It's the offseason, and that means inevitable rumors about Alex Rodriguez. With his relationship with the New York Yankees deteriorating following their postseason collapse, A-Rod could be on his way out of New York, and Philadelphia media and some fans are salivating at the prospect of the slugger trading black pinstripes for red.
There's no doubt A-Rod is an intriguing player. He's a three-time MVP who has hit 647 career home runs, has a career OPS of .945, he won a World Series against the
Phillies and not too long ago, he was generally considered the best player in the game.
Mitch Williams told the Metro in a recent interview that he's all for such a move, though he also for some reason wants the Phils to pursue marginal Minnesota Twins castoff Danny Valencia to play third. Meanwhile, a roundtable on CSN Philly last week was nearly unanimous that an A-Rod deal is something the Phils ought to go for.
They shouldn't go for it. They shouldn't even think about going for it.
No, I'm not saying this because Rodriguez is too controversial, because he allegedly flirted with women during a game, because he's a "clubhouse cancer," because he's "not clutch," or because of his steroid history. I couldn't care less about any of that stuff, nor do I have anything against the guy personally.
But there are three good reasons for the Phillies to not trade for Alex Rodriguez: He turns 38 next year, he looked at times in 2012 like he was just about done, and- worst of all- he's signed for five more years. The Phillies already have too many key players who are over 30, past their prime and owed a lot of money over many more years.
Most of the scenarios for an A-Rod trade have the Yankees agreeing to pick up some substantial portion of the $134 million remaining on his contract. But the Steinbrenners picked up the tab for, say, two thirds of that- and why would they?- the Phils would still owe $40 million or so, which is $8 million per year. For A-Rod's age 38-43 seasons.
But it's not the money that's the biggest problem- it's the years. A trade for A-Rod, even if the Yankees picked up the bulk of the tab, would require a five-year commitment to a player who's 38 and declining. The Phillies have an old-enough roster as it is; Rodriguez, even at the beginning of the five years, would be their oldest regular.
ESPN's Buster Olney said last month that, according to GMs he interviewed, if Rodriguez were a free agent this offseason he'd be looking at a one-year deal for $5 million. If that's the case, the Phils would be nuts to commit to five years and $40 million or more.
Another idea I heard was a "swap of bad contracts" of A-Rod for Ryan Howard. The problem with that, for the Phils? Rodriguez has more money left on his deal than Howard does, and is also almost five years older. And if he ever needs to DH, he wouldn't be able to in Philadelphia.
The past few years of Phillies transactions under Ruben Amaro have very much given fans the expectation that the team can and will go out and get the best player available, or at least the one with the biggest name. That strategy led to some good teams and good times, but if the 2012 season showed us anything, it's that putting a team together that way has its pitfalls- namely, ending up with a roster-full of big-name, expensive players whose best years are in the past.
What to do at third then? A trade for San Diego's Chase Headley is unlikely, but it's still worth a phone call. Free agent Kevin Youkilis is also in his 30s with an injury history, but he'd require less of a time or money commitment than Rodriguez.
What the team needs for the future is some new faces and some youth- and certainly not a 38-year-old who's signed for five more years.
Stephen Silver is a Philadelphia-based journalist on sports, politics, technology and culture. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.