October 22, 2012

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Should the Yankees trade Alex Rodriguez?

By: Anson Whaley

A few seasons ago, the question would have been so ridiculous it wouldn’t have even merited a credible response. This year, however, the Yankees will need to consider the question: Should they try to trade Alex Rodriguez?

Will Alex Rodriguez still be a Yankee next season?

Before we even begin to answer that question, though, the fact is that Rodriguez has a no-trade clause, which will allow him to play in New York next season if he so desires. And Rodriguez, for his part (so far, anyway), has determined that the Big Apple is it for him for at least next season, per a report on ESPN. But for argument’s sake, let’s say he decides the big city life is no longer for him and gets sick of tracking down Australian models in the stands. Should the Yanks indeed send him packing?

It’s difficult to imagine they wouldn’t at least strongly consider the possibility. Once arguably the game’s most dominant player, Rodriguez’ age is catching up with him. His totals of 34 home runs and 119 runs batted in over the past two years would have been pedestrian for a single season in his prime around the turn of the century. And his sub-.275 batting average over that span is well below his career .300 mark.

A-Rod’s decline in power has come far more swiftly than even he could have imagined. Up until 2011, Rodriguez had hit at least 30 home runs in nearly every full season he played. But he’s failed to record even 20 in each of the past two years. Some will attribute it to the claims of steroid use earlier in his career, but age can’t be ignored, either. At 37, he’s not only well past his prime, but he’s practically hit the age most players start thinking about mutual funds and reality shows. Don’t, however, expect Rodriguez to be leaving to play golf or do any of that anytime soon. With more than $100 million still on the table over the next five seasons, he’d be giving up an absolute fortune if he walked away from the game.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, that’s the primary reason why striking a deal with another team would be difficult. Set to earn nearly $25 million per season over the next five years, no team in their right mind would fork over even close to that much for the star in serious decline. If a deal were struck, New York would almost assuredly need to include a boatload of cash. We’re likely not talking $50 million, either. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Yankees be forced to pay the majority of the money still owed to him.

So why would they do that? I think we saw the answer in the playoff series’ against the Detroit Tigers and Baltimore Orioles. After an abysmal start, Rodriguez was benched a few times and the Yankees apparently decided they were better off without him – think about that for a second. Why pay a player in whom you have no confidence?

Even if the Yankees decide to fork over $80 or $90 million, they’d still be saving a nice chunk of change that they could spend elsewhere. At first glance, that sounds ludicrous. But if a team is unwilling to play one of the greatest power hitters in baseball history in the postseason, what’s the point in keeping him around?

The other thing is that Rodriguez has gone from an unthinkable asset to a bit of a liability. The off-field distractions (i.e. that little Australian model thing I mentioned earlier) just aren’t worth it if A-Rod isn’t producing. And instead of being an everyday player, he has only appeared in 130 games one time in the past four years. Teams are hard-pressed to put up with certain distractions for stars, but the simple fact is that Rodriguez is no longer a star. He’s a capable major-leaguer, but not much more at this point.

And because of that, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if the two sides eventually parted ways.

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