When Francisco Rodriguez slammed the door on the Yankees in last night’s Subway Series opener, the Mets’ players on the field and fans in the stands celebrated joyously. The executives in the front office, however, probably weren’t as jubilant.
Thanks to a lucrative option in Rodriguez’ contract, every Mets’ game that concludes with Krod on the mound brings the team closer to a financial disaster. That’s why even a win against the hated Yankees comes with at least a tinge of regret from those who write the checks.
According to the option, if Rodriguez finishes 100 games over 2010 and 2011, a guaranteed salary of $17.5 million automatically vests for 2012. Because the closer polished off 46 games last year, the economic time bomb will be triggered when he finishes his 54th game this season. Last night was the 18th time the embattled closer was the last man standing for the Mets, meaning there are 36 games left to go. Tick, tick, tick.
Regardless of how well he is pitching, you can bet Sandy Alderson & Co. are not relishing the idea of a $17.5 million closer in 2012. One solution would be to place pressure on Terry Collins to limit Rodriguez’ use, but that would not only lead to a public relations nightmare, but also another expensive lawsuit. So, unless Rodriguez develops an injury, there really is no way for the Mets to avoid triggering the costly option. Or is there?
Krod currently has a limited 10-team no trade clause, so if the Mets could ship him to one of the other 19 teams, they’d be able to wash their hands of the option. Unfortunately for Alderson, teams probably won’t be lining up to add Rodriguez and his expensive 2012 poison pill. However, what if the Mets could find a team that wouldn’t need to use Krod as the closer, yet still being willing and able to pay him handsomely to serve as a setup man? The answer to that question is currently sitting right across the field.
Although the offense is by far the Yankees’ greatest concern at the moment (just ask Soriano; he’d be the first to tell you), the performance of Rafael Soriano has probably been a close second. The signing of the former Rays’ closer caused a rift within the organization when everyone expected he would pitch well setting up for Mariano Rivera, so you can imagine the dissension now that things haven’t gone according to plan. Because it seems unlikely that Soriano would exercise the opt out in his contract, the Yankees are staring at two more years of the grumpy reliever at a cost of $25 million. In many ways, the Soriano contract has become the Yankees’ very own ticking time bomb.
The Yankees and Mets are not frequent trading partners, but in this case, it seems as if each team has the answer to the other’s problem. Assuming the Yankees are not on Krod’s no-trade list, why not simply swap Soriano for Rodriguez?
At face value, the idea probably seems a little silly, but consider the financial ramifications. The cornerstone of the idea is a trade to the Yankees would effectively end any chance of Rodriguez reaching the 2012 option guarantee, thereby converting a $17.5 million salary into a $2.5 million buyout. The next step would then become determing how best to divide the savings.
Sharing the Savings: Financial Breakdown of a Proposed Deal
|Francisco Rodriguez||Rafael Soriano|
|Rafael Soriano||Francisco Rodriguez|
Note: 2011 figures are pro-rated salaries. The 2012 amount for Rodriguez in the proposed structure is a $2.5 million buyout.
Under the formula prescribed above, both the Yankees and Mets would come away with a net savings of $7.5 million if, in addition to swapping relievers, the Bronx Bombers sent $13.875 million to Flushing. What’s more, not only would both teams enjoy an equal financial reward, but they’d also have the potential to enjoy a net benefit on the field. The advantage for the Yankees would be acquiring a more effective and healthy reliever in 2011, while the Mets would have a closer under contract for an additional year while saving money in the process.
In a deal this complicated, there are some potential drawbacks. For the Yankees, they’d essentially be paying $25 million for four months of Francisco Rodriquez. So, if the team expects Soriano to rebound in the Bronx, it would make sense to forgo the $7.5 million savings and extract value from his right arm. Also, if Soriano does rebound, he might opt out, which would relieve the team from the financial burden of his final two contract years. In this proposed trade, that potential windfall would be shifted to the Mets.
For the Mets, one risk revolves around Krod’s health, or more aptly, a potential injury. After all, if the closer missed as little as one month, his chances of meeting the option threshold would be greatly reduced. Under such a scenario, the Mets would wind up taking on $8 million more in salary than if they had kept Rodriguez and simply had to buy him out in 2012. Another risk for the Mets could stem from Soriano’s attitude about being with the team. If he proved to have a caustic clubhouse presence amid what could potentially be trying times at CitiField, the financial savings might not be worth the headaches.
Finally, it should be noted that there are also two potential obstacles to the proposed deal. The most definitive is Rodriguez’ aforementioned no-trade clause. If the Yankees are on the 10-team list, the deal would be off. The second road block is Bud Selig. Because every trade involving a cash transfer of more than $1 million requires approval from the commissioner, Selig could veto this potential swap. Then again, $14 million is far from an unprecedented amount, and even if the sum was an issue, Selig might be willing to look the other way to help out the cash strapped Wilpons.