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A-Rod or Cabrera?

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I'm kind of surprised about how little discussion there's been here of A-Rod's soon-to-be-signed contract - 10 years/$275 million. I find this particularly strange in light of all the discussion about Rolen's availability via trade. The re-signing of A-Rod will take 1 3B off the market and 1 team who needs a 3B out of the running for one. That leaves the Dodgers, the Angels, the Red Sox, Braves, Phils, the Twins maybe. Who else? The Sox'll probably re-sign Lowell unless one of the others panics at losing the opportunity to bring A-Rod westward and throws a mountain of money at him.

Is anyone more likely to panic now and trade for Rolen? I doubt it but it does increase the price in the trade market for Miguel Cabrera. The news on A-Rod somewhat spoiled my idea for today's post but I'm going to go ahead anyway. A-Rod's contract is huge - much higher than the 2nd highest contract in baseball. We don't yet know the details but we do know the framework has been set for a 10 year contract that will average $27.5 million per season. Interestingly, Pujols made $15M last year and will make $16M in '08. So A-Rod's contract will earn him 72% more money than Pujols will make next year. He'll be under contract until he's 42 years old - the age Barry Bonds was when the '07 season started.

We could see this coming. We all knew that A-Rod was going to get at least 8 years and at least $200 M. To me, this contract isn't surprising at all. But it's still a huge chunk of money. Some have made the argument that he's worth it and the Cards should've found a way to make it work. Wouldn't A-Rod and Albert be great in the lineup together for the next 10 years? Of course they would but Albert's contract expires after 2011 - the Cards have an option they'll almost certainly exercise if Albert continues to stay healthy and produce and then he'll earn an A-Rodian payday. The Cards surely couldn't afford 2 $25-30 M players at once.

Others will say A-Rod's not worth it - no player is. Setting aside all the "he chokes in the postseason stuff", the primary argument would be that most teams can't spend a 20-25% of their payroll on 1 player and expect to remain competitive. The Yankees could do it b/c they're the Yankees but other teams would have to forgo something else of value in order to pay A-Rod the king's ransom that he's set to receive. These are valid points, of course.

A-Rod's primary competition in the 3B market, however, was not from another free agent, but from Miguel Cabrera. The Marlins appear set to trade him and, if anyone was going to diminish his market, it would have been him. He is, of course, a spectacular hitter - one of the 4-5 best in the majors. Some make an issue of his weight or defensive liabilities, but the guy can rake. He should be moved to 1B, sooner rather than later, but, even playing a poor 3B, he's still worth a ton of loot just from his ability to hit the baseball. Some complain that he's "just going to be another Manny Ramirez" as if that's a bad thing. ManRam is headed to the Hall of Fame, dreadlocks and 7th inning stretch piss-breaks notwithstanding.

But while A-Rod is 32, and will be 33 in July, Cabrera will turn 25 in April. He's got 2 years until free agency and will probably earn less than half of what A-Rod's set to earn in the next 2 years. There are a lot of reasons to like Cabrera more than A-Rod. Move him to 1B and he's about as good as Pujols, at least offensively. So teams like the Dodgers and Angels would have had to decide whether to make a run at A-Rod or try and trade for Cabrera.

That's the scenario I intended to throw out there this morning. Which is better? The problems w/ signing A-Rod are that he's already 32 and will be paid until he's 42 and that he's set to make more money than the GNP of most of the countries in the world. The main problem w/ Cabrera is that a team would have to trade for him - and he won't come cheaply. According to the Palm Beach Post , the Marlins want Howie Kendrick, Nick Adenhart, and 2 others from the Angels for Cabrera. From the Dodgers, they're asking for 4 of Billingsley, LaRoche, Kemp, Loney, and Kershaw. Of course, they won't get that much but it probably would mean 3 of the 4 from either team in order to receive Cabrera. Is it worth it?

The only way a Cabrera trade makes sense is if the team is also able to re-sign him long-term. There is a lot of talent on the 2 teams' lists and 2 years of Cabrera, I don't care how much he hits, isn't worth all that. But what about 12 years of Cabrera - 2 and then a 10 year contract along the lines of A-Rod's? That's what he'll get when he becomes a free agent - 10+ years and $250-300 M. We can quibble about exact dollar amounts but that's not really the point. He'll get a lot of years and a lot of money - he'll just be 27 when he's a free agent - not 32!

