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Jon Heyman
July 30, 2007
On the Money
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July 30, 2007

Baseball

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On the Money

A-Rod's monster season couldn't have come at a better time, as he positions himself for another jaw-dropping deal

WHEN ALEX RODRIGUEZ signed a record $252 million contract with the Rangers seven years ago, it was hard to imagine who would ever become baseball's second quarter-billion-dollar man. Now it seems that it could be A-Rod again. � With major-league-leading totals of 34 home runs and 99 RBIs, plus a .313 average, through Sunday, he has reinforced his position as baseball's best player while possessing the ultimate contract provision: the right to opt out of his deal (he'll have three years remaining) and become a free agent after the season. At a time when baseball is flush with cash, insiders are speculating that Rodriguez, who after three seasons in Texas was traded to the Yankees in early 2004, might get a new contract that matches or even exceeds the value of the one he has now.

"I assume he's going to want to beat the 252," one American League general manager says. Another G.M. predicts that the two-time MVP's agent, Scott Boras, will set $300 million as a target (possibly $30 million a year for 10 years), but this club exec insists that he wouldn't pay that much. Rodriguez, who turns 32 on Friday, can make a case for another 10-year contract considering he hasn't been on the disabled list since July 2000 and will have topped 45 home runs in five of the last seven seasons if he hits 12 more this year.

Also, baseball's financial health is much improved since A-Rod signed with the Rangers. Total major league revenue jumped from $3 billion in 2000 to $5.2 billion last season. Last winter, outfielder Alfonso Soriano, who had just come into his own when New York shipped him to Texas in the deal for A-Rod, got an eight-year, $136 million free-agent contract from the Cubs, and lefthander Barry Zito ( Giants) and outfielder Carlos Lee ( Astros), two players not close to being in Rodriguez's class, also got nine-figure packages. Due to be paid $27 million a year in 2008, '09 and '10, Rodriguez should be able to beat that annual salary given that the Yankees have already indicated they would upgrade his contract if he stayed.

Another reason to lock up A-Rod to a long-term deal: With 498 career home runs, he could become the next home run king in seven or eight years—a marketing bonanza for the team that has him. Perhaps the prospect of Rodriguez's achieving that feat, combined with his excellent physical condition, will give Boras leverage to make another 10-year deal.

For now, agent and All-Star aren't commenting on their intentions except to rebuff the Yanks' attempt to negotiate during the season. Here's a rundown on the teams that could have a shot at signing A-Rod after the season:

1. Yankees.
They, of course, have the financial wherewithal to keep their marquee third baseman, and New York has the added advantage of not having to pay $29 million of Rodriguez's salary over the next three years. (Under terms of the trade with the Yankees, Texas owner Tom Hicks was to pay $67 million of the $179 million due A-Rod over the final seven years of the contract if the player did not opt out of the deal in any of the last three years.) What's more, the new Yankee Stadium, due to open in 2009, is expected to boost revenues. Friends say Rodriguez loves playing in the spotlight of New York, although his wife, Cynthia, is said to be less enamored by it. Odds to stay: Even.

2. Angels.
Owner Arte Moreno has been aching to make a "major" move since promising he would last winter. While he's told people that he is hesitant to pay $30 million a year to anyone, he is a self-proclaimed fan of A-Rod, who has a lifetime .329 average and .658 slugging percentage at Angel Stadium. Odds to go: 5--1

3. Red Sox.
Rodriguez was willing to restructure his contract and reduce his price by $13 million to go to Boston when Texas was shopping him four years ago. But since that deal fell through, hard feelings have developed between the superstar and some of the Red Sox players. Rodriguez has bickered with pitcher Curt Schilling, got into a shoving match with catcher Jason Varitek and heard the catcalls of the Fenway faithful. Odds to go: 8--1

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