"It’s disappointing. It would have been a lot of fun to give it a crack," Alex Rodriguez said of his chase to become only the fourth Major Leaguer in history to hit 700 career round trippers, shortly after the Yankees released him in August of 2016. "I think I could have done it. But there’s no shame in falling 18 home runs short of Babe Ruth.”
A-Rod, now 41, may no longer have a future as a player in New York (where he will be an instructor in spring training), but staring down the barrel of something only previously achieved by The Bambino, Hank Aaron, and Barry Bonds must have some draw for him. And yes, he hasn’t technically retired yet, which leaves many to question what his next steps will be after serving as a spring training instructor for his old ball-club this spring.
Whether any team would want to give him that chance however, is another question. Fresh off a year in which his OPS was a decidedly sub-par .558 (his worst since his brief “cup of coffee” appearance at age 18 with the Seattle Mariners all the way back in 1994), its questionable how much one of the greatest hitters of all time has left to offer.
So perhaps its pure fantasy in either direction to think Rodriguez will ever play again, but like any good fantasy, its sure fun to explore. NL clubs are off limits, of course, as A-Rod has played a total of 18 innings in the field in the last two years (except for one possible exception, see below). That leaves 14 non-Yankee AL clubs to pin his hopes on, so with that in mind… here are the 8 Teams That Might Want Alex Rodriguez And 7 That Will Stay Away
15 Want: Kansas City Royals
Despite the tragic loss of bright young arm Yordano Ventura, there is still some reason to think that the Kansas City Royals might rebound and put it all together in 2017. Danny Duffy seems to have emerged as a bona fide ace and Travis Wood is an intriguing recent signing, the bullpen should remain top tier despite trading closer Wade Davis, and their core lineup plays supremely well together, with Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer all capable of bounce back seasons from health issues. The latter three, along with shortstop Alcides Escobar, are in their walk year, which lends a now or never tone going into the season.
This version of the Royals have always relied on a mid-order veteran presence with some power from the DH spot, and they indeed signed Brandon Moss in the off-season to take on that roll. The left hander smacked 25 home runs in just 301 at bats against right-handers last season, and is perfect in a platoon role. A-Rod would fit that bill nicely, if he returned to his 30 homer power of 2015. That’s a big if though, and the Royals being in contention at all is a big if too. Unless they start 2017 with a major win streak, we expect the cash strapped club will be unloading its vets for prospects as we enter the summer.
14 Stay Away: Minnesota Twins
If the Twins wanted another high strike-out/low OBP slugger to place in the middle of its line-up alongside Miguel Sanó, logic seems to suggest they wouldn’t have designated Byung Ho Park for assignment to the AAA Rochester Red Wings. It could be argued however that adding Alex Rodriguez would be more than what he brings at the plate, a high value move to a rebuilding team trying to mentor young guns like Sanó and Byron Buxton, as well as Park when he gets called back up to the bigs.
The bigger issue we see is that Rodriguez himself wouldn’t be drawn back to play with a sure cellar dweller like Minnesota at the end of his career. There is perhaps no team with a brighter future in the Central than the Twins, but there are simply not enough current weapons to point at to see them catching the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians, even if both squads have off seasons.
13 Want: Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays replaced Edwin Encarnación with Kendrys Morales this off-season to fill the role of designated hitter. The latter is coming off his first thirty home run season since 2009, and as the Rogers Centre would be the first hitter friendly park of the 33 year old’s solid veteran career, hopes are high of a repeat.
If Morales starts slow however, like the .591 OPS he stumbled out of the gates with for the first two months of play last season, the 2015 and 2016 AL pennant runner-ups will have a trigger happy fanbase on its hands. Inserting A-Rod into a lineup with Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, and Troy Tulowitzki might not exactly provide righty/lefty balance, but certainly would give him an opportunity to see pitches he could drive. It would also be enticing for the veteran as well, with the ballpark serving as a welcoming place to help him surpass Babe Ruth for third all-time on the career home run list.
12 Stay Away: Detroit Tigers
With Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and J.D. Martinez clogging the base paths already, the last thing the Detroit Tigers need is another aging slugger to compliment the trio (and slightly more fleet of foot Justin Upton.) V-Mart and Miggy are also big problems respectively as they get most of the innings at the two places A-Rod would conceivably play, at DH and 1B. That said, Detroit is absolutely a contender and there could be a big injury that opens up some playing time, but with a practically barren farm system one has to think if things go south they will look to rebuild. J.D. Martinez will be a free agent after the season and therefore prime trade bait, and even if an aging Victor Martinez does regress, the obvious fit for the line-up would be a lefty bat with good base running and strong on base percentage, none of which Rodriguez provides.
