The Great What-If Scenario

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When Alex Rodriguez hit his 600th career homer on Wednesday, it was just another memorable moment in a career full of them. One of Alex’s most infamous moments came during Game Four of the 2007 not for his actions on the field, but off it. That’s when he (and agent Scott Boras) announced that he would be opting out of the final three years of his contract, allowing A-Rod to test the free agent waters. Coming off an MVP season in which he hit 54 homers and led the world with 9.2 WAR, it was a massive blow to a team looking old and on the way down.

We all know what happened next. A-Rod eventually re-signed with the Yanks, agreeing to the richest contract in baseball history, then went through a series of ups and downs en route to present day. But in the wake of his down season and all the talk about how the final seven years of his contract will play out, I got to thinking: what if A-Rod never opted out of his contract?

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Let’s assume for a second that Alex never opted out of his contract and everything went on to play out in exactly the same way that it did. The Yankees miss the playoffs in 2008, win the World Series in 2009, and do whatever they end up doing in 2010. Then after the season A-Rod’s original ten year, $252M contract with the Rangers expires, and he hits the open market as a free agent along with Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and some lesser Yanks. Let’s think about this for a second.

A-Rod would have won at least two MVP awards and one World Championship with the Yanks. He also would have dealt with the public humiliation of being ousted as a performance enhancing drug user plus numerous other off-the-field moments frowned upon in the court of public opinion. On top of all of that, we’re talking about a 35-year-old third baseman with hip trouble coming off what is on pace to be the worst full season of his career. Would the team be looking to re-sign him after the season, and if so at what cost? Perhaps the best way to look at this is to look at the alternatives.

The best of a bad free agent crop of third baseman is Adrian Beltre, who is having a simply fantastic season up in Boston. At 5.0 WAR he’s been one of the six most valuable position players in all of baseball this season, and will surely be looking for more than the one year, $10M player option he’ll inevitably decline to become a free agent. Another multi-year deal worth upwards of $12M per like the one he signed with the Mariners a few years back isn’t out of the question for the 31-year-old. Lesser free agent options include Jorge Cantu, Pedro Feliz, Mike Lowell, and Ty Wigginton.

We can’t know for sure who will be available in trades, but the Yankees are never afraid of going big game hunting. They would have the option of making a huge (and likely unsuccessful) play for Ryan Zimmerman, but more reasonable targets include Kevin Kouzmanoff, Mark Reynolds, Alex Gordon, and Jose Bautista. All have their pros and cons.

There’s also not much on the way internally. Ramiro Pena obviously can’t cut it as everyday player, and the other top candidates – Kevin Russo and Eduardo Nunez – are untested as regulars at the big league level. Brandon Laird was just promoted to Triple-A and is having a monster year, but at 22-years-old is he ready to go from his first Double-A at-bat to his first Major League at-bat in the span on 12 months? When is the last time the Yankees did something like that?

It’s worth mentioning the possibility of re-signing Jeter, moving him to third and acquiring another shortstop would exist. The free agent market is barren on that front (Orlando Cabrera, Edgar Renteria, and Juan Uribe represent the best of a bad lot), the trade market is uninspiring (Brendan Ryan, Stephen Drew), and it’s the same story as above with the internal options. Clearly, there’s basically no way the Yankees would be able to replace A-Rod’s production this offseason unless they were to spend big on Beltre.

I’d like to get a discussion going in the comments about what everyone things the Yanks would do in this hypothetical world where Alex never opted out of his contract and was set to become a free agent after the season. Knowing what we know now, my guess is that the Yanks would look to bring him back at a reduced price, something like $13-15M a year for three or four years. Still enough to make him one of the highest paid players in the game, but more in line with his current production level. A-Rod’s unlikely to find that kind of money elsewhere, and hey, if he means all this stuff about loving his teammates and being happy to be with this organization, he’d take it.

Anyway, tell me what you think. The more I think about this, the more complex it seems to get.

Sanchez & Culver go big in GCL Yanks win
Mailbag: Laird, Cano, Waivers, PitchFX
  • yankthemike

    the first thing that comes to mind that they’d end up giving both he and Jeter the same deal. Both money and years. very interesting post.

    • dalelama

      I agree I would offer both of them the same deal, $15m per for three years.

  • Rob A from BBD

    I could see A-Rod having lots of options that would kick in based on total home runs. I think he would still make a lot more than Jeter based on the chase. Obviously he wouldn’t make the $174-200 million that he’s due now.

    • yankthemike

      i don’t see them paying for “the chase” after the steroid admission…and this is no knock on A-Rod. i love the guy.

