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My Paranoid Mets/A-Rod Scenario

[editor's note, by dajafi] Disclaimer: I wrote something very similar to the following on BSG, so if you hang out there and were reading the A-Rod thread, you've seen something pretty close to this already.

With the news that Alex Rodriguez is opting out of his contract with the Yankees--announced, in an all-time dick move, during Game Four of the World Series, when most of the baseball world probably didn't want to think about Scott Boras--the question is where he will go, and how much he'll make. For most of us it's well nigh inconceivable to walk away from $72 million guaranteed, but Boras has read the market right a lot more often than he's read it wrong. Someone will pay Rodriguez. (And at least two New York tabloids will go with the cover headline "PAY-ROD" when they do. Bet the farm on this.)

But who? The Red Sox might be a likely suitor under other circumstances, but they're not exactly hurting for talent after winning a second title in four years, and their fans are pissed at the timing of the announcement. The Angels? I think this is the most likely option, but their owner has expressed reluctance to sink a quarter of his payroll into one guy, no matter how good. San Francisco? That makes some sense, but they're already into Boras for another $105 million or so on Barry Zito, and they've just terminated a relationship with an all-time great slugger who seems always to find the "I" in team.

But there's another high-payroll contender out there with both means and motive to sign Rodriguez. And it's probably the last team any Phillies fan wants to see adding an all-time great in the prime of his career: the New York Mets.

A logical reaction to this might be: "And where will they play him?" David Wright and Jose Reyes, the cornerstones of the Mets franchise, man third base, where Rodriguez has played the last four seasons, and shortstop, where he played his first eight seasons, respectively. Both are in their mid-20s, signed to reasonable long-term deals, and central to the Mets' marketing and identity.

But I think this isn't as much of an obstacle as it might initially seem, and that there could be interest and compelling motivation on both sides. Here it is:

  • In 2000, Rodriguez and Boras were seriously negotiating with the Mets before the team--then coming off the NL pennant--ended the conversation. Rodriguez himself was pretty disappointed when they pulled out. That was several Mets executive regimes ago--Steve Phillips was the GM--so bygones are presumably long since bygones.

  • Assuming the Yankees are seriously out of the A-Rod business, the only other team we know has the resources to pay Rodriguez AND keep the rest of the roster in good repair is the other New York club with a TV network, attendance in the neighborhood of 4 million, and a new stadium opening in 2009. The Mets aren't quite in the Yankees/Red Sox salary stratosphere, but they're close, and the only long-term salary commitments they currently have are for Reyes, Wright, and Carlos Beltran. They can afford A-Rod without having to scrimp elsewhere.

  • The Mets always, always, always love to stick it to the Yankees. For the team and especially their fans, the '80s were good because of '86, Doc, Straw, Carter, Hernandez, Lenny, El Sid and so on; they were great because, while those guys were dominating the spotlight, the Yankees were home every October.

  • The Mets could clear a space at shortstop for Rodriguez by trading Jose Reyes. Unthinkable six months ago, this is almost plausible now. Reyes's star is really dimmed in New York City--justifiably, I think--both from his terrible second-half performance and the many boneheaded plays and jerkish actions he made while crapping out at the plate.

  • But though the Mets' fans, and perhaps their decision-makers, think a good deal less of him today than they did last spring, I seriously doubt he damaged his trade value. There was no injury, he probably hit in some bad luck, and he's still signed to a contract that's staggeringly reasonable in comparison to the free market. Reyes could be the centerpiece in a huge trade for the Mets.

  • If you're Omar Minaya, you're worried about two things this winter. One is the rotation: with Tom Glavine gone, El Duque and Pedro Martinez old and/or fragile, John Maine and Oliver Perez as likely to repeat their September slumps as their May magnificence, and Phil Humber and Mike Pelfrey no closer to proven now than a year ago, there's very little to count on. Two is the growing perception that you aren't as brilliant as the Perez trade and Jose Valentin signing once suggested you were, and the well-grounded fear that your rep could take a second, career-threatening hit after The Collapse if you don't reshuffle the deck in some major way.

  • Signing A-Rod to play shortstop, then trading Reyes, Lastings Millege or Carlos Gomez and a third guy for Johan Santana or Erik Bedard presumably would address both concerns pretty nicely.

Likely? Maybe not. Some feel the Mets' 2007 problems were of chemistry as much as anything else, and Rodriguez is unlikely to appeal to those so inclined. And Reyes is far more likely to bounce back to or improve upon his 2006 performance than to replicate his lousy second half; having traded Scott Kazmir a few years ago, the Mets organization is still haunted by the prospect of dealing away superstar talent (though Santana clearly isn't exactly Victor Zambrano). But the Mets are going to do something big this winter, to get fans to forget about September and try to send out Shea Stadium with a third champion. Adding Alex Rodriguez would scratch multiple itches for them. And they know he can play in New York, at least through September 30.