Mailbag: How much for A-Rod, the free agent?

Open Thread: Jason Giambi
Fan Confidence Poll: December 19th, 2011
(Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Brian writes: Just curious. If A-Rod was a free agent this offseason, what would his value be in terms of years and AAV?

When Albert Pujols signed his contract with the Angels, amongst Yankee fans, it put the spotlight back on A-Rod’s massive deal. The two 10-year humdingers aren’t what I would call good contracts, and the Yanks have seem A-Rod, who is going to get paid through 2017, break down considerably over the past three years. There’s no doubt that if A-Rod were a free agent today, he wouldn’t get a six-year, $143-million deal — essentially what he has now with the Yanks.

But what, as Brian wrote to us, would he get? I asked Joe, Larry, Mike, Moshe and Stephen to chime in on this one, and what follows is a RAB roundtable on this intriguing question. While opinions differ as to his likely landing place, everyone believes A-Rod would get three guaranteed years and decent money to boot. Keep reading for our predictions.

My Take: I’ve pondered this question a bit over the last few years, and my conclusion is that Scott Boras timed A-Rod’s opt-out perfectly. Boras was able to trigger the opt-out after A-Rod’s age 31 season when the slugger would still be a fearsome force and before any age-related decline began to show. Rodriguez was able to ask for the world, and he found one team willing to give it. Today, he wouldn’t be so lucky, and I think he’d walk away with a Derek Jeter-like deal for three years with a fourth as a vesting option based upon playing time.

As for the dollars, as my colleagues note, the Aramis Ramirez deal provides a nice starting point. Ramirez signed a three-year deal for $36 million, and A-Rod is, despite his age, better than Aramis at the plate and in the field. I’d guess A-Rod would be able to land a three-year deal for $57 million with a fourth year vesting option for another $12-$15 million, and I believe the Yanks would give it to him. As we saw in 2007, they can’t live without A-Rod and his offense even as many Yankee fans would rather let him leave.

Joe Says: Given his health history and age, I’d only be comfortable with two years with a vesting option based on health, perhaps a pair of vesting options. His league age might be 36 next year, but he turns 37 in July. He’s also spent time on the DL in each of the last four seasons. He’s capable of excellent production, and as we saw this year he can field his position. But unless I have considerable payroll flexibility I’d keep any offer to A-Rod limited.

My offer would not land A-Rod. Were he a free agent this off-season he’d probably get a three-year deal with a vesting option, similar to what Jimmy Rollins got. A-Rod would make a fair deal more per season than Rollins, and likely more than Aramis Ramirez. I would guess somewhere in the 3 years, $50 million range with the option taking it to four years and around $60 million. It only takes one team, and it appears that there are a few teams willing to make a splash this winter.

Larry Says: In light of both his injuries and diminished effectiveness over the last few seasons, I’d be hard-pressed to see how anyone could consider giving a 36-year-old Alex Rodriguez anything more than the three-year, $36 million deal that a 33-year-old Aramis Ramirez got for his Age 34 through 36 seasons. Though Alex is still slightly better than Ramirez, the two had very comparable years in 2011, with the injury-limited Rodriguez hitting .276/.362/.461, .361 wOBA in 428 PAs, and Ramirez putting up a .306/.361/.510, .373 wOBA line in 626 PAs. Of course, Alex wound up being worth slightly more than Ramirez — 4.2 fWAR to 3.6 fWAR — in less playing time due to superior defense. Alex is also a better bet to walk more often — 11% BB% to 6.9% — but also to strike out more frequently — 18.7% K% to 11%.

Of course, Ramirez hasn’t exactly been the paragon of health either, having actually played in five fewer games than Alex since 2009. In fact, from 2009-2011, A-Rod hit .277/.368/.502 and was worth 12.3 fWAR, while Ramirez hit .286/.344/.491, worth 6.2 fWAR. If we assume a WAR valuation of ~$4.5 per win, Alex has been worth about $55.4 million over the last three seasons. If we apply the standard half-win penalty to Alex’s next three seasons (and I actually go into this in detail about Alex in a post scheduled for the first week of January), we can project he’ll put up seasons of 3.7, 3.2 and 2.7 over the next three years, respectively. That 9.6 WAR total gives us an approximate value of $43.2 million. If you do the same calculation for Ramirez’s next three seasons it comes to $35.1 million, so it appears the Brewers knew what they were doing. So maybe someone out there would be willing to give an old A-Rod a deal that averages $14.4M per, but after applying whatever age penalty a team felt appropriate you could probably justifiably whittle the number back down to Aramis’ $36 million.

Of course, if we’re talking about the Yankees being involved in the bidding, then all bets are off. Considering a 36-year-old Derek Jeter got three years/$51 million last offseason and Alex is and always has been the better player, he’d probably be able to squeeze something like three years, $60 million (along with 80 player options) out of Levine & co.

