Alex Rodriguez and the Phillies

October 28, 2007.

A date nearly five and a half years past, by now. The date Alex Rodriguez opted out of his initial 10-year, $252 million contract with the New York Yankees via the Texas Rangers, a decision announced (pre-Twitter) smack-dab in the middle of Game 4 of the World Series between the eventual champion Boston Red Sox and Colorado Rockies.

It was crazy to think about, but at the time, A-Rod had just completed what would eventually be crowned an MVP season: .314/.422/.645, leading the Majors in home runs (56), RBI (156) and runs scored (143) while posting a 9.2 rWAR, tied for his personal second-best. It was a monster season, and the absolute perfect time to opt out and get even more money than was originally thought possible.

The Yankees were, realistically, the only team that could afford A-Rod’s services at that time, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t some calls for the Phillies – just prior to their halcyon days of a title and mega-contracts – to break the bank to bring Rodriguez to Philadelphia (Crashburn’s own Michael Baumann among them). Admittedly, I was intrigued at the thought, especially as some seemed convinced this opt-out actually meant Rodriguez and the Yankees would part ways (check out the lede from this AP story).

We all know how the story ends. But let’s indulge the hypothetical for a moment: what if the Phillies shook the baseball landscape in the winter of 2007 and signed Rodriguez to the deal currently binding him to the Pinstripers? What if his current 10-year, $275 million behemoth was on the Phillies’ payroll from 2008 on?

First, let’s consider the third basemen he would be replacing. Just as the Yankees wouldn’t move Jeter away from shortstop for A-Rod, the Phillies would also probably prefer to keep Jimmy Rollins at that position. Rollins, at that time, had three years and an option remaining on his own deal and was about to win the MVP Award for the National League.

The contractual situation for each position’s starter, entering the 2008 season, looked something like this for the Phils:

C: Carlos Ruiz (pre-arb)
1B: Ryan Howard ($10M paid as Arb1)
2B: Chase Utley (6/$80.5M remaining)
3B: A-Rod goes here instead of Pedro Feliz
SS: Rollins (3/$22M remaining, plus $8.5M option)
LF: Pat Burrell (1/$14.25M remaining)
CF: Shane Victorino (pre-arb; fills in for the departing Aaron Rowand)
RF: Jayson Werth ($1.7M paid as Arb1)

Before adding Rodriguez’s money, that’s a very affordable and productive starting offense, prior to decline and injuries wreaking havoc.

On the pitching side of things, we don’t find the Phils in quite as rosy a situation. The five pitchers that would eventually make the most starts for the Phils in 2008 were:

SP1: Cole Hamels (pre-arb)
SP2: Jamie Moyer (1/$6M remaining)
SP3: Brett Myers (2/$20.6M remaining)
SP4: Kyle Kendrick (pre-arb)
SP5a: Adam Eaton (1/$8M remaining)
SP5b: Joe Blanton (1/~$1.5M remaining after trade from OAK)

Monetarily, yes, there’s seemingly plenty of budget room. But this was not a wholly effective rotation; only Hamels and Moyer went on to post ERAs below 4.20, and the team ERA of 3.88 was buoyed by a very effective bullpen. In that bullpen, Brad LidgeRyan Madson, Chad Durbin, J.C. Romero and Clay Condrey would combine to make about $12.3M (with Lidge accounting for more than half that on his own). The addition of Scott Eyre cost in the neighborhood of $1.5M after his trade.

So the foundation of the 2008 club, pre-Rodriguez, comes in at a rough $65.7M. That number is a bit difficult to fathom given the new eras of spending that this team is currently in, but five years ago, that was the situation. Could $27M have fit into the budget for that season, boosting it to nearly $93M? Maybe. For 2008, things probably could have worked. But with the escalators and incentives built in, how would things have looked going forward? This is a table of future payroll as it stood entering 2008. Actual commitment that were eventually made are denoted (inside parentheses).

Player 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Rodriguez $27M $32M $32M $31M $29M $28M $25M
Howard $10M ($15M) ($19M) ($20M) ($20M) ($20M) ($25M)
Utley $7.5M $11M $15M $15M $15M $15M FA
Rollins $7M $7.5M $7.5M $8.5M ($11M) ($11M) ($11M)
Burrell $14.25M FA
Victorino $480K ($3.125M) ($5M) ($7.5M) ($9.5M) FA
Werth $1.7M ($2M) ($7M) FA
Ruiz $425K ($475k) ($1.9M) ($2.75M) ($3.7M) ($5M) FA
Hamels $500K ($4.35M) ($6.65M) ($9.5M) ($15M) ($19.5M) ($22.5M)
Moyer $6M ($6.5M) ($8M) FA
Myers $8.5M $12M FA
Lidge $6.35M ($12M) ($12M) ($12M)
TOTAL $89.71M $62.5M $54.5M $54.5M $44M $43M $25M
FUTURE ($43.45M) ($59.55M) ($51.75M) ($59.2M) ($55.5M) ($58.5M)

Lidge’s extension took place in-season, so it’s listed as future commitments instead of actual commitments. Of course, adding A-Rod’s money to the books may make the Phillies hang onto Michael Bourn in the first place instead of dealing him away in the package for Lidge.

The ripple effects are all sorts of interesting. Does Howard get his massive extension (or, at least, does RAJ wait until a more appropriate time to negotiate it)? Does Raul Ibanez get signed to replace Burrell, or someone else? Does this ripple out to draft and international spending to further restrict them?

Even A-Rod’s lowest OPS since signing the new deal (.783 in 2012) easily eclipses the best any Phils 3B has put up in that time (Placido Polanco in 2010 with .726). The future money is the rub, though, obviously.

There are numerous ways to branch out in thought here. Obviously, we know now that making such a commitment would not have been worth it in almost any case, but it’s an interesting thought exercise, if nothing else.