Jonathan Papelbon had just struck out Seth Smith, marking the second time in four years the Red Sox are World Series champions. Talk has shifted from the 85 years of futility to the Red Sox now being the “new Yankees” – a franchise juggernaut that has the pieces, both young and veteran, to make a run at World Series championships year in and year out.
And, the winning might extend into the off-season, as well.
While Commissioner Selig presented Henry, Werner, and Lucchino the World Series Trophy in the Red Sox clubhouse, agent Scott Boras wasted no time in getting the news out on his most coveted free agent, Alex Rodriguez.
Rodriguez officially opted out of his 10-year, $252 million contract with the Yankees, thus making the player most likely to win the MVP this year eligible. The timing of the news has all the earmarks of Boras: upstage the World Series. As reported by Buster Olney of ESPN:
Boras said he attempted to notify Yankees general manager Brian Cashman of the decision but couldn't reach him, so he left a voice mail.
"He was traveling and I was traveling," Boras said.
Rodriguez loses the final $72 million in guaranteed salary in the record contract, which he signed with Texas before the 2001 season. The Yankees lose $21.3 million in remaining payments from the Rangers, a subsidy agreed to at the time of his 2004 trade. New York has said it would not attempt to re-sign A-Rod if he opted out.
And while the Yankees have said that they will not attempt to resign, there is nothing preventing them from doing so. The number of clubs that have the capacity to land A-Rod, based on the high salary and duration that will come with his contract are limited. The Mets, Dodgers, and Angels could be in the mix, but one need only look to the team that just landed the World Series championship to see who might be the frontrunner.
Mike Lowell won the World Series MVP, joining a small elite group of third basemen to win the award including Brooks Robinson, Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt, and most recently Troy Glaus in 2002 when he was with the Angels.
Lowell's also at the end of his 4-year, $32 million contract with the Red Sox, making A-Rod an option at the corner, should Lowell go elsewhere.
But the intriguing move would be to place A-Rod back at his natural position, shortstop. Julio Lugo has been an average part of the Red Sox line-up, and easily replaceable. Rodriguez would be a jewel at short by comparison.
Another consideration could be from a bookkeeping perspective. Manny Ramirez’s 8-year, $168 million has club options for ’09 and ’10, but the possibilities of moving Manny to offset a potential Rodriguez has merit. Ramirez is a defensive liability, and could be replaced by possibly playing rookie sensation Jacoby Ellsbury in left.
What does seem certain is that Boras and Rodriguez need big-market franchises with deep revenue streams to make a deal happen. As mentioned prior, it is possible that the Yankees could remain in play, regardless of the posturing in the media. In the predictions made on The Biz of Baseball for the off-season, we mentioned that A-Rod would most assuredly opt out of his contract, and that the market for free agents would once again be very high. Look for more free spending as MLB is awash in revenues that will be in excess of $6 billion this year.
Our prediction is that a supply and demand atmosphere has the capacity to produce a staggering contract for Rodriguez, based on his playing ability, and the fact that barring some unforeseen scandal, A-Rod could easily pass Barry Bonds as the all-time homerun leader. His value, both on and off-the-field are high. Would it surprise us to see a contract length of 10-years or more? No. Would it surprise us to see figures within the contract that see close to, or at $35 million for a year? No. For that to happen, however, there has to be a bidding war. The question is, will the Red Sox be in the mood to play?
Maury Brown is the founder and president of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football and The Biz of Basketball (The Biz of Hockey will be launching shortly). He is also an author for Baseball Prospectus.and is an available writer for other media outlets.
He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted here.