If Orioles had nerve, they'd bid for A-Rod

October 11, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

In case you haven't noticed, New York has soured on Alex Rodriguez, and I think it's probably fair to say that A-Rod isn't humming Frank Sinatra right now, either.

So, start spreading the news. A-Rod might be available, and there is a team near you that could use his services. The Orioles need a face-lift, and Rodriguez is the face that could lift this organization out of the decade-long funk that has alienated nearly half of its fan base.

If you think it's a nutty idea that could never happen, think again. The Yankees and their fans clearly are disappointed in Rodriguez and have become convinced that he's not a clutch player. The depth of that feeling was apparent in a recent Sports Illustrated profile in which even teammates went public with their feelings about A-Rod's lack of production in big situations and his focus on individual - rather than team - priorities. His 1-for-14 performance in the disastrous Division Series only cemented the widely held opinion that he will never be a great Yankee.

The Orioles are continually criticized for being reactive instead of proactive, but this is an opportunity to change that perception and change the direction of the organization in one dynamic stroke. They need to offer the Yankees what the Yankees need most, a young pitcher who can become one of the cornerstones of the starting rotation that eventually will replace the broken-down bunch that was overmatched by the young guns from Detroit last week.

This is going to hurt, but the Orioles need to present the Yankees with a package that features either Erik Bedard or Daniel Cabrera and hope that the desire in the Yankees front office to move A-Rod is so strong - despite general manager Brian Cashman's comments yesterday to the contrary - that it would be willing to accept one top-flight young pitcher and the $16 million per year he'll get back in available payroll.

Orioles officials love to talk about their budding pitching talent, largely because there isn't much else worth talking about right now, but one of the reasons you stockpile young pitching is so that you have it to deal when the time comes to make a critical trade. The acquisition of the best all-around player in the game - even if he isn't the best all-around postseason player in the game - is reason enough to make a major player development sacrifice and hope that the real Hayden Penn will stand up next spring.

Of course, this sort of thing would require bold action, which is not something that pops into your mind when you think about the Orioles' front office. Owner Peter Angelos would probably start having visions (with the help of his visionary underlings) of Bedard pitching in the World Series for the Yankees. He would weigh the possibility of making a trade with the rival Yankees that was not a 100 percent slam-dunk, one-sided deal in favor of the Orioles and shrug it off as he did all the disgruntled fans who rallied against him two weeks ago.

Bottom line: If you're scared, buy a dog.

Rodriguez is as close to a sure-thing, 140-RBI guy that there is in the game, and he no longer costs $25 million per year. The Yankees got the Texas Rangers to pick up a big chunk of what remained from the ridiculous $252 million contract A-Rod signed in 2000, so his salary is about what the Orioles would have to pay for Alfonso Soriano, except that A-Rod is only signed through 2010 and Soriano probably will get a six or seven-year deal.

A-Rod would drop into the Orioles lineup right behind Miguel Tejada, and he would fit into the defensive alignment either at shortstop or third base. Melvin Mora would have to agree to play either left field or first base, and the Orioles still would need to go into the free-agent market to sign one more productive hitter and, hopefully, an effective starting pitcher. It could all be done within the parameters of the $100 million to $110 million payroll that Angelos has projected for next year, and there still would be room to bolster the bullpen.

Isn't it great fun spending somebody else's money?

Rodriguez has been telling people he wants to stay in New York - and he has some control over whether he can be traded - but what else is he going to say while he's still on the Yankees roster? He acknowledged in the Sports Illustrated profile that he had a miserable summer, and it would be hard to imagine him looking forward to another, unless he's a total glutton for punishment.

The big question is whether the Yankees would trade with the Orioles, considering that it is every AL East team's goal to knock them off the top of the standings, but the distance between the two franchises is too great for the Yankees to consider the Orioles an imminent threat to their divisional dynasty.

That said, if A-Rod is made available for trade, there might be more attractive teams outside the division (the Los Angeles Angels, for one) that can offer similar talent.

No one said it would be easy.

With the Orioles, it never is.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com.

The Peter Schmuck Show airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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