Still, if you had the choice between A-Rod or Cabrera, which would you choose? And, make no mistake, before A-Rod agreed to re-sign w/ the Yanks, when it appeared the Yanks were completely out of it, these teams did have the choice b/c they had the money and the prospects to make either happen. In fact, the Yanks probably also had the choice. They could've given up Hughes, Kennedy and Melky Cabrera or Cano or whatever and gotten Miguel. They certainly could've backed up the armored car and signed Miguel to an extension. They chose A-Rod! Did they choose wisely?

My view is that they did. Say what you want about A-Rod, but he's a certain hall-of-famer and will go down as 1 of the 3-4 best players of his generation. His postseason OPS is basically the same as the great Derek Jeter's (.844 to .846). He's a tremendous hitter who could easily transition to 1B and then DH and hasn't played fewer than 148 games since 1999. If anyone's worth $27.5 M per year, it's A-Rod. MORP has him worth about $44 M last year and the Hardball Times' Fair Market Value Calculator has him worth about $38 M. He was tremendous last year, of course - possibly his best year in a career of outstanding years - but with all the talk of teams overpaying for free agents, he seems to be one who will probably be underpaid during the course of this contract. Even if he is hurt and unproductive in his last couple of years, the surplus value the Yanks will probably receive from the first 7-8 years will, in all likelihood, make up for his diminished production in the last couple.

Still, Cabrera's 7 years younger. But will he save the team any money? No. He's going to get that A-Rodian contract I referred to earlier. As I said, I'm not that worried about the D as he could be moved to 1B by any team that trades for him. He won't be Albert over there but he would be passable. He's going to terrorize pitchers for a long time if he's able to stay healthy and there's nothing in his past to indicate that that might be a problem. But the problem for me lies in trading Kershaw, Kemp, and Loney; or Kendrick, Adenhart, and E. Santana; or whatever the Marlins will receive in exchange for Cabrera. That's 15-18 years worth of a huge amount of talent just for the right to have Cabrera for 2 years and, hopefully, pay him King Midas' fortune for 10 more. Is Cabrera worth it? 12 years of Cabrera in exchange for 16 years of Kershaw, Kemp, and Loney? Maybe so - but A-Rod, despite the enormous contract, is still a better value. Had the Dodgers signed A-Rod, they would have gotten A-Rod PLUS Kershaw, Kemp, and Loney. By re-signing A-Rod and not trading for Cabrera, the Yankees got A-Rod, Hughes, Kennedy, and Melky Cabrera. They also retained the possibility, however remote, that they might be able to also sign Cabrera in 2 years. Which would you rather have - A-Rod, Hughes, Kennedy, and Melky Cabrera; or Miguel Cabrera? To me, it's a no-brainer. That's a 4 for 1 trade I'd make any day of the week, despite the 10 years and $275 M.

On an unrelated note, David Eckstein appears to be open to playing 2B and has met with the Mets to discuss filling that void in Flushing. This is a smart move on his part as the SS holes have all but dried up and this is a way to increase his market power. He's now looking for Julio Lugo-esque (I think I just threw up a little in my mouth) type contract - 4 years, $36 M. Do not adjust your monitor! You read that correctly. 4 years, $36 M for David Eckstein. It's been great knowing you, David. You're a little sparkplug - plucky and spunky and all those things that fans like. Thanks for the World Series title! We'll remember you fondly. How we'll replace him, I don't know. God help us if it's Cesar Izturis! This Alexei Ramirez intrigues me a little. He's a 26 year old Cuban defector who was 6-16 in the World Baseball Classic - plays SS and CF. He may or may not be ready to play in the big leagues. A couple years ago, Clay Davenport at BP compared Cuban baseball to to short-season A ball . Might be worth a flyer! Erik suggested D'Angelo Jimenez in this diary . I've heard worse suggestions! (I'm looking at you, Cesar!). Then there's this Brendan Ryan guy - nah, nevermind. Let's not even go there.