Showing posts with label Alex Rodriguez. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alex Rodriguez. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Teams should be more willing to include opt-out clauses

A prominent feature of both of the massive contracts given to pitchers this month is an opt-out clause.

Left-handed Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw accepted the richest contract ever given to a pitcher, but can choose to become a free agent after five years. Japanese righty Masahiro Tanaka was guaranteeed $155 million by the Yankees, but can similarly tear up the rest of his deal after four seasons to hit the market again.

At first blush, this might seem like an awful deal for teams willing to climb on the hook for millions of dollars six or seven years down the road. If either player suffers a career-ending injury this year, their teams will still have to pay them millions of dollars for years after. If they pitch well and the free agent market keeps yielding huge contracts, either guy could opt out for a richer deal than what they have in hand, denying the Dodgers or Yankees the opportunity to collect value on the back end of these risky contracts.

That's the wrong way to look at the opt-out.

To the first fear I'll just say that if you're not offering a player like Kershaw or Tanaka six or seven guaranteed years, you're not really in the game as far as bidding for their services. Opt-out or no, they'll get those years guaranteed when they reach the open market. And opt-out or no, if a player gets hurt in Year 1 of a long contract, the team that signed the player is left holding the bag.

As for getting value on the back end of a huge contract, I have a hard time believing any team that signed a player to deal longer than five years expects to be getting a good value beyond that point. Perhaps Tanaka is an exception, because he's hitting the market as a 25-year-old, but these days teams enter into these massive contracts expecting to be overpaying for what the player is by the end of the deal.

Teams do that because they get a good value on the front end. If Tanaka pitches like an ace for the Yankees, they will be very happy to have paid him just under $90 million for four years, plus a posting fee that doesn't count against the luxury tax.

They might be unhappy to have to negotiate a new deal in four years, one that might be in excess of $200 million if Tanaka lives up to some expectations. But if there's that much money still rolling into baseball to spur that kind of salary growth for players, the Yankees are surely a team that can afford to retain Tanaka if they desire. Or if at that point the Yankees decide to spread their financial risk out a different way than on the right arm of a pitcher entering his 30s, they can do that, too.

In other words, if everything goes as planned, the Yankees have the opportunity to say goodbye to Tanaka when, theoretically, his best days will be behind him.

Where teams have been burned by opt-out clauses hasn't been by including them in the original contract. It's been by signing the player once the clause has been exercised.

White Sox fans around in the 90s can probably remember Albert Belle receiving a clause that allowed him to opt out if he wasn't among baseball's highest-paid players. When salaries escalated quickly in the late 90s, Belle took advantage of that clause to leave the Sox two years into a five-year, $55 million deal that once made him baseball's top-earning player.

Did the Sox regret losing Belle's services? Not after seeing him sign a new five-year, $65 million deal with the Orioles. Belle gave Baltimore one good year, then one poor year before degenerative osteoarthritis in his hip ended his career, though not his steady stream of paychecks.

If the Yankees need a reminder of what second-time buyer's remorse looks like, they just have to look at their payroll right now. After giving CC Sabathia seven-year, $161 million contract with an opt-out after three years, they saw the left-hander exercise that clause. Instead of being satisfied with three years and 705 innings of a 3.18 ERA and a 59-23 record, they chose to give Sabathia a five-year, $122 contract that has yielded a 29-19 record with a pedestrian 4.09 ERA through the first two years.

And of course there's the defamed Alex Rodriguez. The Yankees inherited the opt-out Rodriguez had built into his then-richest-ever-for-baseball $252 million contract he signed with the Rangers. After trading for Rodriguez -- with the Rangers picking up part of the tab -- the Yankees got a .303/.403/.573 batting line with 173 home runs from the shortstop-turned-third baseman over four seasons.

When Rodriguez opted out, the Yankees weren't happy with the house money they could have left the casino with in their pockets. So instead they signed him to a new record-setting deal, 10 years and $275 million. For that money they've gotten an often-injured player with a diminished .279/.369/.498 line who instead of collecting career milestones on the way to the Hall of Fame is instead sitting out this upcoming season as part of a cloud of steroid scandal that's rendered his once-incredible career meaningless to most fans.

