This may not be a game everyone is interested in playing, but let’s face it: the World Series is over, the Red Sox won, and readers of this particular blog do not need further discussion to know how glorious and awesome the Red Sox are.
Now it is time to focus on the offseason and next year, and Item 1 on the agenda is A-Rod, thanks to the stunt he and Boras pulled last, announcing his opt out during game four of the World Series.
So let’s go ahead and start handicapping where A-Rod might end up…
3-1 New York Mets
Omar Minaya and the Mets are the reigning kings of offering massive, mindblowingly large contracts to whoever are the biggest names on the market at the time – just think back to Carlos Beltran, Pedro Martinez, and Carlos Delgado. Not only can the Mets definitely afford A-Rod already, but they are getting a new stadium and lots of new revenue in 2009. Plus, they’ve shown interest in A-Rod several times in the past, and you know that Minaya is going to want to do something big this offseason to appease the fans and the back pages after the team’s historically epic collapse down the stretch.
5-1: Anaheim Angels of Anaheim
Arte Moreno has shown repeatedly that he is the kind of crazy individual owner that will throw caution to the winds and order the signing of a big-name star to a ridiculous contract that a team under corporate ownership would be less likely to offer. He is much the same sort of gunslinging cowboy owner Tom Hicks was when he signed A-Rod to his last contract in Texas, before Hicks was reined in by his investment partners. Angels attendance and revenue growth have both been phenomenal in recent years, so they can definitely afford A-Rod, and with the way they use their players as interchangable parts, they can easily shuffle people around to make room at third base.
7-1: Boston Red Sox
Flush with even more cash from their World Series victory and facing a possible hole at third base with the free agency of Mike Lowell, it would be easy to imagine the Red Sox going after A-Rod. Although this would definitely anger many Sox fans, a certain subsection of Red Sox Nation has been crying out for the Sox to get A-Rod all season long, and Theo has shown in the past that he is willing to ignore the desires of the fans and go get long-running obsessions like Drew and Lugo. Considering how close the Sox came to acquiring A-Rod in 2004, it would be folly to assume that that option is not in Theo’s mind right now. I still think we are more likely to see Lowell manning the hot corner in Fenway next year, but if he dithers and doesn’t sign pretty much the first contract offer made to him, it might well be A-Rod instead.
9-1 Detroit Tigers
The Tigers are suddenly flush with cash the past few years, having cleverly marketed and leveraged their new ballpark, and owner Mike Illitch has shown that he is not at all afraid to take huge gambles and blow massive amounts of that cash on players nobody else is even trying to sign, such as Magglio Ordonez and his injured knee, or Ivan Rodriguez and his suspect back. Both of those deals worked out rather nicely for Illitch, so if for some reason all the other teams hesitate too long to sign A-Rod due to excessive contract demands or character questions, don’t be surprised if Illitch swoops in and make A-Rod a ridiculous offer even he can’t refuse.
11-1: San Francisco Giants
With Barry Bonds getting the boot, the Giants may well be looking for a new megastar to keep butts in the seats at Pac Bell, er, SBC, er Whatever-it’s-called-now Park. Their overpaying for Barry Zito last year certainly suggests that they are thinking along those kinds of lines. Plus, San Francisco fans have already proven that they are more than willing to embrace a superstar that the rest of the nation hates.
13-1: Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies are not the first name that usually gets mentioned when people talk about where A-Rod might end up, and he is certainly not the kind of player that you would expect to be popular with the Philadelphia fans, but the Phillies have been on the edge of something big for years now and have been looking for something to get them over the hump, so Philadelphia might actually be the team who would be helped the most by adding A-Rod. The Phillies can definitely afford A-Rod, especially with their still-new stadium and several millions in contracts coming off the books over the next two years (including the $7 million they were still paying to Jim Thome this past season), and they don’t have a strong incumbent at third base (as Wes Helms could easily be shunted to the bench). Plus, as a baseball fan, it would kind of be exciting to see A-Rod added to an infield that already has 3 MVP types in Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins, creating what would indisputably be the greatest infield quartet ever assembled.
15-1: Houston Astros
Faced with a weak NL Central there for the taking and a gaping hole at third base, the Astros are another team which could really be helped immediately by adding A-Rod. They’ve already shown a willingness to drop ridiculous dollars on big-name star power with their pioneering the whole pro-rated Clemens contract thing, and Drayton McClane is the kind of owner with the actual authority to wake up on the other side of the bed tomorrow morning, decide he wants A-Rod, and make it happen. Plus it’s Texas, and Texans like big things.
17-1: New York Yankees
Common sense says that despite their repeated sworn statements that they would not pursue A-Rod if he opted out, the Yankees are the team that most can afford A-Rod, and perhaps the team that most desperately needs him, given their current state of disarray, so they should therefore eat some crow and humbly go back to the table with Boras. But I don’t think this is going to happen, because guys like Randy Levine and Hank Steinbrenner strike me as a men possessed of large amounts of pride, and not particularly excessive amounts of common sense.
20-1: Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers always get mentioned, because we know they can afford A-Rod if they really want to, and plus, they have a huge hole at third base right now. But we have to remember that after the whole JD Drew opt-out thing, Ned Colletti has a huge hate-on for Scott Boras, to the point where he refused to talk to Boras for several months and foolishly didn’t offer Greg Maddux arbitration (thereby losing free draft picks), just because Maddux was a Boras client. Although Colletti has gotten over the worst of his hatred at this point, he is unlikely to have much patience for Boras’s negotiating tactics unless he gets a direct order from Frank McCourt or something.
25-1: Chicago Cubs
The Cubs showed last offseason that they are willing to drop big bucks on free agents. The don’t really have a need at third base, but shortstop has been a black hole for sometime now, so they could try to entice A-Rod with the chance to move back to the premier defensive position on the diamond. That said, one get’s the feeling that the Cubs blew their wad on Soriano last year and especially with the sale of the team getting a lot closer now, they are less likely to give Hendry the free reign to make such a huge financial commitment
30-1 or higher: Baltimore Orioles, Washington Nationals, Chicago White Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates
Nobody saw the Texas Rangers coming last time, so these four teams are my dark horse candidates this time around. The Orioles have always shown a propensity to make sporatic, unpredictable, and irrational plunges into the free agent market, but what they really need is pitching. The Washington Nationals don’t seem to be getting mentioned much, but they are getting a new stadium in a few years, and might see A-Rod as the perfect guy to have as their centerpiece going into their new digs. The White Sox could probably afford A-Rod, although Kenny Williams has not shown much of a tendency to go after guys like this in the past. I’m throwing the Pirates in here, because the Pirates as an organization are certifiably bat-shit crazy. Nobody has been able to understand what they are doing for the past 15 years, and nobody can ever predict what they are going to do next.