      • j_Yankees

        oh i disagree. It might not be the Yankees but I think some team would most definitely pay for the chase steroids or not.

        • Pasqua

          Absolutely. The chase will provide boat loads of revenue. Look at the way the build-up to 600 was handled by the media. (Hell, the steroid admission was already practically an afterthought!) Look at the ticket demand. Now, multiply that x1000 as he approaches Ruth, Aaaron and Bonds.

      • bill nye the science guy

        @yankthemike you might love A-Rod on the field but don’t say you love him unless you’ve met him. i’ve met him personally, and lets just keep it nice and short… A-rod is an A-hole

  • Anthony Murillo

    I think the Yankees would have done their best and eventually resign A-Rod.

  • Sam Malone

    Wow, I can’t believe I’m going to compliment this man, but since you’re probably dead on that A-Rod would get a 4 year deal worth 13-15 mil a year, then Scott Boras is a friggin genius for the opt out. It’s like he sensed that he would be getting a smaller commission a few years down the line. Oook back to hating Boras now…

    Ugh I gotta go get that taste out of my mouth

    • radnom

      It’s like he sensed that he would be getting a smaller commission a few years down the line.

      Um, it really doesn’t take a huge leap of faith to guess that a player a few years older will get a lesser total value contract than that same player three years younger coming off one of his best seasons.

      Unless a player has a down year or an albatross contract, opting out is almost always the right move. Remember that when CC opts out in a year.

      • KyleLitke

        I’m not so sure CC opts out. Even monetarily it doesn’t necessarily make any sense. Let’s pretend for the sake of this argument that CC opts out and does not resign with New York (i.e., not an A-Rod situation, he’s opting out with the understanding he’ll be going to a new team). Do you really think he’ll get 23 million a year from someone else? I don’t. Oh, he’ll get paid, but not as much. I think 20 million for 6 years (total of 120 million) would be a reasonable guess. Halladay’s making 20 million a year and most teams don’t want to shell out crazy contracts, plus CC will be 3 years older than when he signed with the Yankees. As it is now, CC is making 23 million a year, so he’d be opting out with 4 years remaining. That’s 92 million dollars after next year. In 2016 and 2017, if he were to sign for a mere 28 million over 2 years (if he totally falls apart, he might get lower, but let’s be honest, if guys like Burnett and Lowe are getting quite a bit more, well, unless CC is terrible in 2015, he’ll get at least that much), then he’d equal the value of the “theoretical” contract.

        Sure, if he opts out next year and someone offers him 23 million for 7 years again, then tip your cap, but who’s actually going to do that if the Yankees aren’t? He probably wouldn’t get more than 6 years at the age of 31, and if he squeezes a 7th year from whatever mysterious team signs him, then it’d probably come at the cost of less annual dollars.

        I mean, if he’s unhappy here then sure. But monetarily, I actually think opting out would hurt him considerably and the potential gain is limited to “I’m going to suck so bad in 2015 I have to sign for much less money”, and even THEN, the potential gain is only a few million dollars, while the potential risk is that he loses out on the ability to still collect 92 million dollars while signing a contract for a lot more than 2 years, 28 million dollars after 2015.

        • Ed

          Oh, he’ll get paid, but not as much. I think 20 million for 6 years (total of 120 million) would be a reasonable guess.

          6/$120m >>> 4/$92m. Especially for a pitcher – the odds of a career ending injury are far higher than for a position player.

          As for the rest of your post:

          Look at A-Rod’s situation in 2007. Everything you said applies just as well there, if not more so. He opted out of $71m over 3 years. At that time, it had been about 6 years since anyone signed a contract that came within $10m/year of what A-Rod had remaining on his deal. There was no obvious team that would bid high on him. Cashman claimed the Yankees would not negotiate if he opted out, because it would cost them $21m in subsidies from Texas. Look how that ended.

          • candyforstalin

            more than 5/100 at that point is a mistake. but there are 30 gms out there.

        • Roy

          the opt-out allows CC to add two more years onto his contract. Assuming the same trajectory leading up to his opt out, he can probably add those years @ $20-$24M. This way, he has bought insurance against breaking down. From the Yankees standpoint, they are more comfortable locking in the 2016 and 2017 season now than they were before the 2009 season.

          Also, the renegotiated contract can include an opt-out after 2014.

  • Total Dominication

    I think your #’s are conservative. I could easily see 5 years 90 million.

  • KofH

    No to Bautista–this’ll never happen again.
    No to Reynolds–(not an FA?)–his avg and obp stink on ice

  • candyforstalin

    i’ve been following basebal for just over a year. i know nothing about its landscape in 2008. but was this ever a realistic scenario?