For me, the moral of the story isn't that including the opt-out automatically makes things peachy for teams. It didn't make it that way with Vernon Wells' contract.

To state the obvious, signing any player to a massive contract involves risk for the team agreeing to the pact. No matter the player, no matter the team.

Something just as obvious is that signing the same player three or four years later to a massive contract is just that much riskier. So is crossing your fingers and hoping the next three or four years of a massive megadeal go as well as the first three or four.

Short of simply offering free agents higher annual salaries for fewer years, the willingness to include an opt-out clause might be the best chance for teams to avoid the years of these free agent contracts when they become an albatross.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Joe Girardi to the Cubs? Idiotic speculation or a real possibility?

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi's contract is up at the end of the season. You know what that means. It is time for renewed speculation that Girardi will "come home" to manage the Cubs.

Chicago Tribune columnist Phil Rogers is leading the media charge with his piece in today's paper.

Rogers and others have reported the Cubs are open to the possibility of replacing manager Dale Sveum, who frankly has had no chance to win the last two years with the crappy rosters he has been handed. But, perhaps Cubs brass is unhappy with Sveum because supposed core players Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro and Jeff Samardzija have all taken a step backward this season.

My opinion on Sveum? Take him or leave him. I don't think he's anything special as a field boss, but the truth is no manager ever born could have coaxed the Cubs teams of the last two years to anything close to a .500 record, let along playoff contention.

As for Girardi, I'd be stunned if the Yankees don't offer him another contract. Even though New York will likely not make the playoffs, Girardi has done an unbelievable job of keeping a mediocre roster in contention deep into September.

Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson have barely played this season. Alex Rodriguez, as usual, has created a circus around that team. C.C. Sabathia has had the worst season of his career. New York's pitching, statistically, is worse than both of the woeful Chicago baseball teams this year. Despite all that, Girardi is going to squeeze 85 to 87 wins out of a team that had to give way too many at-bats to guys like Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay and Eduardo Nunez. Girardi's a good manager. He's better than Sveum. There's no denying that.

But would he leave New York for Chicago? What would be his motivation to do that? His local roots, I suppose. He's from Peoria. He attended Northwestern, and he played seven of his 15 MLB seasons on the North Side. I can't imagine money would be a motivation. Whatever the Cubs can offer, the Yankees could surely match. I don't think the Cubs can offer Girardi a better on-field situation than what the Yankees have. New York contends every year. The Yankees will find a way next year, too, regardless of who the manager is. They'll open up their pocketbook this offseason and address their holes. They always do. The Cubs, in contrast, are at least another two years away.

Are the local ties enough to pry Girardi out of New York? I don't know, but that's really all the Cubs have to offer. And, if Girardi is sick of New York and ready for a change, he would have other options than Chicago. I hear Washington is looking for a manager, and the Nationals have a team that should be ready to win. Attractive jobs could come open in Texas and Anaheim, as well.

When it comes to the Cubs, it's always hard for me to tell whether some of the local reporting is legitimate news, or just cheerleading from the press box. When I read some of these articles, it almost strikes me as if the Cubs reporters are trying to woo Girardi to Chicago themselves. In the coming months, it will be interesting to see whether that story has legs, or if it's just another round of idiotic speculation at the end of another lost season on the North Side.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Yankees are even worse than I thought

I wrote yesterday that it doesn't look like New York will be making the playoffs this season. After watching the Yankees' performance the last two days at U.S. Cellular Field, I'm 100 percent convinced that team does NOT have a late-season push in them.

Check out the lineup New York was fielding last night: 37-year-old Alfonso Soriano batting second; 38-year-old Alex Rodriguez batting third; 34-year-old Vernon Wells (pictured) batting fifth; Jayson Nix, a lifetime .218 hitter, batting sixth; Eduardo Nunez batting seventh; 26-year-old rookie David Adams hitting eighth; and some catcher named Austin Romine batting ninth.

Wow. That list is full of has-beens and never-will-bes. Cleanup hitter Robinson Cano is the best second baseman in the game, and leadoff hitter Brett Gardner is a respectable player. Anybody else in that lineup you'd want on your team? I don't think so.

Even without his best command, White Sox ace Chris Sale limited that crummy lineup to one run on five hits over 7.1 innings in Chicago's 3-2 victory. And, the one run the Yankees scored off Sale was gifted to them after the Sox middle infielders failed to turn a routine double-play ball off the bat of Soriano in the first inning.

