02/16/2004 10:15 PM ET
A-Rod-for-Soriano trade completed
By Jesse Sanchez / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- The search for a new Rangers captain has officially started.
Alex Rodriguez has agreed to give up his captain status, his position on the field and his home in Dallas for life in the big city and the chance to play his home games wearing pinstripes in The House that Ruth Built.
Rodriguez, the 28-year-old reigning American League MVP, is the new third baseman for the New York Yankees, as he has been traded for 26-year-old second baseman Alfonso Soriano.
"This was not a snap decision," Rangers general manager John Hart said. "As we all looked at the era over the last several years in baseball where this franchise is and where it is capable of going and how quickly it can get there, this is a trade that can provide us with an opportunity a lot quicker."
The deal between the two clubs, agreed upon in principle Saturday and finalized Sunday, became official Monday with the approval of Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. The trade will also net the Rangers a player to be named later and more than $100 million in savings over the lifetime of Rodriguez's contract.
"Alex didn't do anything other than go play his heart out. He is a very special player and very special kid," Hart said. "But we are getting back a special kid and a special player. He is an exceptional player with a lot of different type of skills. He is certainly not Alex Rodriguez, make no mistake about that, but he is a good player who will fit in with our mix as we go forward."
It is the Rangers' boldest move since signing Rodriguez to a historic 10-year, $252 million contract before the 2001 season. In essence, the trade gives the club the ability to build for the future at a more rapid pace. The club had a different plan when it originally signed the shortstop.
"We thought we could build a championship-caliber team with Alex," Rangers owner Tom Hicks said. "In this market, a great market for pro sports, if we win, the Texas Rangers will have over 3 million in attendance and that's our goal. We tried everything we could to win. We brought in some expensive players, but for a lot of reasons it didn't work. It's not Alex's fault we finished last the three years he was here."
The Yankees will pay $112 million of Rodriguez's remaining salary and the Rangers will pay $43 million of it. Texas also is negotiating to pay the deferred money owed to Rodriguez, $27 million, at a later date with a lower interest rate. The financial gain for the Rangers is approximately $120 million, and the club is expected to use much of it to acquire pitching.
"I personally did not think it was going to materialize because the money was not right, but the Yankees started getting the money right late Wednesday night and Thursday morning," Hicks said. "At that point, I began to take it very seriously and it was a very difficult decision for me to make for all the obvious reasons.
"I called [assistant general manager Grady Fuson] and John [Hart] and asked them if we could win a championship faster by doing the deal or not doing the deal. Both of their opinions were that we could win a championship faster by doing the deal."
But before the deal was approved, the financial terms drew attention in the Commissioner's office.
"I am very concerned about the large amount of cash consideration involved in the transaction, and the length of time over which the cash is being paid," Selig said in a statement released Monday. "I want to make it abundantly clear to all clubs that I will not allow cash transfers of this magnitude to become the norm.
"However, given the unique circumstances, including the size, length and complexity of Mr. Rodriguez's contract and the quality of the talent moving in both directions, I have decided to approve the transaction."
Soriano, who remains under club control through the 2006 season, hit .290 with 38 home runs and 91 RBIs and stole 35 bases for the Yankees last season. In 2002, he hit .300 with 39 home runs and 102 RBIs and stole 41 bases. He finished third in American League MVP voting behind Oakland's Miguel Tejada and Rodriguez.
He could play second base, moving current second baseman Michael Young to shortstop, or he could play center field. That would send young center fielder Laynce Nix to left field and veteran second baseman Eric Young back to the infield. It is unclear where Soriano will bat, but he had been the Yankees' primary leadoff hitter during the past two seasons.
Leading up to the trade, New York officials had been in closed-door meetings at Yankee Stadium last week looking to fill the void at third base created when Aaron Boone tore his ACL in a pickup basketball game. Before acquiring Rodriguez, the Yankees looked at several players to take over at third base and traded for former Rangers infielder Mike Lamb.
Hart said that's when Yankees GM Brian Cashman initially brought up the topic of a possible trade.
"When we saw Aaron Boone go down -- obviously none of us at the time knew the severity of it -- it went through a lot of people's minds that the Yankees were in the market for a third baseman," Hart said. "When I called Brian about Mike Lamb, he kind of tongue-in-cheek brought up Alex and I said, 'I don't think it is something we would consider,' so we made the deal for Mike Lamb."
The two eventually negotiated the deal with Hicks acting as the silent partner.
As for Rodriguez, he left a notable mark, however brief, on the Lone Star State.
In three seasons with the Rangers, he hit .305 with 156 home runs and 395 RBIs. He won the first of his two consecutive Gold Gloves after the 2002 season, but the club finished last in the division each year during his tenure.
Rodriguez has hit 344 of his 345 career home runs at shortstop and is one home run shy of Cal Ripken's all-time record for home runs by a shortstop.
That record appears safe for now. Rodriguez has agreed to change positions, allowing his friend and one-time competitor, Derek Jeter, the Yankees' captain, to remain at short.
The Rangers-Yankees deal comes after a winter filled with talks regarding an A-Rod-for-Manny Ramirez deal with the Red Sox that eventually fell through when the MLB Players Association did not approve it and the owners from the respective clubs could not come to an agreement.
Although the Red Sox-Rangers talks were played out in the media, the Yankees and Rangers tried to keep their conversations, which reportedly started last week, quiet.
Rodriguez was named the Rangers' captain after a five-hour meeting with manager Buck Showalter, Hart and Hicks last month. Rodriguez addressed the crowd at the club's Mid-Winter Banquet last week as the team's captain and said he liked the direction the club was taking.
"I don't regret one thing I said. Things changed," Hicks said. "A basketball game happened and a guy got injured. The second team that Alex would consider made us an offer that we found attractive and that's all that changed. What we said at the time is what we believed the direction we were going and I don't regret any of that."
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
|Alfonso Soriano hit .290 with 38 homers and 91 RBIs and stole 35 bases for the Yankees last season. (Al Behrman/AP)