Yes, it is stupid but not for the reasons you read about in the mainstream media. Here is the obvious one, as usual, culled from an earlier column:
“In July 2008, Alex Rodriguez will be a 33-year-old average fielding third baseman who will likely have to switch to LF/1B/DH in the very near future. His level of offensive production is right around David Ortiz and Chipper Jones levels although your client is more durable. To be perfectly honest, he isn’t well thought of among a lot of fans. They don’t like him in Texas, and they really don’t like him in New York at this moment. After the Red Sox won the World Series, Boston fans were chanting that they preferred Mike Lowell to Rodriguez."
"Quite frankly, while Alex has kept his nose clean for the most part, he is generally perceived as being as phony as a three-dollar bill. This isn’t Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretzky you’re selling here. Ortiz is on a whole different level of marketability; 'Big Papi' is better liked, is now a World Series legend and makes $13 million a year.
"Here’s the perception: There is another player who isn’t well liked by fans. His name is Barry Bonds. When folks want to make fun of Bonds, they take his picture and Photoshop either a large head or these comic book superhero type arms onto him. When they wish to make fun of your client they put him in high heels and holding a purse. One is called Barroid, the other ‘Slappy.’ Do you see the problem here? Further, despite your cheery predictions, no player has produced at high levels by age 45. The closest we have is Bonds and simply put, A-Rod is no Barry Bonds and his achievements are considered suspicious.
"He will decline offensively, he will decline defensively, and he will steal fewer bases. You like using numbers Mr. Boras so you might be interested in this one: After Rodriguez’s monster year, his career OPS+ is 147. Ten players are right around that—five above and five below. The five in front are Frank Thomas, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Vladmir Guerrero and Jason Giambi. The five just behind him are Lance Berkman, Miguel Cabrera, Todd Helton, Chipper Jones and Gary Sheffield. In the cases of Thomas, Ramirez, Thome and Giambi, this includes a good chunk of their decline phase—something Rodriguez has yet to begin.
"When you consider that A-Rod will make most of his money with his bat, well, there are 10 hitters in his neighborhood—are any of them looking for a 10-year/$300 million contract? Of course not. That’s absurd.
"He’ll put up some nice numbers in the next few years, we know that. Nevertheless the milestones you’re predicting are years away and the last time somebody gave your client a 10-year deal ... well, he’s looking to play for his third team in the last seven seasons. What guarantees do we have that he’ll play happily here until these milestones are set? He was tired of Texas in three years. And judging by the timing of his opt-out and the fact that you didn’t even have a face-to-face meeting with the Yankees, he couldn’t get out of New York fast enough.
"I can show you a number of statements made by your client that are the exact opposite of what he ultimately did. How can I have any peace of mind paying for these milestones knowing that I only have his word to go on?
"His bat isn’t worth $300 million—the market tells us that. A-Rod’s post season performance isn’t worth $300 million—he has yet to play in a World Series game. Alex’s image isn’t worth $300 million—a lot of people tell us that.
"Rodriguez’s word that he’ll play here for the duration of his contract is most certainly not worth $300 million and no amount of defense and base running is worth $300 million. There are no guarantees that he’ll stay healthy or not get injured away from the field over the next 10 years and no company will insure the sort of contract ...
Alex Rodriguez’s primary skill set is his hitting. Boras is selling milestones since he knows full well that his offensive numbers don’t support the contract he’s seeking. Career-wise his batting is Miguel Cabrera/Vladmir Guerrero territory. Cabrera has more upside; Guerrero has about the same defensive value. Neither is within sniffing distance of a 10-year/$350 million contract. Over more recent seasons we compared A-Rod to David Ortiz (2003-07):
Player BA OBP SLG HR
David Ortiz: .302 .403 .612 208
Alex Rodriguez: .302 .391 .578 220
Of course David Ortiz hits like a Barry Bonds on drugs in the post season while Boras is presenting a tome on why Rodriguez’s October flops are not a big deal.
This leads us into the second reason it’s a bad idea to acquire the third baseman. Not only are you tying a huge anchor to your own payroll it won’t stop there. Suppose the New York Mets antes up Boras’s request--in 2011 how happy do you think Jose Reyes is going to be if the Mets pick up the $11 million option on his deal? He’ll be 28 manning a key defensive position and is a potent speed/power mix. What will it cost the Mets to get him to sign an extension when the defensively challenged A-Rod is pulling down $30-35 million per annum? How about David Wright? The Mets just signed him through 2012 with a team option for 2013. He’s averaging $9.1 million per year providing everything Rodriguez does with better defense. Do you think he’ll be happy playing alongside a guy making almost four times in annual salary for lesser contributions?
If he goes to the Phillies and ends up on third base you have the same problem. Chase Utley averages $12 million a year with his new deal and is the best second baseman since Roberto Alomar. Jimmy Rollins is a Gold Glove shortstop and possible league MVP with power and speed and he averages $8 million per. Now they stick Alex Rodriguez at the hot corner with average defense and earning 300-400% more than them both. In fact, A-Rod will cost the Phillies more than one of the best middle infields in the game.
We touched on David Ortiz; comparable offensive players--except in October, can you imagine what he’ll want in his next deal if Rodriguez is pulling down $20 million more annually? What is Dustin Pedroia going to ask for to sign long term?
It’s not the cost of the contract, it’s the cost of the deal plus its effects on the salary demands of his teammates. How can you look players in the eye who may well be contributing more than Alex Rodriguez on the field they’re not even worth 60% of what he’s getting--and as an outsider at that?
Bottom line, if a team gives in to Boras’s demands, it’s going to get a lot more expensive to keep their rosters together since players that will be contributing more than Alex Rodriguez will expect to be paid accordingly.
Caveat emptor indeed.