Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Trading ARod: San Francisco Giants
By Blogger

Fans in the Bronx have been painting an ugly self-portrait recently, what with booing Alex Rodriguez at every opportunity. Let me repeat: booing the best all-around player in baseball at every opportunity. National commentators are circling like vultures, and voices of reason keep falling on deaf ears.

So, what to do? Obviously, Sportszilla has to figure out if our knee-jerk reaction is correct, if it really would be idiotic for the Yankees to trade ARod. In the first of what could become a series, I'll examine what the San Francisco Giants would have to give up in order to get Rodriguez. The working assumption is that every team in MLB would gladly make room for ARod, but what would they have to give up to get him?

Jason Schmidt is a free agent after this season. He's in his early thirties, so a five year deal at more than 10 million dollars per year could be a disaster at the back end. Folks in the Bay Area have been speculating that Schmidt is likely to return to his Pacific Northwest roots and sign with the Mariners this offseason, though Brian Sabean hasn't ruled out an attempt to re-sign him. Matt Morris has pitched better of late, but his terrible start to the season might portend worse things in the next two years of his contract. Jamey Wright is trash. Matt Cain is the prize young pitcher carrying the organization's hopes for the future. In an ideal world, in the next few years, Cain makes the leap like Scott Kazmir, Noah Lowry defies his list of comparables to become the poor man's Andy Pettitte, and Tim Lincecum, this year's tenth overall draft pick, rides the fast track to the majors and bursts on the scene with mid-career David Cone numbers. Jonathan Sanchez had a tremendous season in the Sally League last year, and is already helping out in the big league bullpen. While he could be a great reliever right away, his highest upside is as a starter. Armando Benitez is the closer, but something tells me the Yankees wouldn't want to go down that road again. So, while the Giants have some interesting pitching prospects that will be developing over the next few years, nothing is assured, and they will almost certainly look to bolster their staff through free agency as they move forward.

Among the hitters, Barry Bonds is going nowhere this season. Randy Winn signed a contract extension prior to this season that runs through 2009 with a full no trade clause through 2007. Omar Vizquel and Mark Sweeney are signed through 2007. Eliezer Alfonzo is a rookie. Moises Alou, Shea Hillenbrand, Pedro Feliz, Ray Durham, and Steve Finley will all be free agents after this season. As far as prospects, the Giants have a barren system. Kevin Frandsen isn't much more than a utility prospect. In 2005, Todd Linden had one of the best seasons the Pacific Coast League has seen in recent memory, but he's 26 years old and already saddled with the AAAA label. Travis Ishikawa is young, crushed the ball in the Cal League last season, but appears to have stalled in AA this year.

Jason Schmidt is the guy who sticks out most. The Yankees need starting pitching, and the Giants have to clear payroll in order to take on the 20 million dollars or so that the Yankees are paying ARod. In light of that pitching deficiency, all the young pitchers (except Lincecum, who can't be traded by rule) are enticing. Moises Alou must also look fairly intriguing, since neither Gary Sheffield nor Hideki Matsui is likely to be back before the end of the season, but injury concerns will be a major issue for the rest of his career. Robinson Cano is decent, but Ray Durham has slugged well over .500 this season and would fit nicely behind Posada in the lineup. Cano can move to third if Shea Hillenbrand or Pedro Feliz aren't included in the deal.

Giants get: Alex Rodriguez ($20 million) (70RC)
Yankees get: Jason Schmidt, Noah Lowry, Ray Durham, Moises Alou, Shea Hillenbrand ($30.5 million) (194RC, Hillenbrand excluded)

The Yanks would insert both pitchers into the rotation to go with Johnson, Mussina, and Wang, promptly DFA Sidney Ponson and Shawn Chacon, and probably move Jaret Wright to the bullpen. Alou would play LF. Durham would play 2B with Cano moving to 3B. Hillenbrand would play 1B so that Giambi can DH. Goodbye Andy Phillips. Goodbye Bubba Crosby. Goodbye Nick Green. Suddenly, the Yankees have a deeper lineup and rotation. While losing ARod hurts, the pitching takes a leap forward. After the season, only Lowry would be guaranteed to stay, as the rest are free agents. However, combined with the assumed departures of Sheffield and Bernie Williams, the exodus also frees up lots of money to blow on free agents. Hark! Barry Zito approaches! Where art thou, Carlos Lee?

CF Damon
SS Jeter
DH Giambi
LF Alou
C Posada
2B Durham
1B Hillenbrand
3B Cano
RF Williams

SP Mussina
SP Schmidt
SP Johnson
SP Wang
SP Lowry

The Giants would move Sanchez and Hennessey into the rotation. For the rest of this year, that means there'd be only two surefire Major Leaguer starting games (Cain, Morris), and the rest are shaky propositions. Todd Linden would split time with Steve Finley, forcing Randy Winn to split time between CF and RF since Finley won't play corner OF. What they would do with ARod would depend on Omar Vizquel. If Omar refuses to move, ARod plays 3B and Feliz moves to 1B or plays more corner OF. Kevin Frandsen would then be asked to take over at 2B. If Omar is willing to move to 2B, ARod can play SS, Feliz stays at 3B, and Mark Sweeney platoons at 1B with Todd Greene. The lineup has a fearsome twosome in the 3-4 slots and isn't an embarrassment at any of the other positions (unless you think Linden will never be more than the destitute man's Russell Branyan). After the season, Bonds's contract will be off the books in addition to the contracts of the guys they traded away and didn't pay for the rest of this season. Some of that money will go to ARod, who is only guaranteed through 2007, since he can opt out in 2008-2010. However, with all the young pitchers, there will still be money left over to make a non-insulting offer to Bonds if he wants to play another season and go after lower-tier free agents such as Byung Hyun Kim or Jay Payton, or re-sign Feliz.

CF Winn
2B Vizquel
SS Rodriguez
LF Bonds
3B Feliz
1B Sweeney/Greene
RF Linden
C Alfonzo

SP Cain
SP Morris
SP Sanchez
SP Hennessey
SP Wright

The Giants wouldn't do it this year. The ecstasy of acquiring Rodriguez would be tempered by the impression that the team had given up on this season when they were in the thick of things. The Runs Created also shed light on why this is ultimately a tough deal for the Giants to accept even in a PR-less video game world. According to that number, Jason Schmidt has been the most valuable player this year among all the players in the trade. Furthermore, despite compiling less than half the RC of the guys going to New York, Rodriguez is being paid two-thirds their salary. If the Yankees pick up part of ARod's tab, say, another 5 or 6 million dollars per year, then the deal becomes much more manageable and the Giants would almost certainly have to do it, since it would essentially amount to trading Lowry for ARod.


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