Let's see if this passes the logic test. Joe Torre wins four World Series with the New York Yankees, guides them into the postseason every year, and when it comes time to talk contract the team offers him a pay cut. Alex Rodriguez never has made it to the World Series, gags in the postseason, and when it comes time to talk contract the Yanks offer him a raise.
Torre's availability on the open market lasts about three seconds. A-Rod's availability lingers as his agent, Scott Boras, tries in vain to find suitors willing to part with $350 million for the player who opted out of his $250 million deal. When there are no takers, A-Rod sidesteps his agent and resumes negotiations with the Yanks on his own.
Despite the lack of market activity, the Yanks still offer to boost A-Rod's salary up through the hole in the ozone layer. The pace of talks slows as the two sides discuss pressing matters, like bonus money. Rodriguez just pocketed $1 million for winning his third American League MVP award. Which makes one wonder: Wasn't A-Rod being paid $25 million a season because of the expectation he should contend for MVP?
What exactly are the Yankees doing this offseason? Granted, Jorge Posada's coming off a career year at the plate and did wonderful work handling a patchwork starting rotation. But did his performance warrant a four-year deal worth $52.4 million? How keen would the competition have been for a 36-year-old catcher had the Yanks bided their time, and how effective will Posada be at the game's most physically demanding position during the last two years of that deal?
The same goes for Mariano Rivera. Mo's last few seasons have been sketchy. The cutter that immobilized hitters during the Yanks' dynastic run oscillates in and out of effectiveness. A three-year extension averaging $15 million a season reinstates Rivera as the game's highest-paid closer a month before his 38th birthday. How reasonable is it to expect he'll reside among the game's elite relievers through age 40?
The length of these contracts mystifies and raises the question: Is this what's best for the Yankees or what's best for A-Rod?
"I think Mariano is obviously someone that we can't live without," Rodriguez said when the Rivera deal took form. "He's one of a kind and he's so unique in what he does for us. He's such an unbelievable force in our clubhouse. In many ways, he's the voice for a lot of people in there and he means so much -- more so than what he just does on the field. He's very, very special."
The game's highest-paid player's stature in the Yankee clubhouse has ranked no better than second to Derek Jeter's. The two don't get along particularly well, and A-Rod said that admitting as much during spring training eased his mind and set the stage for his monster regular season.
The way this is playing out hints at manipulation. First, A-Rod opts out of his contract with the Yanks. Then he expresses an interest in returning, but only after the Yanks move quickly to re-sign Rivera and Posada, thereby maintaining A-Rod's clubhouse comfort zone. The Yanks likely would have retained both players anyway, but the terms of the deals suggest an underlying sense of urgency, perhaps born of an effort to accommodate. It's Jeter's clubhouse no more.
The re-signing of third baseman Mike Lowell, the World Series MVP at 33, suggests the Boston Red Sox have laid the groundwork for future success. The contracts awarded Posada and Rivera show the New York Yankees can't let go of their past.