    • Total Dominication

      What, that he’d leave? It was all but certain until A-rod called up Hank on his own.

      • candyforstalin

        no. that he wouldn’t opt out.

        • Total Dominication

          The horrifying part was not that he opted out but that Boras completely shut out the Yankees, and he opted out in a very rude way, hours after losing the season. He appeared set on going to the Sox.

          • radnom

            He appeared set on going to the Sox.

            Not only do I not ever remember him being set on going anywhere but the highest bidder, but I also don’t think the Sox (or anyone else for that matter) ever seriously pursued him.
            Not sure where you are getting this from.

            • whozat

              It was never realistic that he wouldn’t opt out, no. And, as far as anyone could tell, no one else pursued him.

            • Pasqua

              Yeah, this seems like a fuzzy memory. Maybe there was speculation about the Sox, but A-Rod never hinted at it. As a matter of fact, the first time he spoke publically about the opt-out was to criticize Boras for doing publically, without his blessing.

          • Ed

            The opt out occurred in the middle of Lowell’s World Series MVP performance. Lowell still looked good then and didn’t have any injury issues, and the Sox were the best team in the game. At that point, A-Rod seemed to be a luxury to them rather than someone worth breaking the bank on.

            My memory is that the Angels were the only team that seemed to be an option.

        • Ed

          Yeah, definitely. A-Rod still had 3 years at $27m per remaining on his contract at the time. In the previous 6 offseasons, no one had topped about $17m/year in a long term deal. It really wasn’t obvious that he’d find someone willing to bid high enough to justify forfeiting $71m.

          In the end, he only got the deal he did because Hank and Hal Steinbrenner had just taken over the team. Hank stepped up to handle this and promptly proved himself to be terrible at negotiating contracts.

  • Reggie C.

    Cashman and his underlings would gray each month. If replacing Arod’s production is impossible, imagine replacing both Arod and Dj. It’s kind of a nightmare scenario if you ask me. As you stated, the FA crop at SS and 3B doesn’t impress. Similarly, the realistic trade options at these positions also aren’t great.

    I may not be happy with the “15” years left on Arod’s current contract (dj’s joke), but at least we’ll avoid the scenario of having both Arod and DJ strong-arm the Yanks into landing equal length contracts. Those guys would likely be asking for 5 years since they’d have so much leverage, especially if the team successfully defends the title.

    • xieish

      Oh no, how will we ever replace our 36 year old league average hitting SS? Dooooooooomed

  • Total Dominication

    The problem that I have with the DJ/A-rod comp is that A-rod is a much better player than Jeter.

    • Meat Loaf


    • Jersey John

      But teh Captain!!!!

  • MikeD

    Any one else think it interesting that A-Rod had his best season as a Yankee in his opt-out year? We don’t know how often A-Rod took PEDs, but if he was going to target a specific year, 2007 would be it to maximize his value.

    Triggering the opt-out was not the brilliant move by Boras. It was building in the opt-out clause originally that was the brilliant move. He simply followed through on a plan he hatched when he originally signed with Texas.

    • Chris

      We don’t know how often A-Rod took PEDs, but if he was going to target a specific year, 2007 would be it to maximize his value.

      Maybe I’m being naive, but I think that A-Rods explanation actually makes sense. I could certainly see him starting when he went to the Rangers because of the contract.

      I think the bigger question is when did he stop. He tested positive in 2003 and knew that he tested positive. In 2004, the testing stopped being anonymous. If he were going to stop at any point, that would seem to be a logical time. I don’t buy his explanation of why he stopped, but the timing seems reasonable to me.

    • Ed

      Nah, you don’t need steroids to explain it. A-Rod’s two best years were his ages 29 and 31 seasons. I’m sure you could easily find hundreds of players you could say the same about. While 2007 was his best year, it doesn’t look out of line with the rest of his career.

      • Pasqua


  • Mike G

    I think the Yanks are going to be so sorry they’re still paying A-Rod anything those last 2 years…I don’t see him staying healthy and playing at the level of someone making 21 million a year in his 40’s, especially if he’s already slowing down…

    • Kiersten

      Yeah but you have to think about the alternative. If the Yankees hadn’t resigned A-Rod, who would have been playing third base last year? Would they still have won the World Series? Obviously nobody knows, but you could argue, especially if the Yankees win a couple more with A-Rod on the team, that it was worth it to pay him that much in money and years to keep him for his good years. Essentially what I’m saying is that you could argue that the Yankees will be paying him when he’s 41-42 for what he did when he was 32-34.

      I’m not saying that it’s what they should have done or that I agree with it, it’s just one way of looking at it.

