A-Rod such A-Deal?

Feb. 18, 2004, midnight | By Kent Anderson | 20 years, 3 months ago

OK, the deal has been made. George Steinbrenner and Alex Rodriguez are both happy. Yankee and Red Sox fans are both crying, but for different reasons. So what do the Yankees decide to do with their new prize, the best shortstop on the planet and arguably the best player in the Majors? Move him to third? What?

Nevermind that the Yankees have once again asserted financial ability that teams like the Devil Rays and the A's could only dream of, and have bought themselves what is shaping up to be one of the best offenses of all time. Nevermind that New York is once again pushing the fiscal envelope, boasting four out of the seven players in the MLB with salaries over $100 million, not to mention a payroll six times that of some teams. Nevermind that they are now officially the Evil Empire. There are two parts about this deal that are potentially deadly to the Yankees, two parts that should cheer Boston fans up slightly.

First, the move. Being faithful to the Yankees means being faithful to Derek Jeter, and everyone who knows Joe Torre knows that he will not move his captain from shortstop. Anyone can also see the powder keg that this situation is delivering to Yankee Stadium's doorstep.

A-Rod has won two Gold Gloves in the past two years. That's two more than Jeter. A-Rod has improved at shortstop every season he has been in the Majors and he has turned himself into the total package, hands down the best shortstop in the league, arguably one of the best ever. Jeter has gone from an average defensive shortstop to one that is slightly below average, whether because of injuries, apathy or just lack of ability. There is absolutely no reason why A-Rod should be the one moving.

Instead of allowing the American League's best defensive shortstop for the past two years to shine at his natural position they are forcing him into one that he has played for one inning in the big leagues. They are allowing Jeter, who committed just as many errors last year as he did the year before, but in 38 fewer games, to play at a position he does not deserve.

Of course Rodriguez is talented enough to make the transition, but not without growing pains. Why opt for the combination of an average shortstop, at-best, and a third baseman who will struggle to be average his first year?

Don't think that this won't be a huge problem throughout the year. New York is volatile, and this quarterback controversy will take on epic proportions. The last thing the Yankees' clubhouse needed was another position battle. They already have Bernie Williams and Kenny Lofton battling it out for center and, on top of that, they have added a whole bunch of personality problems in Lofton, Kevin Brown and Gary Sheffield. What is now a peaceful agreement will quickly turn into a heated battle, most likely between Torre, who will side with Jeter, and Steinbrenner, who will side with talent, and for once, common sense. If this happens, expect Torre, who is already in hot water with the Boss for having the audacity to not win a World Series in three seasons, to have trouble keeping his job.

Second, was this trade such a good deal for the Yankees in the first place? They gave up Alfonso Soriano, who was their best young player. A-Rod is, hands down, the most talented player in the MLB, but never before has trading a potential 40-40 player been such an afterthought, especially one that is only 26 and has the highest ceiling in your organization. Offensively Rodriguez's and Soriano's numbers are comparable, there wasn't any sizable upgrade there. The Yankees did get the best defensive shortstop in the AL, but they aren't playing him there, so no real upgrade there either. Most likely, either A-Rod or Jeter will leave the organization after a few seasons, and the Yankees just gave away their only other legitimate franchise player. This trade was not as big of a steal as it appears to be at first glance.

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