On the Money
A-Rod's monsterseason couldn't have come at a better time, as he positions himself for anotherjaw-dropping deal
WHEN ALEX RODRIGUEZsigned a record $252 million contract with the Rangers seven years ago, it washard to imagine who would ever become baseball's second quarter-billion-dollarman. Now it seems that it could be A-Rod again. ¬∂ With major-league-leadingtotals of 34 home runs and 99 RBIs, plus a .313 average, through Sunday, he hasreinforced his position as baseball's best player while possessing the ultimatecontract provision: the right to opt out of his deal (he'll have three yearsremaining) and become a free agent after the season. At a time when baseball isflush with cash, insiders are speculating that Rodriguez, who after threeseasons in Texas was traded to the Yankees in early 2004, might get a newcontract that matches or even exceeds the value of the one he has now.
"I assume he'sgoing to want to beat the 252," one American League general manager says.Another G.M. predicts that the two-time MVP's agent, Scott Boras, will set $300million as a target (possibly $30 million a year for 10 years), but this clubexec insists that he wouldn't pay that much. Rodriguez, who turns 32 on Friday,can make a case for another 10-year contract considering he hasn't been on thedisabled list since July 2000 and will have topped 45 home runs in five of thelast seven seasons if he hits 12 more this year.
Also, baseball'sfinancial health is much improved since A-Rod signed with the Rangers. Totalmajor league revenue jumped from $3 billion in 2000 to $5.2 billion lastseason. Last winter, outfielder Alfonso Soriano, who had just come into his ownwhen New York shipped him to Texas in the deal for A-Rod, got an eight-year,$136 million free-agent contract from the Cubs, and lefthander Barry Zito(Giants) and outfielder Carlos Lee (Astros), two players not close to being inRodriguez's class, also got nine-figure packages. Due to be paid $27 million ayear in 2008, '09 and '10, Rodriguez should be able to beat that annual salarygiven that the Yankees have already indicated they would upgrade his contractif he stayed.
Another reason tolock up A-Rod to a long-term deal: With 498 career home runs, he could becomethe next home run king in seven or eight years—a marketing bonanza for the teamthat has him. Perhaps the prospect of Rodriguez's achieving that feat, combinedwith his excellent physical condition, will give Boras leverage to make another10-year deal.
For now, agent andAll-Star aren't commenting on their intentions except to rebuff the Yanks'attempt to negotiate during the season. Here's a rundown on the teams thatcould have a shot at signing A-Rod after the season:
They, of course, have the financial wherewithal to keep their marquee thirdbaseman, and New York has the added advantage of not having to pay $29 millionof Rodriguez's salary over the next three years. (Under terms of the trade withthe Yankees, Texas owner Tom Hicks was to pay $67 million of the $179 milliondue A-Rod over the final seven years of the contract if the player did not optout of the deal in any of the last three years.) What's more, the new YankeeStadium, due to open in 2009, is expected to boost revenues. Friends sayRodriguez loves playing in the spotlight of New York, although his wife,Cynthia, is said to be less enamored by it. Odds to stay: Even.
Owner Arte Moreno has been aching to make a "major" move sincepromising he would last winter. While he's told people that he is hesitant topay $30 million a year to anyone, he is a self-proclaimed fan of A-Rod, who hasa lifetime .329 average and .658 slugging percentage at Angel Stadium. Odds togo: 5--1
3. Red Sox.
Rodriguez was willing to restructure his contract and reduce his price by $13million to go to Boston when Texas was shopping him four years ago. But sincethat deal fell through, hard feelings have developed between the superstar andsome of the Red Sox players. Rodriguez has bickered with pitcher CurtSchilling, got into a shoving match with catcher Jason Varitek and heard thecatcalls of the Fenway faithful. Odds to go: 8--1
Owner Peter Magowan desperately wants to win a World Series. Landing Rodriguezwould certainly help make up for San Francisco's inability to developpositional talent. Odds to go: 12--1
They've been looking for a power hitter while all but holding tryouts at thirdbase. A-Rod would be a good fit in this glitzy city too. Odds to go: 15--1
If Mark Cuban or Jerry Colangelo buys the Cubs, either one will do whatever ittakes to win. However, there's no guarantee as to who will get the team. Eventhough Lou Piniella's his buddy, Rodriguez won't choose the Cubs based onliking the manager. Odds to go: 25-1
7. White Sox.
Owner Jerry Reinsdorf is close to A-Rod but has seemed to swear off mega-dealssince erring on Albert Belle. Odds to go: 75--1.
They were A-Rod's first choice when he was a free agent last time. Now the Metsare covered on the left side with Jose Reyes at short and David Wright atthird. Odds to go: 150--1.
Despite whispers that his former teams, Texas and Seattle, may be interested,one major league official says that Hicks "has learned his lesson" andSeattle is too far from A-Rod's hometown of Miami, not to mention the action.The Diamondbacks, Indians and Phillies were among the teams that made surprisecalls to the Yankees in attempts to trade for him last winter. Odds to go:30--1
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Touching 'Em All
With the nonwaiver trade deadline next Tuesday, themarket for the Rangers' Mark Teixeira (right) heated up at week's end. Texastalked to the Orioles about dealing Teixeira, a Maryland native, for a packageincluding Baltimore starter Daniel Cabrera.... The Dodgers were considering adeal that would send infielder Wilson Betemit to the Royals for relieverOctavio Dotel, who was also being pursued by the Indians and Red Sox.... TheYankees rebuffed the Devil Rays' offer of infielder Ty Wigginton for relieverScott Proctor but would trade him for Betemit.... The Diamondbacks entertainedproposals for righty Livan Hernandez. Other viable starters on the block: MattMorris (Giants), Jose Contreras (White Sox), Jason Jennings (Rockies) and KyleLohse (Reds).
CHUCK SOLOMON (RODRIGUEZ)
$30 MILLION MAN? Rodriguez, who leads the majors with 34 homers, could get a raise from his current $25.2 million average salary.
BRAD MANGIN (TEIXEIRA)