11 Want: Chicago White Sox
While the Chicago White Sox seemingly fall into the Minnesota Twins category of being deep into rebuilding mode rather than having any chance of contending in 2017, there are crucial differences between the squads. For one, the team plays in the major market of Chi-Town, where the pressure is always stronger to compete for the World Series. Additionally, they begin spring with a bona-fide ace in Jose Quintana, two potential All-Star sluggers fortifying the middle of their line-up with Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier, and a top-three farm system that could have big league talent contributing in significant ways before the end of the summer.
We’re not saying adding Alex Rodriguez to be a third slow-footed big-swinger in the middle of the batting order is the wisest line-up move, we’re just saying that we could see it being popular enough and low-risk enough of an idea to conceivably happen, giving fans something to cheer about to distract them from all the losing they are probably about to see. Combined with his mentorship skills of young talent, it might make just enough sense for the White Sox to pull the trigger.
10 Stay Away: Cleveland Indians
Carlos Santana and Edwin Encarnación are entrenched in the middle of the Cleveland Indians’ order as 1B/DH types on a team that many are predicting to be the odds-on favorites to return to the World Series out of the American League in 2017. And while that would be the simplest reason that Alex Rodriguez won’t be added to the Cleveland Indians roster this summer, there is something else worth mentioning. A-Rod may be finally gaining a reputation as a team guy late in his career but he has long been seen as a possible wrench in a club’s chemistry, most notably his on-going feud with Derek Jeter throughout his time with the Yankees. The Indians showcased a unit that seemingly loved to play together and played above expectations in last year’s post-season. They won’t mess with a good thing.
9 Want: Oakland Athletics
If there’s one thing you can expect from the Oakland Athletics in the “moneyball”, Billy-Beane-led era, its exploiting a market deficiency to give a team with little perceived hopes of contention an unexpected boost. This year, they seem to be exploiting the recent devaluing of the stolen base with the signing of 2016 AL leader Rajai Davis to man center field, and exploiting the lefty/righty shift at key positions by adding platoon specialist Matt Joyce. Its that latter aspect, along with the Coliseum’s long held reputation for being a free wheeling, anything goes atmosphere, that could provide Alex Rodriguez space to thrive. With projected starting DH Ryon Healy probably slotting into 1B to sub Yonder Alonso against lefties, Alex Rodriguez could see some starts in his stead. If he returned to his 2015 form in any way, he would make a devastating power 1-2 punch with Khris Davis in the middle of the order, and then… well, if we’ve learned one thing since Beane took over, its never to count out the A’s.
8 Stay Away: Los Angeles Angels
While it would be a dynamic story to hear that three of the best hitters in the history of baseball, Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and Alex Rodriguez, were playing on the same team at the same time, we regret to say it just won’t happen. Unfortunately, the latter two of those names on that list share too much in common at this point. Both are legendary sluggers in decline who are good for little beyond hitting home runs, both are under contracts burdening their current franchises from fully moving on, and both are designated hitters only at this point in their career.
The Angels believe they can get just enough from Pujols to be a playoff squad and that might just be so, but even if Albert went down with an injury, they wouldn’t jump at an opportunity to replace him with a like hitter. At this point, we have to believe they recognize the liability towards team success that creates. What Anaheim is truly hoping for, probably, is that he will perform will enough in coming seasons that we will soon be watching Pujols’ pursuit of 700 (currently sitting at 591), instead of A-Rod’s.
7 Want: Texas Rangers
The Texas Rangers are perhaps the hardest club to predict an outcome for in 2017. They are undoubtedly a deep team, but they are laden with reclamation projects like Josh Hamilton, Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner, and James Loney, unpredictable emerging talents like Rougned Odor, Jurickson Profar, and Joey Gallo, and how-much-do-they-have-left aging veterans like Adrien Beltre, Cole Hamels, and Shin-Soo Choo.
So while its entirely possible that the DH position will be clogged with talent like Hamilton, Gallo, and Choo its equally possible that none will play to a big league caliber level. And even if they do, the one problem that emerges is the one thing they all share in common. They are all left-handed. With all that talent around, if the club is in contention going into the stretch with all of its parts playing up to their capability, a small addition like a big right-handed platoon DH/pinch hitter type might be all there is room for. And, oh yeah, it would also be in the form of a former Texas Rangers MVP (A-Rod won in 2003, and was runner-up in 2002). That would be a reclamation project worth watching.
6 Stay Away: Baltimore Orioles
While Alex Rodriguez tortured the Anaheim Angels with 70 home runs, more than he hit against any other club, they mostly came on the front end of his career. The team still reeling from more recent scars of watching him in the opposite batter box within their division however are the Baltimore Orioles, who are second on his list, with 69. So why wouldn’t he end up in Baltimore, a homer-happy ball-club in a homer-happy stadium? For starters, O’s fans have a unique relationship to the steroid era, having lived through star Rafael Palmeiro’s steep fall from grace in the public eye, and uncomfortably trying to embrace late-in-career stars Miguel Tejada and Sammy Sosa after the accusations of cheating were already flying.