Mike Says: The first thing that jumped to mind was Aramis Ramirez’s three-year, $36M contract with Brewers. A-Rod has outproduced Aramis considerably over the last three years, but the 2011 season is going to hold more weight than the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Neither player has been all that durable in recent years, but most of Ramirez’s injuries were kinda fluky, one-time things (dislocated shoulder, thumb strain, biceps strain). A-Rod had major surgery on his hip and also had his knee scoped in addition to some other smaller ailments. Big difference in medical histories there.

That three-year, $36M deal signed by Ramirez is a good comparable, but A-Rod has been the better player every year other than last year. He’s also coming up on some historic milestones, which has some very real but tough to accurately quantify (from where I sit, anyway) off-the-field value. I bet he’d get more than Aramis did from the Brewers but less than Adrian Beltre got from the Rangers (five-years, $80M). Splitting the middle, you’re at four years and $58M, or $14.5M per season. Given how the Marlins were spending this offseason, I wouldn’t have been surprised if the bidding even went a touch higher. He is a hometown Miami guy.

Moshe Says: I don’t believe in Alex’s health at this point. He’s a 36 year old who cannot stay healthy and has shown signs of offensive decline, particularly against lefties. While he looked better defensively in 2011, he strikes me as one leg injury away from being an old, declining first baseman or DH. He’s still a middle-of-the-order hitter for the time being, so I would give him 2 seasons at about $15 million per season, with a vesting option for a third year based on a fairly high games-played threshold. I am fairly confident that he would get a larger offer elsewhere, probably something along the lines of Derek Jeter’s latest contract.

Stephen Says: It’s difficult for me to make contract predictions without a full assessment of which teams might be interested in bidding. Off the top of my head, I’d wager that the Jays, Tigers, Mariners, Marlins and Cubs all might have varying levels of interest. I’d put the Mets and Dodgers in there too if they had more clear ownership/funding situations. My best guess for the most interested team would be Miami. Alex is a local Miami native and would provide that link to the Latino community that the Marlins were seeking when they pursued Pujols.

Despite his age and injury history, Alex is still one of the best third basemen in the game. He’s also something of an iconic figure, one of the best known players in baseball and one on the cusp of chasing down Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds for the all-time home run record, tainted as that chase is by steroids. I don’t think he would have any difficulty netting a three year contract from multiple teams. In fact, I feel comfortable that with the right amount of cajoling from Scott Boras, some team would give him four years, or at least three years with a club or vesting option for the fourth. I’d be surprised if he signed for less than $15M per year, so a 4 year, 60M contract sounds about right to me. It’d be fraught with risk, of course, but the Marlins seem just crazy enough to do it. 4/60.

Open Thread: Jason Giambi
Fan Confidence Poll: December 19th, 2011
  • Need Pitching

    Thanks Hank.

  • 28 this year

    I think in this offseason, he gets at least 4/60 from the Marlins. They probably would go hard after A-Rod because he fits in every way and clearly the Marlins have the money. Rather than put 58 million toward Buerhle or even forget Reyes to splash heavier on Pujols, they would spend on A-Rod. Any other offseason, I agree with most of what you guys said but I think the Marlins would completely kill any reasonable offers.

    Cannot believe the Marlins are blowing out the market. Weird to write

  • Rey22

    Crazy that we’re talking about 20M a year being a severe overpay for A-Rod….and he’s still set to make almost 30M per year. That contract truly is ridiculously bad.

    • mbonzo

      The AAV left on Arod’s contract is $26.7m. So still bad, but not that bad.

      • Rey22

        Does that include the historic HR incentives though?

        • mbonzo

          Oddly, I’m finding different numbers. Bref has him around $23m without and Cots has him around $25m.

          • Ed

            If you check the team page at Cots, it matches BRef’s player page exactly. If you check the future payroll obligations at Cots you get higher numbers.

            The difference is his signing bonus is being counted in the payroll obligations page, but not elsewhere. Details:

            $10M signing bonus ($2M paid upon approval, $1M paid each Jan. 15, 2009-2013, $3M paid Jan. 15, 2014)

  • KC

    He would get a minimum of 4/$72 from the Marlins.

    The second half of 2011 makes it easy to forget that in the spring people had him pencilled in as the MVP and he was having a great start to the season before he got hurt.

    It’s easy to bash the contract from a baseball prespective but the Yankes signed him to a business deal as much as a baseball contract and at least one of them may end up working out just fine.

    • MannyGeee

      damn you and your dreamy washboard obliques, Alexander…


    • Plank

      Who was calling him an MVP candidate a year ago?

  • Plank

    I was about to write that I would do 3/40 for him with a fourth year option for another 14MM, but if he were a FA this offseason, I would have just given 3/39 to Ramirez. I would rather have him for the next 3 years than Arod.

    I would give him the Matsui/Damon treatment.

    • Plank

      Or maybe signing Rollins or another SS and moving Jeter to 3B if he profiles okay there. I feel like if Arod wasn’t in the picture, now would be okay to have the discussion with Jeter about moving him. When there is nowhere to move him, it doesn’t make sense to grumble about his D.

