Imagining Alomar on the Yankees

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1996 ALCS Game 1. (Roberto Borea/AP)

In the early 90s the Yankees weren’t exactly a hot landing spot for free agents. The team tried to sign David Cone, Barry Bonds, and Greg Maddux, and all of them rejected the team. Maddux, most notably, took less money to pitch in Atlanta. But by 1995 the Yankees became a more attractive destination. They were the AL’s top team when baseball ended in 1994 and then made the playoffs in 1995. It was after that season that Roberto Alomar became a free agent. As Jon Lane of the YES Network reports, Alomar actually wanted to be a Yankee.

While the Yankees didn’t really need much more help at that time, adding Alomar would certainly have changed the team’s composition. We often remember that Mariano Duncan hit .340 that season, but often forget that he played in only 109 games. That year the Yankees’ second basemen ranked 18th (out of 28) in WAR. Duncan himself produced 2.2 WAR. Alomar produced 5.6 WAR. Where Alomar really might have made a difference was in 1997, when the Yankees ranked 25th out of 28 in WAR among second basemen — Luis Sojo, Rey Sanchez, Pat Kelly, Homer Bush, and Duncan combined for -0.5 WAR that season, while Alomar produced nearly 4 WAR.

Since Alomar signed a three-year deal with the Orioles, we can assume he would have done the same with the Yankees. That changes history again, as the Yankees traded for Chuck Knoblauch prior to the 1998 season. This was an excellent trade, of course, as Knoblauch upgraded the second base spot to 3.1 WAR. But Alomar was worth 4.1 WAR that year. He also would have saved the Yankees the prospects, which means they could have used Brian Buchanan, Christian Guzman, Eric Milton, and Danny Mota to acquire an upgrade at a different spot.

Why the deal never happened I’m not sure. Maybe it was a payroll thing. The Yankees led the league in payroll for 1996, and at the time they signed Duncan they still needed a couple of pitchers. Alomar’s three-year deal with the Orioles appears to have been worth around $17 million, including $4.2 million in 1996. Duncan’s two-year deal was worth under $2 million total. Since the Orioles had the second highest payroll of 1996, moving Alomar would have mean the Yankees outspend the next highest team by over $10 million. At the time it would have been by far the largest discrepancy between No. 1 and No. 2 in baseball history.

Who knows how baseball would have been altered if Alomar had signed with the Yankees. We can start with the Jeffrey Maier catch and work forward from there. Alomar certainly would have been a welcome addition to the Yankees, since he would have represented an upgrade in the three years he could have been part of the team. That’s not to lament them not signing him; there’s nothing to complain about when it comes to the late 90s. It’s just an interesting idea regarding a player who just received baseball’s highest honor.

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  • JGS

    The Yankees also got spectacularly lucky with Duncan. He hit .340 but drew just nine walks and had a .400 BABIP.

    The year before the Yankees got him, he went 201 PAs in Philadelphia without drawing a single walk (.286/.285/.403) before the Reds got him off waivers in August.

    • Steve H

      The year after he went .236/.268/.286 which ended his career.

      • Sean C

        Eduardo Nunez is jealous of that line.

        • Steve H

          Putting up a triple slash line that starts with all 2’s is mighty impressive.

  • Steve H

    Alomar and Jeter in their peaks were very similar players. Where would an Alomar/Jeter at their peaks, rank among greatest 2B/SS combos of all time?

  • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

    Thank Jeebus there was no internet when the Yanks didn’t sign Roberto Alomar.

  • steve (different one)

    If they had signed Alomar, perhaps they wouldn’t have come only within spitting distance of the WS in 1997.

    • Bruno (The Manchine)


  • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

    Seeing all those fans behind the dugout in the picture kinda makes you nostaligic, huh.

    • Ray Fuego

      Ahhh, the old days…

  • MikeJ

    I am sorry….yes, Alomoar was a great player, but I just can’t get past him spitting in the face of the umpire and when he spoke about his ill child. I know the umpire forgave him, but the Yankees played with class, that is NO CLASS and I’m sorry, but I would not want to have ever had him on any team I was rooting for. Those 2 acts are some of the lowest I can think of! Just my opinion….

    • Steve H

      Fun fact: There have been people who have done much worse than Alomar on probably every Yankee team you’ve ever rooted for.

  • MikeJ

    I dont know….spitting in someone’s face and speaking of their ill child is reallllllly low. That is NO CLASS…maybe some have done worse in some eyes, but I would have to see it and compare it.

    • Colombo

      Babe Ruth was a drinker who loved him some prostitutes and was suspended from the team and stripped of his captain title because he got into a physical confrontation with a fan. Mickey Mantle was a raging alcoholic.

      We aren’t looking at this from a PR point of view, we are looking at it as it pertains to on the field results. The New york Yankees would have been better off with Roberto Alomar at second base in the mid-90’s/

  • mike

    I remember the non-signing had to do with Pat Kelly – he was a superb athlete, played great D, had some pop and could steal bases. He raced thru the minors and was viewed at the time as a “face of the Yankees” guy for years to come.

    However, injuries and an inability to play consistant ball torpedoed him and he never came close to projections – but at the time the Yanks bet on him, which is why they signed Duncan to back up a few positions but he was pressed into service at @B anyway

  • billy’s bartender

    If I remember correctly, Alomar signed in Baltimore right around the same time as David Cone signed in New York. The Orioles were very in on Cone at the time, so perhaps those chips could have fallen in opposite directions.

  • qwerty

    One of Gene Michael’s few mistakes. Might have been the difference maker in 97.