The Small Market Problem with the A-Rod Suspension

Moral issues aside, every single small to mid market baseball team should have a major problem with Alex Rodriguez getting suspended without pay for 2014. Without any real form of salary cap, teams like the Indians and Rays have created a different style of roster creation that is even more frugal than Moneyball, but moves like this suspension threaten even that. With the extreme disparity in money between the top and the bottom, those teams without it have been forced into a situation where they have to trade their superstars before they reach the end of team control (like Asdrubal Cabrera and David Price), sign young players long term while there are still huge risks (like Grady Sizemore and Evan Longoria) and sign reclamation projects as free agents, in a hope they will turn things around like Ryan Raburn and Scott Kazmir.

Using these strategies, the Indians, Royals, Rays and others have been able to compete for the play-offs, despite spending almost half of what the division leaders do on team salary. The Indians have done so twice in the past ten years, despite the fact that they haven't spent more than $90M in a single season since 2001. Players like Rodriguez, and more recently Robinson Cano, are completely out of thought as their total contract equals that of the Indians entire roster for three seasons and their yearly amount would add another third to the team's yearly liabilities. These small market teams have accepted this situation and moved their emphasis down with the Indians getting excited about signing Nick Swisher and the Twins bringing in players like Phil Hughes. These players are available for the price they are mostly because teams like the Yankees and Red Sox are concentrating on bigger things.

The reason small market teams are still able to survive at all in this unbalanced environment is that the large market teams don't have an infinite amount of money and these huge deals are incredibly risky. For every C.C. Sabathia, who actually earns his paycheck without getting injured, there are ten Randy Johnsons. When these massive contracts fail, like what happened on a whole new level with the Yankees in 2013, large market teams are forced to waste hundreds of millions of dollars while still trying to still field a post-season quality roster. Essentially, what this means is that if Billy Beane or Mark Shapiro were running the Yankees, they may actually achieve their goal of winning a World Series every season by combining their ability to sign whatever player they want with the knowledge of the correct players to sign.

Things like the A-Rod suspension (and the Red Sox/Dodgers trade of 2013) allow large market teams to remove the risk of the long term deal. When the Rangers signed Rodriguez, they should have seen the risk, known the rest of the team wasn't play-off ready, and stayed away. Instead, they irresponsibly gave him the largest contract in baseball history. The Yankees saved Texas with the trade of Alfonso Soriano, then made the exact same mistake the Rangers made by giving Rodriguez another ten year deal. Now, the Yankees are the happiest people in the world that their three time MVP, 10 time Silver Slugger and 14 time All-Star isn't allowed to play in 2014.

Even without any suspensions, Rodriguez hasn't played in 150 games since before he signed his latest ten year deal in 2007. That was also the last time the perennial 50 home run hitter did so. In that 2007 season, when he won MVP, A-Rod knocked in 158 runs. He hasn't matched that in the past three seasons total. The fact is, Alex Rodriguez isn't good enough to be a Yankee anymore. Of course, at 38 years old, past the time the average player retires, this shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. This is the punishment of the Yankees for artificially inflating all salaries in baseball. If they want to outspend every one and raise the average salary to ridiculous levels, they will have to pay Alex Rodriguez $60M after he turns 40.

Except that now, they don't have to. By suspending A-Rod without pay for 2014, Major League baseball is essentially giving the Yankees their $24M back. While they were already in the running for Masahiro Tanaka, an extra $24M could allow them to also sign Matt Garza, especially if they can weasel their way out of the $85M still owed Rodriguez. If they do sign both pitchers, it will not only possibly buy them a play-off birth they don't deserve in 2014, but it will raise the amount it will take to sign Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez and will keep one more team from signing a quality starter. This whole situation is reminiscent of a decade ago when the Yankees signed every player in the league. Don't let the Yankees sign every player in the league, Mr. Selig. Make them give A-Rods remaining salary to charity. A great one would be the small-market baseball teams of America, they've all been trying to buy a new starter, but can't afford it.

Joseph Coblitz

About Joseph Coblitz

Joseph is the primary writer and editor of BurningRiverBaseball.com and has been since it's inception in 2011. He is a graduate of the University of Akron and currently resides in Goodyear, Arizona the Spring Training home of the Cleveland Indians.

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