      • JobaWockeeZ

        This. Overpaying A-Rod to produce is better than having a huge hole. Of course you’ll have more money but there’s not much good alternatives to spend it on.

    • Chris

      From a purely baseball perspective, you’re probably right. The thing is those last two years are when he’s going to be chasing (possibly passing) the all time HR record. It’s not as big a deal as it has been in the past, but it’s still going to draw people to the ballpark. I don’t think that it will make much difference to people that read this blog (they’d all go to a Yankees-Royals game in April), but to the borderline fan, it’s a reason to go out. That drives a lot of revenue.

  • jim p

    So if A-Rod signed for 4 years, he’d likely finish at around 700 homers. The record in reach. So then would the Yankees go another two years knowing the payoff in revenue on the push for 714 (geez, imagine the wait after 713 on that!) and on toward 755 & 762?

    As to Beltre, what’s the effect of the Green Monster on his stats. Is he flying out a lot more without that?

    • Mike Axisa

      He’s actually been better on the road than at home this year. I don’t have the numbers in front of me now, but I looked them up earlier today.

    • bexarama

      He’s better on the road than he is at home, IIRC. I still don’t think this year is anything but a really, really good year for Bell TRAY.

      • Kiersten

        Ok I figured it out once, but now for the life of me I can’t remember – what does IIRC stand for?

        • Chris

          If I Remember Correctly

          • Kiersten

            Which obviously I didn’t cause I forgot.


      • candyforstalin

        it isn’t. his babip will not hold.

        • bexarama

          It’d be nice if this started coming into effect this weekend…

      • JGS

        Bell TRAY


        • bexarama

          s’why I said it :D

    • JGS

      As to Beltre, what’s the effect of the Green Monster on his stats. Is he flying out a lot more without that?

      Beltre, home: .327/.362/.522/.884, 9 HR
      Beltre, away: .347/.386/.612/.998, 10 HR

      That doesn’t include tonight, in which he hit his tenth Fenway homer.

      I did not expect that at all. He even has more doubles on the road.

  • nathan

    Yanks have doled out some dumb contracts, but giving ARod that 10 year was the dumbest.

    I actually think even after he opted out they could have negotiated a 20 per year contract. I dont get that one at all.

    If he had been with us all along, i think this offseason would have been ridiculously good.

    I think we cud have had ARod at 15 per or maybe the Yanks would move DJ to short and trade for Hanley.

    • nathan

      move DJ to third and trade for Hanley

    • Kiersten

      And the Marlins would trade Hanley to the Yankees… why?

      • nathan

        A fan’s dream.

        This is a pie in the sky scenario, isnt that the whole idea.

        Maybe we have to giveup 3/4 uber prospects.

        • Mike HC

          I think the Marlins would have to think long and hard about accepting a Montero, Hughes, another top prospect in the low minors, and a couple of fringe/low ceiling minor leaguers.

          That might even be too much to give up considering Hughes alone might be close to Hanley’s value for the next 5-6 years.

          But just throwing that out there. Too much, too little?

          • Tom Zig

            I bet the Marlins would accept something like this:

            Montero, Romine, Hughes, Slade, and then add Z-Mac and E. Nunez as throw ins.

            Hell we’d probably have to include Melky and IPK.

            • Mike HC

              So basically, the only difference between our two hypo trades is Romine. I think we should be able to get the job done without adding him in.

              But you could be right.

              • Tom Zig

                They’d certainly ask for a king’s ransom and they’d be justified in doing so. I’d love me some Hanley. It would definitely take at least 2 top prospects, a high upside low minors prospect, someone MLB ready and maybe a couple throw ins. The Marlins are actually trying to compete these days, the cost for Hanley already would have been high regardless, now you gotta figure to pay at least double.

    • dalelama

      I think Arod never would have re-signed with the Yanks at a paycut after opting out of something higher—sorta of a mutation of the Abreu and Damon scenarios.

      • nathan

        There was not other place for ARod to go. The Yanks could have absolutely offered 18-20 per.

  • carson

    Interesting question.

    A year ago, I would have said they let A-Rod go. Now I think they would want him back.

    They would probably even be willing to overpay him in dollars because he would have “only” cost them $112M/7 if he hadn’t opted out but probably would only want to go 4 years. Not sure 4 would keep him in NY though unless there were easily met option years attached.

  • j_Yankees

    What do i think the Yankees would do? I think they’d probably still give him a ridiculously overpriced contract that they would look at later and say, “that was stupid”. Of course i don’t think it would be as hard a hit as what they’re going to have under the deal they gave him after he opted out as he is going to make $28+M for the next 3 years.

