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A-Rod + Brewers = Awesome!

As you all have probably heard by now, A-Rod opted out of his contract with the Yankees.  The Yanks have said they won't bid on him now, so that leaves a likely war between the Red Sox and Angels, with the Giants possibly getting involved, and the Cubs more of a longshot.

Whenever I hear of a free agent, of course, my first thoughts are "could we get him?" and "should we get him?"  The answer to the first question in A-Rod's case is almost certainly no.  He'll cost $30MM+ per year.  That's probably the end of the story as far as we're concerned.

As for the ~should~ question, that's tougher.  If we could afford him, it'd be tough to say no.  There's no better player in baseball except, maybe, for Pujols, and maybier, for Johan Santana.  Pujols isn't available, and we don't have the prospects it would take to trade for Santana.  So if we're going to massively upgrade the team with one move, it'd have to be the Rod.

How We'd Do It

It's possible to afford $30-$35MM in 2008, though.  As we've discussed at length, there isn't a whole lot of wiggle room in the '08 payroll with the present cast of characters.  But, declining Jenkins's option clears out some space, and choosing to let Cordero walk (and not replacing him with another big-ticket closer) frees up more.  The fact that Capuano, Estrada, and Weeks had uninspiring seasons means that we won't get killed there in arbitration.

I've included my salary estimates of this scenario below the jump, but the key to making room for Rodriguez is finding a good deal for Ben Sheets.  Admit it: you've toyed with the idea of trading him ...I know some of you have been clamoring for such a deal for a long time.  If we opened the bidding for Big Ben, we could probably bring back, at the very least, one top-tier prospect plus a solid reliever.  Maybe more, if we leaned toward prospects--look at what the Rangers got for 1.33 years of Mark Teixeira!

One deal that springs to mind would be Sheets to the Rangers for Jarrod Saltalamacchia and C.J. Wilson.  Just a thought...there's probably a similar deal that could be built around Jeff Clement from Seattle.  The details don't matter--for now, the point is that such a deal is probably feasible, and we'll probably lose Sheets after the '08 season anyway.  We've got plenty of rotation options, so if we can effectively trade one year of Sheets for a long-term catcher option + salary space for A-Rod, it's worth considering.

The Resulting Team

Obviously, if we're going to spend $30MM+ on one player, there isn't room for much other spending.  However, we don't need it.  Sign A-Rod, and Braun moves to left, answering the biggest question facing the '08 team.  Trade Sheets for a catcher, and you answer the second biggest question--and save money!

The rotation, obviously, is where that hurts, but not dramatically so.  Shoring up the defense by moving Braun to the OF instantly makes many of our starters better.  A rotation of Gallardo/Suppan/Bush/Vargas/Capuano with Parra and Villanueva as #6 options isn't going to give us many shutouts, but who needs them?  Our lineup would look something like this:

  1. Weeks, 2B
  2. Hardy, SS
  3. Rodriguez, 3B
  4. Fielder, 1B
  5. Braun, LF
  6. Hart, RF
  7. Hall, CF
  8. New young catcher
  9. Pitcher
I suspect that team would set another franchise record for HRs.  By a lot.

Signing a marquee player doesn't leave us a lot of money to solve the bullpen problem, either, but that's another issue best solved internally, or via the waiver wire.  A group of D-Bow/Villy/Parra/Wise/Shouse plus a new RP via the Sheets trade wouldn't be great, but it's tempting to let Villy and Parra audition for the closer's role and make the other one the swing man/6th starter.

Why It Won't, and Shouldn't, Happen

I think it's pretty clever to work out a payroll scenario for 08 in which we can afford a $30-$35MM player.  However, Rodriguez isn't signing a one-year deal.  We'd be stuck paying $30MM+ for at least four more years, maybe more.  He'd probably be worth it for at least some of that time, but it would be a lot tougher to accommodate the salary.

As we all know, over the next few years, Fielder, Braun, Hart, Gallardo, etc. will all hit arbitration.  Hall's and Suppan's salaries will escalate.  Some of those problems can be solved by wheeling and dealing, Billy Beane-style, always trying to get younger and building around one or two key players, but I don't know how comfortable Melvin would be running a team like that, or if it's possible at all in our case.

Fun to think about, though, right?

Here's my payroll scenario that frees up the money for A-Rod:

CA: Salty/Clement, or something, $0.5
CA: Miller, or comparable, $2
1B: Fielder, $1M
2B: Weeks, $2M in arbitration
3B: left open for his Rod-ness
SS: Hardy, $2M in arbitration
LF: Braun, $0.5
CF: Hall, $4.8
RF: Hart, $0.5
MI: Counsell, $2.8
MI: Fungible backup dude, $0.5
OF: Gwynn, $0.5
OF: Gross, $0.5

Sum, sans Rod: $17.6

SP: Suppan, $8
SP: Capuano, $5 in arb
SP: Vargas, $3.5 in arb
SP: Bush, $2.5 in arb
SP: Gallardo, $0.5
RP: Turnbow, $3.2
RP: Wise, $1.5 in arb
RP: Shouse, $1.5 in arb
RP: Villanueva, $0.5
RP: Parra, $0.5
RP: Fungible MR, $0.5
RP: Fungible MR, $0.5

Sum: $27.7

The Rod-less payroll, then, is ~$46MM.  With Rodriguez, that puts us just under $80MM, probably, which is where I'm assuming we're headed this offseason.