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$350 million man

By Josh Geller

Section: Sports

November 16, 2007

As we enter the 2007 off-season for Major League Baseball, we are confronted with many questions. But perhaps none has more economic implications than Alex Rodriguez and his agent Scott Boras quest for a 350 million dollar contract. During the final game of the World Series, Boras announced that Rodriguez would opt out of his historic 250 million dollar contract with the New York Yankees to seek a new deal. It was later reported that Boras demanded an offer of 350 million from the Yankees in order to get Rodriguez to the table before opting out. With several teams rumored to be interested in Rodriguez, namely the Dodgers, Giants, Mets, Red Sox, and Angels, it is possible a bidding war could result in the epic contract. But can it actually happen?

First, is A-Rod worth 350 million dollars? To the right team, that answer may indeed be yes. For the sake of argument, lets assume the 350 million dollar deal would be 35 million a year for ten years. Right now, Rodriguez is 32 years old, coming off of a season where he hit .314 with 54 HR and 156 RBI, the second highest total of RBI this decade. Rodriguez is also a tremendous defensive fielder at third base and shortstop, two positions normally without great hitting and defensive skills combined. It is not unrealistic to assume that he will continue to average 40 or more home runs and a .300 average over the next five years. That combined with great defense makes for a player who may indeed be worth 35 million dollars a year.

But what about the following five years? It is unlikely he will remain this great a ballplayer into his very late 30s and early 40s. However, there is the home run record. If Rodriguez can average 40 HR a year for the next five years, hell find himself with 718 career home runs heading into the 2013 season, the sixth year of his future contract. That should put him in clear sight of Barry Bonds home run record. And as we learned from Bonds this year, home run records, no matter how controversial, make money.

Last off-season, Bonds signed a one year, 15.8 million dollar deal, to remain with the Giants. Coming off of a sub par season preceded by an injury plagued season, nobody could argue that he was worth 15.8 million dollars due to his ability to help the team win games.

He was paid that money because he was at 734 home runs, just 21 short of Hank Aarons record. Bonds did not have to produce to make the Giants money;

he only had to break the record. San Francisco won just 71 games last year, the teams third straight losing season. The Giants record contract pitcher, Barry Zito, was a massive disappointment. Yet they were seventh in the MLB in home attendance and fifth in road attendance. Why were they attracting so many fans? Because Bonds was chasing the home run record. Fans come to games to watch the home runs, and they buy concessions and merchandise, which makes piles of money for teams. On the field, Bonds may have earned the Giants a lot of money with that home run record.

Which brings us back to Alex Rodriguez. Once he hits his 700th homer, his team is going to be raking in the money. People will come to the games to see him as he approaches the record. Once hes within ten homers of Bonds record, his team will have sellouts every night, regardless of if it is winning games.

If Rodriquez is still an elite MVP-type player at this point, winning games and World Series rings, thats just a perk. Once Rodriguez passes Bonds, people will still come to see the home run champion play, to see the legend in action. And if Rodriguez can stay with the team he signs with this off-season for the entirety of a ten year contract, that team will be his most tenured and he will likely go into the Hall of Fame wearing that teams cap, allowing that team to forever be associated with Alex the Great.

So when you read about who Rodriguez is rumored to be signing with, remember this important fact. They are not bidding for a superstar. They are not bidding for a great fielder or great hitter. They are not bidding for a winner. They are bidding for the home run record. Rodriguez almost certainly wont be worth 350 million for his talent and his skills. But when you factor in his marketability and that home run record, hes worth it, and could end up being worth far more.

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