columnists root for stories. And having Alex in the lineup for the WS rematch and pitching showdown last night is easy column fodder and something the likes of Lupica, Madden, Matthews (etc.) can use to make cliched observances about a relatively meaningless game in mid-May.

  7. nsalem says:

    A-Rods season in 2009 at year 34 was worth much more to Yankee fans and the fiscal wellness of the Yankee organization than his MVP Years of 2005 and 2007 which ended in tears. Remember that pathetic 9th inning at bat in 05 against the Angels. If he plays 130 games a year from here on out and is well rested and healthy for the post season, I will take my chances on the aging (post hex) Arod.
    It don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got that ring.

  8. Randy A. says:

    After the Marlins series last season where they sat A-Rod for the three game stint and publicly stated that he would get an off day every week, he played much better and seemed to be dominant for the remainder of the season. I hope this rest acts as a similar catalyst for him cause this Yankee offense will be ridiculous when him and Tex start catching some hot streak.

  9. Carson says:

    Yankees paid A-Rod $15 million dollars a year from 2004-07 because of the Texas subsidy and had never sold 4 million seats in a season before he arrived in NY.

    His contract is already paid for.

    • The issue is not “Will the Yankees financially break even on revenue spent and revenue earned over the totality of ARod’s tenure in pinstripes?”

      The issue is “In 2015, if/when ARod’s production declines to non-elite heart of the order bat level, will ARod’s 21M salary at the age of 39 become a financial hindrance against us bidding on a free agent we need because we’re too close to our total payroll budget limit?”

  10. nathan says:

    That contract is ridiculous. But the Yanks all the leverage in the world, who was even going to offer him 200 Mill. The Yanks were bidding against themselves and apparently with Scott Boras not in the picture. If Arod himself negotiated this deal, either that speaks volumes to his business acumen or the lack thereof in one Mr Hank.

    The missed an opportunity to offer him a 10 year 200 Mill deal, who exactly was gonna top that? Spilled milk.

    You never know with these injuries and particularly how often he was taking the “Boli” or whatever. I would have mocked the idea that Arod will not break Bonds’ record, now I seriously consider that there is a chance he may not top 750. Think the Yanks will save about 18 M on that.

  11. nsalem says:

    4 for 17 in 07 alds 1 hr 1 rbi that was late in game 5 with the yanks down several runs

    • Steve H says:

      At 17 AB sample size tells us exactly nothing.

      So if Derek Jeter was Clutchy McClutcherson when he was young, and was terrible in 2007, does that mean he’s getting worse as he gets older unlike A-Rod who’s getting better?

      • nsalem says:

        Steve H The only point I am trying to make is that I believe that Arod’s failures in his NY post season career starting with game 6
        ALCS 2004 got into his head and he was unable to perform up to the level he is capable of for several years. I believe quite possibly the poor performance was due to stress. I also believe that in 2009 he was much more focused and able to play to his abilities. I think part of the success can be attributed to a new found maturity. It is a subjective opinion that I am making from visual observation with no progressions or regressions in mind or comparisons to other players. I think and hope he continues to succeed in these high pressure situation and am also aware that this is an opinion that could be dead wrong.

    • Technically, ARod was 4 for 15, not 4 for 17. He had two walks.

      Derek Jeter: 3 for 17, no walks, no doubles, no triples, no homers, 1 RBI, 4 strikeouts.

      That’s who you should be pointing the finger at.

      • nsalem says:

        and Jeter also hit into 1 and maybe 2 double plays in big situations in the game 4 alds loss to the Indians.

    • 1 hr 1 rbi that was late in game 5 with the yanks down several runs

      And without that one homer and one RBI late in Game 5 with the Yanks down several runs, they wouldn’t have been in striking distance, so the whole Gary Sheffield/pinchrunner/Hideki Matsui scenario from above is meaningless.

      • nsalem says:

        The home run was game 4 vs Cleveland in game 4 alds 2007. The Sheffield pinch running incident was game 5 alds 2005 (which is when
        Arod hit into the dp in the ninth. Guess we are mixing our Angels
        and Indians. Too many painful memories can’t think about it no more.
        On the way to the game and I hope it don’t rain.
        Yours Truly Bob (i can’t dance, but i sure can jump) Beamon

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