Purgatory Online

Monday, February 16, 2004

Notice how I had it both ways the other day? I was "skeptical" that the A-Rod to New York deal would get done, but, just in case, I hedged my bets by mentioning George Steinbrenner's well-deserved reputation for acting like a rich shitheel.

So now, of course, Alex Rodriguez is going to be a Yankee. Any baseball blog you read today will have the relevant details, and I more or less agree with the majority of my blogging bretheren: yes, it's just another example of the Yankees using their unfair monetary advantage. Yes, said advantage is partially an accident of geography. Yes, there's nothing anyone can do about it, so let's shut up and play ball, already.

In terms of looking at the Yankees, Now with New Rodriguez Action (TM), the only analysis I've done is to take a look at what they've gained in terms of win shares above average. They'll be replacing Aaron Boone, who contributed 0.5 WSAA last year, with Rodriguez, who contributed 15.5. Since three win shares equals one win for the team, this tells us that, if Boone and Rodriguez performed the same in 2004 as they did in 2003, that's five big wins the Yankees have picked up.

However, the Yankees also dealt away Alfonso Soriano, who had 8.6 WSAA, and they've yet to announce who will replace him. If the Yankees field an "average" player at second this year, they'll lose all of those, reducing their net win gain to around two. Since they'll be paying A-Rod $16 million, dropping Soriano's $5.4 million salary, and adding an average second baseman's salary, those two wins would cost the Yankees approxmately $11 million American.

Realistically, the Yankees are unlikely to stand pat with their current options at second base, the most palatable of which would be Miguel Cairo, who's compiled a .269 batting average and a total of 19 home runs since debuting in 1996 (Soriano, of course, hit 38 home runs last year). They'll more than likely add a handful of win shares back into the equation with whomever they manage to acquire to fill that particular hole, meaning that, when all is said and done, they'll be somewhere around three to four wins better than they were before acquiring Rodridguez.

So, what does this mean for the Angels? Well, there are two ways of looking at this. One is that it makes a potential wild-card contender a fair bit stronger, which would hurt the Angels if they don't take the A.L. West crown. Fortunately, that's a load of hooey.

Before the trade, I think it's fair to say that the Yankees and Red Sox were pretty evenly matched going into 2004, and that the Angels, and possibly the A's, were right up there with them. Now, of course, the Yankees become the team to beat - but the Red Sox, thanks to the unbalanced schedule, will have to play them more than twice as often as the Angels. Boston plays New York nineteen times, to be exact, versus the nine games Anaheim will end up contesting. So, although the Angels will be at a disadvantage vis-a-vis New York, they're compensated by the fact that Boston's schedule becomes harder relative to Anaheim's. Since either New York or Boston was going to win the East anyway (barring divine intervention from the Canadian baseball gods), everyone outside the East gets a little help from the fact that the standings are more likely to end up with New York at 100 wins and Boston at 94, instead of, say, New York at 97 wins and Boston at 96. To illustrate the point more clearly, take it to an extreme - imagine the Yankees were so good they won all their games. The Angels would drop nine, sure, but so would everyone else - except the other Eastern Division teams, who would drop ten games in the loss column that would be "in play" for everyone else.

Meanwhile, the Angels, A's, and Mariners get to play the A-Rod-less Rangers nineteen times, which should, in the short term, mean a couple of extra wins, unless the Rangers can spend the money they're saving effectively enough to make up the difference between Rodriguez and Soriano (alternatively, of course, they could also get increased production from an admittedly young and talented core). However, given that the Rangers have agreed to pick up something like nine million dollars per year on Rodriguez's contract, and also given that, of the $16 million they're saving, $5.4 million will go to Soriano, and further given that part of the reason they made the deal was to cut payroll, their financial flexibility from this deal is probably somewhat less than the flexibility the Mariners got when Kaz Sasaki decided to head on back to Japan a couple of weeks ago (for some truly shocking numbers about the effect this deal has on the Yankees' and Rangers' payroll, see the invaluable Dugout Dollars blog).

So, in the end, I think this deal should change most people's minds from "The Yankees and Red Sox will slug it out for the East, with the loser probably getting the wild card," to "the Angels and A's will slug it out for the West, with the loser fighting Boston for the wild card." That's not to count out the Mariners, of course, who may be a decent dark horse - just an attempt to distill the conventional wisdom. Which - thank God - is scheduled for obsolescence as of the first pitch of the season, to be thrown on March 30 in Tokyo.