Five reasons the New York Yankees should cut Alex Rodriguez
Ready or not, New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez is poised to make his appearance on a Major League Baseball field this spring. After a tumultuous 19 months since the Biogenesis scandal broke, the 3-time Most Valuable Player has completed his 162-game PED suspension and is cleared to play. But are the Yankees ready for them? They actually got a nice year of $20M+ salary relief in 2014 because of his suspension. No such luck in 2015 as they will owe him $22M base salary (and a good chance at big bonuses, more later). Is he even worth keeping around? I’m here to tell you the answer is “no”. Yes, I understand they would still have to pay him his salary NOT to play. But it’s worth it. Well, if winning a championship is important to you. Which usually is to a team like the Yankees.
Let me first tell you about the concept of “sunk cost”. According to investopedia, it is defined as
A cost that has already been incurred and thus cannot be recovered.
In the case of guaranteed Major League Baseball contracts, barring breach of contract, death, or force majeure, salary agreed to by contract is “sunk cost”. So the $60+M owed the next three years is sunk. It’s spent. You made that decision in 2007. Live with it Brian Cashman. File this away for later.
So cut him? Really? Here are five good reasons the New York Yankees should just cut Rodriguez. Plain and simple. Financial impact discussed at the end.
1) Distractions, distractions, distractions
From the moment he arrives on an airplane to the Grapefruit League in Tampa, FL, the media circus will begin. Of course, he will have security everywhere and ne’er set foot in any sort of public space. And that’s just reporting in spring. Throughout the season, no matter what he does, questions will surround him. If he goes 0-4, it will be “Should he be playing. Is he hurting the team? Why can’t he hit?” If he does well, it’s “He better do it the next night. What was different today? Can he catch Bonds?”. And let’s not even talk about if/when he strikes out in a key situation. After two years of missing the postseason (first time since 1993-4), the Yankees need to worry about playing baseball. Not “As the A-Rod turns.”
2) Divisive clubhouse force
And all those distractions, you think it’s going to make a cohesive clubhouse? Are players going to have Rodriguez’s back if he plays badly? Will he have theirs? How can he be a team leader if he hasn’t been around these guys? Would it surprise you to know there are only four regulars left from the 2013 team A-Rod played on? Mark Teixeira (hurt most of 2013), Brett Gardner, Ivan Nova, and C.C. Sabathia. Nova and Sabathia combined for 12 starts in 2014. So you have a new team looking at this guy and most of them just know him from the media. Not good. Especially if he doesn’t have a significant attitude adjust to become a team player.
3) He’s probably not going to be any good
Since opening day in 2011 (when he was 35), Alex Rodriguez home runs per at bat dropped to 1 per every 24. Or roughly 25 every 600 at bats (assuming he gets that many, more in a minute). At the height of his career, it was 1 every 12. He’s bound to NOT be better than 1 per 24 after missing a full season. In fact, his timing will be off. He’s one of the rare veterans you would want to get as many spring at bats as possible. Although he needs rest for his old body (more in a minute). His muscles will likely be slower. His joints are older. I haven’t heard any stories about a workout regime that has him in better shape than when he left. I would put his over/under HR total at 15 for 2015. By contrast, Houston Astros (25 year old) 3B Matt Dominguez had 16 HR in 2014 and is likely to lose his job for lack of production. For the Astros.
4) Milestones of embarrassment
Alex Rodriguez currently sits fifth in career home runs. After the great triumvirate of Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, and Willie Mays. And oh yes, one Barry Bonds who used PEDs to vault over them all. The Yankees sweetened the 2007 contract pot by throwing in $6M on each occasion he ties one of those four, and another $6M for passing Bonds. That’s up to $30M. The Yankees are fighting it based upon the sham the records would represent, given Rodriguez PED suspension. But whether they have to pay or not, each time will be a distraction (see #1 above), clubhouse divider (see #2 above), and really an embarrassment to the game. He will easily pass Mays this year (assuming he’s not cut and not hurt), Ruth would be next and is a long shot, even for two years. But how is baseball going to react at that moment? Is the commissioner there? Will fans cheer? Boo? And I’m talking Yankees fans. It will be a painful open wound for MLB, the Yankees, and Rodriguez when it occurs. The Yankees can disassociate themselves from this by cutting ties. Now.
5) His chances of being healthy are slim
Alex Rodriguez has not had 600 at bats in a season since he was in his 20s (2005). He hasn’t played more than 140 games since the George W. Bush presidency (2007). He is now three years older than the last time he played 100 games. It isn’t pretty, folks. Sans PEDs, the body slows down at the age of 40. I know. I’m 40. I see a season full of “sore this”, and “resting that”. What kind of impact does this have on the guy whose place he is taking? Am I in today? Wait, let me hear from the media via Twitter if Rodriguez’s hammy is sore or not. This puts Yankees manager Joe Girardi in a horrible position of “play or sit.” Again, divisive (see #2) and a distraction (see #1). Plus when he plays, he’s probably not going to be good (see #3).
So why cut him? You’ve already sunk your cost, you HAVE to play him now, right? If your goal is to get value for that sunk cost, absolutely. If your goal is to win a pennant, you’re way off base. He has little value (some call it WAR) at this stage of his career. The fact that he makes a lot of money should not factor in.
Here’s a thought, if the Yankees DID cut Rodriguez, a team could pick him up at the league minimum. Who would take him? And those distractions? And the poor play? I doubt a contender. If the Yankees are contenders, they should heed this warning.
The fighting of his bonuses is a shot across the bow. If they lose that appeal, they have $6M reasons to cut him. And let me say this, I give him spring training. Let’s see what kind of condition he is in, let’s see his bat speed, let’s see if he can compete. But if not, then I would honestly not be surprised to see waivers, then unconditional release. You heard it here first.
If you were going to battle, would you choose a guy who was young, virile, hungry, and not making much? Or a guy who was paid a lot and old and didn’t seem to have the tools? The salary (or sunk cost) means nothing. It’s spent, it’s gone, you made that mistake. Don’t compound it by playing him at the expense of team goals. The Yankees need to think hard about that 25th roster spot, and whether Alex Rodriguez figures in to 2015 plans, let alone future years.
– David Whitlock
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