That’s what Joel Sherman of the New York Post claims in today’s column:
Looking both short term in trying to win the NL West and long term in restoring the Dodgers’ brand, Los Angeles officials refused to wait for a free-agent class they anticipate being uninspiring. Instead, they began calling their counterparts in earnest in July with this message: We not only are unafraid of your big contracts, we are interested in them.
The Dodgers recognized this would put them in a unique position:
1. Few teams had much wiggle room to add even a bit of salary for 2012, much less take on huge money for multiple players both now and into the future.
2. Many teams were looking to jettison their bad deals.
That is how the Dodgers were able to get Hanley Ramirez from the Marlins, who went from avid buyers in the offseason to July sell-off mode. And it is how they obtained Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and roughly a quarter of a billion dollars of future contracts from a Red Sox team anxious to cleanse its payroll and clubhouse.
But it also is what led to a phone conversation with the Yankees about Sabathia (four years at $99 million left after this season) and Teixeira (four years, $90 million left after this season). The Yanks told Dodgers executives they had no interest in moving either.
Sherman then proceeds to veer off the road by asserting — seemingly with a straight face — that the free-spending Dodgers (69–60) should have asked about 37-year old Alex Rodriguez (.276/.358/.449) instead: “Still, he remains a productive player, a massive star and could conceivably play third while Ramirez retains short.”
“Massive star?” As in Hollywood celebrity? Well, attendance at Dodger Stadium has jumped more than 5,000 fans per game from last season, so I doubt new part-owner Magic Johnson is in dire need of company.
As for the on-field talent, A-Rod indeed “remains a productive player,” but that’s hardly synonymous with “massive star.” And the trend line is distinctly unfavorable: His slugging percentage has dropped in each of the past six years. He is currently on the disabled list with a hand injury and played in only 99 games last season. In order to conserve what he has left in the tank, the Yankees have occasionally played him in the designated-hitter role, which of course is not an option in NL games.
Meanwhile, A-Rod is owed a staggering $114 million salary over the next five seasons, which does not even include several performance-based incentives. An eventual turnaround is not out of the question, but his contract is clearly an unacceptabale risk at that sky-high price.
Compare with the star player the Dodgers ultimately received from Boston: 30-year old Adrian Gonzalez (.298/.344/.470), who has played in at least 156 games a season since 2006. Sure, his less than stellar 2012 might be less a mere hiccup and more a harbinger of a gradual decline, but in contrast with A-Rod, those numbers are far less likely to fall off a cliff anytime soon. Keep in mind that Gonzalez, who will receive $127 million from 2012 through 2018, will be younger at the end of his contract than Rodriguez is today.
Additionally, Los Angeles made clear that, having acquired Hanley Ramirez (.254/.326/.445) last month to play third base long-term, then inquiring about Teix and ultimately trading for A-Gon, they needed a first baseman, not another body to man the hot corner.
(That is not to say that Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti’s haul was a slam-dunk winner: Obtaining A-Gon became reality only when he agreed to take on two other very expensive and underperforming contracts in Josh Beckett [5.21 ERA, 4.39 xFIP] and Carl Crawford [.282/.306/.479] and to send the Red Sox [62–67] decent prospects from a farm system that, even before last Friday, was not exactly flush with big-league-ready talent.)
Finally, the Yankees (74–54) are in first place but only 3.5 games out in front of the second-place Orioles and four ahead of the Rays. Manager Joe Girardi’s club has compiled a pedestrian 16–16 record since A-Rod got injured on July 24. There was no way in someplace kind of warm that he was going anywhere.
Sherman’s idea is so far-fetched that even the starry-eyed Yankee fans who call into WFAN with loopy trade proposals (e.g., Verlander for Gardner and Nova) must be shaking their heads in disbelief.