More simply however, Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo are entrenched as bombs or strike out types at 1B and DH for years to come now, and young prospect Trey Mancini is in the wings to steal at bats against lefties when Davis is given off days or if Trumbo gets hurt. In other words, there’s just no room for A-Rod, even if it means finally getting some of those bombs to work for the home team.
5 Want: Tampa Bay Rays
If there is any team that knows the value of the platoon as a tool to over-perform a small budget, it’s the Tampa Bay Rays. Perennially armed (pun intended) with one of the best rotations in the American League, the 2017 club is also built with a bunch of veteran power bats that can play multiple positions in the field and mix and match against opposing pitchers. Combine that approach with Alex Rodriguez’s familiarity with the Tampa area and their fans from his decade plus of spring trainings at George Steinbrenner Field and the Rays seem like one of the few possible destinations that could really come to pass. The “whole 25” mentality would allow A-Rod a truly defined and limited role he can play up to (rather than building expectations based off of his celebrity that would come in bigger markets), and allows his obvious limitations (lack of mobility in the field, low OBP, etc.) to be balanced out by his teammates.
4 Stay Away: Boston Red Sox
While its certainly not impossible to have long time fan favorites switch sides in the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry over the years, its generally been in the direction of the latter to the former. Indeed, Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs, Johnny Damon, Kevin Youkilis, Jacob Ellsbury all left New England to play in the Big Apple, and oh, some guy named Babe Ruth did too. While there are obviously unique circumstances to each signing, its hard not to read into this pattern. The Yankees have often been more deep pocketed, yes, making them more able to sign expensive free agents, but its also not hard to see that Red Sox fans hatred of the Bronx Bombers might often put up a stop sign towards bringing on a former New York star. And few before have rivaled the boos received by Alex Rodriguez in Fenway.
That said, there is also something simpler at play here. Hanley Ramirez is slated to fill David Ortiz’ big shoes at designated hitter in 2017, and even if he should falter, veterans Pablo Sandoval and Allen Craig, not to mention outfield super-sub Chris Young, are all waiting in the wings to get their shot, each swinging from the right side.
3 Want: Seattle Mariners
There is perhaps no team in 2017 built around its designated hitter as much as the Seattle Mariners are around Nelson Cruz. He anchors the batting order and has been remarkably consistent in the past three seasons (including one with the Baltimore Orioles), smacking between 40-44 home runs in between 655-678 at bats annually. And that is, in fact, why we point to Seattle actually as a true possibility to sign Alex Rodriguez sometime in 2017. A team built to contend for the playoffs now, they have no back-up plan to losing Nelson Cruz, and if he went down there would be a very specific need in the line-up for a right handed DH only masher to hit between lefties Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager.
A return to the city that first made Rodriguez a star would be popular with the fans (perhaps not as much as Ken Griffey, Jr.’s end of career return in 2009 and 2010, but in the same vein) and, if injury struck, would make sense too.
2 Stay Away: Houston Astros
A team built around youth and athleticism already added an aging former Yankee as a designated hitter as the possible final piece to the puzzle to make an expected run at a 2017 title. Yes, the Houston Astros signed Carlos Beltran this off-season, and even if he finally regresses or gets hurt, there are bats aplenty to step up from both sides of the plate (including Evan Gattis who should get a majority of chances against lefties) and more on their way from a deep farm system, offering limited reasons to bring Alex Rodriguez onboard at any point in the year.
Additionally, one has to believe with a busy offseason of line-up improvements that also included adding veterans Brian McCann and Josh Reddick to the lineup, the club will singularly be focused on pitching depth if they are in contention over the summer, as there are question marks up and down the rotation.
1 Want: Miami Marlins
If you did the math, you may have realized that this list was fifteen deep with only fourteen AL clubs to choose from. That’s because there is one National League club that does seem to be possibly ready to employ Alex Rodriguez, and it just so happens to be the city he was raised in (he moved there in the 5th grade) and still makes his home in today. With the stunning sudden death of Jose Fernandez providing a tragic ending to the 2016 season, Miami needs to create a new narrative for their team in 2017. Their weakest starting position players just happen to be at third base (Martin Prado) and first base (Justin Bour), positions that A-Rod at least would be somewhat comfortable in.
It would be easy to see the Coral Gables resident being enticed to return to the cheers of a crowd that adores him, and it would be equally easy to to see the Marlins, a team that has held onto Ichiro Suzuki for years now in part to allow their fans to watch him break records, add A-Rod to their mix, particularly if they fall out of contention by the summer.
He only needs four home runs to reach 700. That could be accomplished in just a handful of game. Hmm. Maybe its not that hard to believe he will be back after all.