Back in the early 2000s, one of the greatest baseball players in the world was Alex Rodriguez. Having been a first-round pick, A-Rod quickly rocketed to the majors and was carving out quite the name for himself. After establishing himself in Seattle, A-Rod signed an MLB record contract, $252 million for 10 years, to join the last place Texas Rangers. Despite three monster seasons from A-Rod, the Rangers continued to struggle, and under the leadership of a new GM made the decision to trade their star.
Finding a Trade Partner
In 2003, with A-Rod looking to join a playoff caliber roster, in came Theo Epstein and the Boston Red Sox. At the time, the Red Sox were a perennial contender and had come painfully close from reaching the World Series, until Aaron Boone broke the hearts of the New England faithful. With a roster led by David Ortiz and Pedro Martinez, the Red Sox felt that the disgruntled shortstop was their missing piece.
The first step to finding a match centered around A-Rod’s contract. Rodriguez still had $179 million left and Epstein knew the Red Sox would be unable to take on the full contract. After a brief negotiation, A-Rod agreed to lower his yearly pay by $4 million but gained the opportunity to opt out of his contract after the end of every season starting in 2005. Meanwhile, the Rangers would gain Manny Ramirez and 19-year-old Jon Lester. The only issue left for the Red Sox was to figure out what to do with their current shortstop, Nomar Garciaparra.
At the time, Nomar was the face of the Red Sox, and considered one of the top three shortstops in the game. Having won Rookie of the Year in 1997, Nomar was a frequent face at All Star games, and had just turned in a season that ended with 28 homeruns and a .301 batting average. But despite his status as a fan favorite, Epstein knew A-Rod was too special of a talent to pass. As part of the trade, the Red Sox would send Nomar and a reliever to the White Sox for All-Star Magglio Ordonez and a young Brandon McCarthy. As the teams finalized their offers, it was all but certain that A-Rod would be headed to Boston.
Deal or No Deal
While the teams and Rodriguez agreed to the deal, they had overlooked one important player, The MLB Players Association. Due to the financial changes in A-Rod’s contract, the MLBPA had concerns over the contract’s structure. Afraid that it would lead to future situations where teams would try to find ways to circumvent paying players, the union decided to reject the deal. With Red Sox ownership balking at the idea of adding the full salary, trade talks eventually died, and it appeared A-Rod would enter the 2004 season in Texas.
An Opportunity Rises
On January 16, 2004, Brian Cashman received the terrible news that his starting third baseman, Aaron Boone, suffered a knee injury. The man who helped propel the Yankees to the American League pennant would be lost for the year with a torn ACL. Like most MLB teams, the Yankees do not allow their players to play basketball and Aaron Boone was released from his contract. Left with only Miguel Cairo and Enrique Wilson, the Yankees suddenly had a pressing need at third.
Six days later, Cashman found himself next to A-Rod at the annual baseball writers’ dinner in New York. The evening started off innocently enough with the two talking about family, but eventually the conversation switched to baseball. As A-Rod discussed the breakdown with Boston, the wheels started turning for Cashman. Knowing the Yankees had Jeter at short, A-Rod agreed to move to third. All that was left was for the Yankees to make the deal with Texas.
The Winner of the Deal
The first name the two teams agreed upon was Yankee slugger Alfonso Soriano. At the time, Soriano had made consecutive All-Star games but was entering his arbitration eligible years and headed for a raise. Next, to help offset A-Rod’s contract, Texas agreed to send the Yankees over $60 million. While the two sides struggled to find a suitable minor leaguer, the two sides agreed to work out that detail later. With the framework in place, the Yankees had shocked the world and acquired one of baseball’s superstars.
The trade proved to be a disaster for Texas. While they did free up some of the money on A-Rod’s contract, Soriano would only stay for two seasons. For the player to be named later, the teams eventually agreed to a list of players for Texas to choose from. The Rangers wanting to improve their middle infield and settled on Joaquin Arias. Unfortunately, he never panned out in the Majors. Meanwhile, their second choice was Robinson Cano. While A-Rod’s time in New York wasn’t without controversy, the Yankees added one of the game’s most dynamic players. A-Rod would go on to win two more MVP awards and helped lead the team to a World Series in 2009. It is safe to say, the Yankees won this trade.