For Alex Rodriguez, one of two things is about to happen in 2013: either he is going to become the world’s most expensive platoon player, or he will be paid by the New York Yankees to play for someone else.
Since becoming the scapegoat for the Yankees embarrassing collapse in the ALCS, A-Rod has been asked questions ranging from his relationship with Joe Girardi to his relationship with Australian bikini models who frequent the Legends Suite.
Throughout the ordeal, Rodriguez displayed a confusing range of reactions, from the self-reflective (“If I’m playing my game, Joe has no choice but to play me…I’ve got to look in the mirror”) to the glib (smiling and mouthing “Hi Mom” into the dugout camera). This mishmash of emotions led many to believe that Rodriguez had given up amid a bizarre underhanded conspiracy by the Yankee organization to oust him from the Bronx.
If there is any veracity to this conspiracy theory—which I don’t, for a second, believe there is—the Yankees have nobody to blame but themselves. In 2007, following one of A-Rod’s most prolific seasons, they signed the then-32-year-old to a ten-year contract worth $275 million.
It never ceases to amaze me how teams can be so short-sighted as to offer these ludicrous long-term contracts. Did the Yankees really expect a 37-year-old Rodriguez to be the same player he was in his twenties? And he still has five years to go.
Baseball players generally peak somewhere between the ages of 26 and 30. So why would you give a guy who’s already two years past that mark a ten-year contract?
Major League Baseball has had plenty of evidence over the years that long-term contracts to players who are either too old or unproven simply aren’t a smart idea. Barry Zito, Jayson Werth, and Ryan Howard come to mind immediately. And in Albert Pujols’ first season of a gluttonous ten-year deal that will have him earning $30 million the year he turns 41, he posted the worst batting average of his career despite shifting to the hitting-friendly American League.
Besides the A-Rod conundrum, the Yankees have plenty of issues to explore during the offseason, including deciding whether to exercise a $15 million option for Robinson Cano, which they almost certainly will do. They also intend to work out a contract extension before Cano becomes a free agent at the end of 2013. If Cano has a huge season, he’ll most likely be looking for the big bucks.
But the Yankees need to exercise some caution along with that contract option. Cano is turning 30 this year, and as such, the Yankees shouldn’t sign him to more than five years. That’s not to downplay the contributions Cano has made during his tenure as a Yankee, but at some point someone needs to be realistic.
Throughout all the speculation during the playoffs about the Yankees’ lack of hitting production, the most obvious explanation was probably the truth: maybe they were just tired. Seven out of the nine guys in their starting lineup are over 30 (eight if you count Cano, who turns 30 on Monday). I myself turned thirty earlier this month, and I sure as hell can’t hang with the 21-year-olds anymore.
As far as A-Rod is concerned, what’s done is done; I can’t say for sure if I think he should be back next year. He could, after all, pull a Derek Jeter and have a sick season at 38. But in the future, the Yankees (and the rest of the majors) should really think twice about offering long-term contracts to anyone.