      • KC

        A-Rod was a world class athlete in his prime when he switched from SS to 3B and he had a learning curve. How long might it take a 37 year old Jeter to get proficient at it

        • Plank

          I don’t know, maybe it’s not reasonable. I like the idea of looking at SS and 3B as possible replacements for Arod.

          (I just got bummed out when I remembered that this is all hypothetical. 6. More. Long. Years. Ugh.)

          • Jose

            It’s not my money so y should I care give him a blank check

            • Plank

              I care more about the roster construction issues. Believe me, I’m a fan of every player getting as much as they possibly can.

    • RetroRob

      I’m the opposite. I’d pay A-Rod more, although once again I’d target A-Rod at 3/45, which I don’t thinnk will get it done.

      Ramirez would be a lifetime NL player, coming from Wrigley Field into the AL East as a righthanded hitter at Yankee Stadium. A-Rod has always handled Yankee Stadium well because of his excellent opposite field power, a skill Ramirez does not possess to the same level. Ramirez’s home/road splits suggests a player who is the product of Wrigley. Last year, .951 OPS at Wrigley, .795 on the road; the prior showed equally wide splits, .866 vs. 632; 2009 even worse, 1.036 vs .790; and 2008, 1.040 vs. .752. Ditto for 2007.

      While it’s fair to question if A-Rod can field as well in 2012 as he did in 2011, the fact is he is capable of being a solid fielder, something Ramirez is not. He is a butcher with the glove. A diminished A-Rod will be quite a bit better. Bad-hip A-Rod is also a better baserunner.

      If the Yankees had thirdbase open this year, I would not want Ramirez on the Yankees unless it was on the cheap. 2/20.

  • Gonzo

    I guess it depends if you are a believer in his SSS awesome defensive year in 2011. It’s out of place when placed in context with the previous 5 years of data. Then add age and hip issues, and I wouldn’t count on anything over average defense moving forward.

  • RetroRob

    I don’t know what he’d get, but I’m quite certain that the predictions here are all lower than what he would get. That’s just the way it is. I’d be comfortable with a 3/45 with a vesting option for a fourth year based on games played. Yet my prediction would also be on the low side of what he’d actually get.

  • Rich in NJ

    3 years/$45m

  • chuck

    The real question is how much would we have to pay him to retire.

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    Let’s not get carried away. At 65-75% of what he was he is still among the best third basemen in baseball. It is true we should not expect seasons like his 2007 season anymore. However, he can still contribute a lot to the team if his health holds up. We will see soon enough how things will shape up from hereon.

  • Andy In Sunny Daytona

    I would have given Arod a 6-year $180M contract… there, he’s a bargain now.

    • Plank

      I nominate you for the GM of the other 29 teams (and the Ham Fighters.)

  • Tony

    To all the haters out there / y does everyone think that A ROD contract is bad I think it’s great shit he should of got more lol 400 mil – listen all he did was ask n he got it it’s of hit its the teams that like to give players all this money – who wouldn’t want it

  • Tony

    To all the haters out there / y does everyone think that A ROD contract is bad I think it’s great sh/t he should of got more lol 400 mil – listen all he did was ask n he got it it’s of hit its the teams that like to give players all this money – who wouldn’t want it I hope he hits 30-35 hr this year

    •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

      Does your keyboard have a . key? I don’t think anyone blames ARod for signing the contract. It’s more towards the Yankees for offering the contract.

  • MattG

    The RAB writers are all being fiscally responsible. After gazing into Scott Boras’s spinning zebra, they’ll all be bludgeoning each other for the opportunity to offer 6/120.

    • MannyGeee

      yeah, but who would Boras compare A-Rod to in his Sales Pitch Binder?

      Jesus? Chuck Norris? Micheal Jackson? Justin Beiber???

      Damn I wish A-Rod was a FA right now, the possibilities are endless!

  • I am not the droids you’re looking for…

    Odds that he’s so bad/injured in years 4 and 5 that we buy him out of year 6? Pretty good IMHO.

  • Guest

    Terrible contract? Yes.

    BUT. It will still be fun for me, and I’m sure other Yankee fans, to watch him chase down the HR records. Yes, they will be tainted, and even viewed as meaningless by some. But we found about the roids before #600, and I still enjoyed seeing him work towards that milestone.

    Also, before he got hurt last year, he was in the best shape he had been in years and was absolutely killing the ball. Then, like old players tend to do, he got hurt and everything fell off a cliff.

    Is this pattern likely to repeat itself every single year? Abso-freakin-lutely. But it might not. He might have a couple of special years left in him. Its happened before. Look at Berkman last year.

    In the end, it was a terrible contract, but I’m still excited to see how the A-Rod story turns out. I am not convinced that we only have six years of .270 20 HRs 108 OPS+ left to look forward to.

  • jayd808

    Best analysis: Stephen.

  • Ted Nelson

    Larry, why woul you penalize him half a win per season? That seems very steep for a guy who was better in 2011 than 2010. Age, injuries, and all A-Rod is way better than Aramis.

    • Plank

      That’s the standard quick and dirty aging penalty used to measure long term contracts.