New York's high-water mark for this season was May 25, when it had a 30-18 record. Since that day, the Yankees have gone 27-37. Among American League teams, only the White Sox (19-45) and Houston Astros (23-40) have been worse over that same time frame.

The Yankees enter Wednesday's play at 57-55, in fourth place in the American League East, 10.5 games behind first-place Boston. I'll go ahead and write it: New York is toast for this year.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Nelson Cruz suspension is more interesting than the A-Rod circus

Major League Baseball finally lowered the boom on some cheaters Monday, suspending 13 players for their connection to Biogenesis, a now-shuttered Miami clinic that provided performance-enhancing drugs to baseball players and other athletes.

The suspended are (in alphabetical order): Philadelphia pitcher Antonio Bastardo, San Diego shortstop Everth Cabrera, New York Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli, Texas right fielder Nelson Cruz (pictured), minor league pitcher Fautino De Los Santos, minor league pitcher Sergio Escalona, minor league outfielder Fernando Martinez, minor league catcher Jesus Montero, free agent pitcher Jordan Norberto, Detroit shortstop Jhonny Peralta, minor league outfielder Cesar Puello, New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and minor league utility player Jordany Valdespin.

Twelve of the 13 players received 50-game suspensions. The notable exception being Rodriguez, who was suspended 211 games for being a repeat offender, reportedly recruiting other players to the Biogenesis clinic and impeding MLB's investigation into the matter.

Twelve of the 13 players accepted their punishment. The notable exception being Rodriguez, who filed an appeal that will allow him to continue playing until a judgment is made. Rodriguez, who just returned from a hip injury, went 1-for-4 in his season debut Monday night -- an 8-1 loss to the White Sox.

As expected, a media circus surrounded Rodriguez. My reaction to him is basically, "Who cares?" The guy is a liar and a cheater. His appeal is going to be denied. He's going to be suspended for the 2014 season, and we'll probably never seen him in a big league uniform after that. The Yankees are a fourth-place team in the rugged AL East, and the 38-year-old Rodriguez's return to the lineup figures to have little effect, if any, on the playoff race. It does not look like New York will be making the postseason this year.

The more interesting story is down in Texas. Cruz, 33, leads the second-place Rangers with 27 home runs and 76 RBIs. He is clearly the best run producer in a lineup that is struggling to score runs. Texas entered play Tuesday with a 63-50 record, two games back of Oakland in the AL West. Losing Cruz is a huge blow to the Rangers' pennant hopes. This is a guy who has been batting third or fourth in the lineup all year, an impactful player still in the prime of his career who plays for a contending team.

At the trade deadline, it was assumed Texas would acquire a corner outfielder in anticipation of Cruz being suspended, much like Detroit went out and acquired Jose Iglesias to play shortstop in place of the suspended Peralta. Instead, the Rangers stood pat, leading many to assume Cruz was going to appeal his suspension and play out the season.

On Monday, Cruz accepted his punishment and began serving his suspension. Some have called Cruz "selfish" for deciding to serve his suspension now, arguing that the "team-first move" would have been to appeal the suspension, play out the year, presumably help the Rangers win, then drop the appeal and serve the suspension next year when the games "mean less."

Do a Twitter search for "Cruz selfish" and you'll see plenty of people making this argument. From where I'm sitting, that's hogwash. Cruz is obviously guilty of using PEDs. If he was innocent, wouldn't he appeal? Obviously, he knows he did it, and he knows the evidence is stacked against him. Morally, isn't it the right thing to do to accept your punishment when you've done wrong?

If Cruz did something selfish, it was taking the PEDs in the first place. Putting himself in position to be suspended, that's how he hurt the Rangers. I don't see anything wrong with accepting the consequences for breaking the rules.

A-Rod, narcissist that he is, refuses to admit that he's done wrong and refuses to see the damage he's done to the game of baseball. Isn't that part of the reason we as fans are booing the crap out of him each and every time he steps to home plate? I believe so.

The other storyline around Cruz, of course, is that Texas still needs a right fielder for the pennant drive. Hey Rangers fans, I hear Alex Rios is available.