    I really can’t do or say anything about A-Rod’s current contract anymore. It’s just beyond stupid. I mean he has $30M coming into him based on his HR milestones. 30 MILLION DOLLARS.

    • JobaWockeeZ

      Stupid how? Ever since he was a Yankee A-Rod has been worth every penny according to FanGraphs.

      Even if he declines horrendously the WAR you get from A-Rod makes the contract bearable. Far from ‘stupid.’

      Especially when you consider the value form having A-Rod and having someone who’s not half as good as him playing on the team.

      • j_Yankees

        Stupid in the sense that moving forward he wouldn’t be worth the money you pay him not looking backward. A-Rod put up insane numbers in the past and was deserving of his salary according to fangraphs. But thats not the A-rod i have anymore.

        He’s been worth $8.5M this year according to fangraphs. a 2.1 WAR player. If thats the A-Rod i’m getting this year and beyond its crazy talk to say he’s worth anything close to what he’s making now and beyond..or heck what i think the Yankees would still give him had he not opted out(something like 5 years and 20-25 million per is what i’m thinking in my head)

        • Stephen Dedalus

          I think a similar question was asked on IATM a while ago, but in reference to Derek Jeter.

          In my opinion, the Yankees absolutely resign him to a long term/big money contract because not only are the alternatives inferior at best, but because of the star power attached to his name.

          As long as he generates revenue (and I believe the team was exempt from luxury tax last year, bringing them in the black) and continues to reinforce the business aspect of the Yankee org, I honestly find it impossible for A-Rod and this team to part ways albeit to the possible detriment of the on-field production.


          • Mike HC

            I’m with you.

            • Wooderson

              yes, please remember when we’re all cursing jeter to the sky above, that he’s still going to be better than the alternatives. not all of them, but most. yeah he’ll be overpaid but its jeter! in my entire life i haven’t watched a single yankee game where jeter wasn’t at short (barring rest days/injuries). when the man retires i will shed a tear. that appreciation is forgotten for a moment every time he hits into a DP, but it’s there.

              • Mike HC

                I personally have never cursed Jeter at all. Or never lost appreciation for him. I can’t even understand all the people here, and other Yankee fans, that have given him such a hard time not only this year, but also going into last year, and have been giving him a hard time for about the last decade. Unbelievable to me.

                All those people are going to realize how great he was after he is gone.

  • All-Star Carl
    • Mike HC

      They are similar articles. It is not that far fetched that both of them came up with the idea on their own. But fishily coincidental.

      • Mike HC

        And considering RAB has riffed off (or ripped on,ha) Sherman’s article ideas many times in the past, it is really not that big of a deal. Although RAB always begrudgingly cites his article at least.

  • nycsportzfan

    arod would probably re-sign for a 3yr deal, and yanks would have options for a 4th yr at like 19or20mill.. i’d say the contract would be 3yr 51.5million and 4th yr yankee option of 19million… Hes on pace to drive in 130runs or so, which is scary good, and ultimatley, his job is 2 drive in runs.. If i had the choice of a 40hr 99rbi season, or a 28hr 130rbi season, i’d take the latter…

  • Nostra-Artist

    It’s important to remember Brian Cashman was against the big A-Rod extension, being quoted many times saying it was a contract he would have never signed.

  • Mike HC

    If this was a contract year for ARod, I think he would be putting up better numbers than he is this year. So in my hypothetical world where ARod is tearing it up, I think the Yanks give him a 5-6 year deal, with about he same average annual salary he made for this deal.

  • Wooderson

    i know this probably isn’t the case, but did anyone else feel like a-rod opting out during the sox WS celebration was somehow sticking it a little to the sox? you could argue that he did it then so that the attention would be on him, but that was some pretty bad press.

    • Pasqua

      Eh. If you go by what was reported and revealed via interviews, that announcement was all Boras. Hell, A-Rod went on 60 Minutes to throw his agent under the bus about it, and Boras (knowing, obviously, that he couldn’t lose his biggest client) never refuted that it was his idea.

  • JM

    Can A-Rod still finish with 30/100?

  • yankeefanatic

    if Arod was becoming a free agent this year i would hope the Yanks would seriously consider picking up Beltre instead of A-rod…as for Jeter i think they should sign him for 1 year 15 mill with mutual or club options for 3 seasons with a declining salary each season 10 mill 7.5 mill then 5 mill…with buyouts of 1 mill 750 thousand and half a mill…i think what the Yanks should learn from the Arod contract since they can’t go back in time is to not get crazy and not be sentimental…they only need to outbid the second best team…