October 29, 2007


Yeah, I know, horrific pun - but I can almost promise at least one local copy editor is considering it for tomorrow's sports page right now.

Anyway, Alex Rodriguez has opted out of his contract with the New York Yankees, the remainder of which was worth "$72 million he was owed over the final three seasons of his record $252 million, 10-year deal..." So how does this pertain to the Dodgers and Angels?

Well, to the Dodgers, probably not so much. Let's pretend Dodgers GM Ned Colletti has managed to get over his dislike of A-Rod agent extraordinaire Scott Boras for his role in the J.D. Drew circus of last season. Even then, the team's payroll seems pretty locked in at around $120 million or so, and is unlikely to jump 25% with the addition of the $30 million dollar man. According to ToyCannon over at the excellent True Blue LA blog, the Dodgers are going to be on the hook for $90 million or so next season, even before factoring in several big names that will likely end up receiving new deals in some fashion (most notably Russell Martin, Chad Billingsley, and Jonathan Broxton out of the current MLB lineup).

This does ignore the possibility of Ned Colletti suddenly throwing caution to the winds, handing the reins of the team over to the youngsters, and trading away the majority of the (overpriced) 'veteran' talent for pennies on the dollar in order to free up cash. Somehow vacating the salaries of Jeff Kent, Nomar Garciaparra, Juan Pierre (ohpleasegodgethimofftheteam), and Esteban Loazia (with Jason Schmidt receiving a tentative "Do Not Open 'Till XMAS" sign on the off chance he comes back healthy) would free up around $35 million in salaries. If those players were replaced largely with low-cost bench filler, enough might be left to sign Rodriguez.

However, the likelihood of Colletti somehow finding the courage to wipe out so many big names at once seems incredibly low, even if the team itself would seem to improve even if the Dodgers then failed to land A-Rod: First, one out of Tony Abreu/Chin-Lung Hu takes over second, with enough of a defensive improvement to hopefully offset some of the loss of Kent's bat. The guy may move like Strom Thurmond - and yes, I know he's dead, the point still stands - but he can still rake. Andy LaRoche (or A-Rod, in a best-case scenario) should be an immediate improvement both offensively and defensively over Nomar, despite the loss of periodic Mia Hamm promotional opportunities. Between Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Delwyn Young, the outfield should be overall greatly improved (assuming Kemp can transition to CF) over replacing two of those with Luis Gonzales and Pierre. And Loaiza was just a bad signing in the first place - with a ton of pitching coming up from AAA and AA and hopefully off the DL, finding a way to remove his salary would be a bonus no matter what.

But, this is just a pipe dream. It's never going to happen, and I'm just torturing myself wishing for it. So, we continue on south down the freeway. I'll leave you with this note, courtesy of Bob Timmermann's uber-informative Griddle: the Dodgers now have the 7th longest postseason series drought, having not won a playoff series since the '88 World Series. So. Much. Pain. Anyway, on to the other Los Angeles Metropolitan Area baseball team, this one with a much more recent playoff success (2005), and a much greater likelihood of ending up with Rodriguez: the Los Orange County Angels of Anafornia.

Now, the Angels are consistently mentioned as a major player in the "A-Rod Sweepstakes/Derby/Competition/Insert Tired Sportswriter Metaphor Here" nonsense. However, a Press-Entreprise story by Dan Weber from the beginning of June suggests otherwise, with Arte Moreno noted as being very hesitant to embrace the thought of signing Rodriguez. Bill Shaikin at the L.A. Times noted a couple of weeks ago that Moreno was continuing to suggest he would not sign A-Rod, telling the Times "I don't see a $20-million player on our team." Nevertheless, with Moreno's obvious desire to supplant the Dodgers as Los Angeles's marquee team in Q-Rating (success on the field obviously notwithstanding), pairing A-Rod with Vlad would go a long way towards that goal. He's a major media figure not only because of his on-field skillset, but also due to his ability to successfully market himself off the diamond as well.

Additionally, Rodriguez seems to meet the needs the Angels might have for a big hitter - he can play multiple positions (SS/3B/DH), and he has the ability to move well on the basepaths, an absolute must for this current run-run-run Angels offense (try and imagine Prince Fielder playing for the Angels as they are currently constructed). He plays good defense, and would provide significant protection for Vlad within that Angels lineup (Guerrero has led the AL in intentional walks the past three seasons for a reason). So is Arte's hesitancy real, or manufactured to try and suppress the potential price paid?

I have to think he really doesn't believe the Angels need an A-Rod to be successful. The Angels have had a lot of success in the draft over the past few seasons, and they continue to bring up excellent young players from their high-level minor league teams. Several of their better power-hitting young players also struggled with injuries this season, including Mike Napoli and Howie Kendrick. With a very solid, and generally young, pitching staff, Moreno might feel it more wise to find a replacement for Bartolo Colon and wait a season to see which of LAA's hitting prospects continue to improve, then attacking the 2008 free agent market.

Furthermore, downplaying the likelihood of signing A-Rod seems a very ineffective strategy to me, given his overall value, and the fact that everybody knows about it. Unless every MLB owner has agreed to refuse Boras's demands for anything above $20 million (hello, collusion!), A-Rod will be able to burn cash in a wood-fired stove for most of the next decade and still walk away with... Bad analogy. He's good. Everybody knows it. He'll get paid. Moving on.

So, I really don't think Alex Rodriguez will find himself anywhere around Southern California next season (unless the Padres are planning on unexpectedly opening up the checkbook). The Dodgers don't have the payroll space and lack the willingness to jettison overpaid veterans to somehow clear it up. The Angels don't seem to want to drop $200 million on one guy when they think they might have "The Next Big Thing" coming up from AAA somewhere already for a fraction of the cost.

Ah well. I guess Go Cubs, '08?

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