After the on-again, off-again rumors of his arrival in Boston this offseason and then being named Captain of the U.S.S. Showalter, Alex Rodriguez is headed to the AL East as the latest trophy added to the Hall of Fame cast in the Bronx.
So what does this mean for fantasy owners?
I'll get to the fearsome New York Yankees lineup in a second, but let's start with the other side of the deal. Alfonso Soriano would join a young Texas Rangers team in the midst of a rebuilding period. Ivan Rodriguez left to win a World Series in Florida, Juan Gonzalez is off to Kansas City and Rafael Palmeiro is back in Baltimore.
I've seen several depth charts for the Rangers that show Eric Young as the backup to A-Rod at shortstop. Since he's never played the position in the majors, it's very unlikely he'll get the start there. Thus the Rangers have three options to fill this slot.
1. Shift Michael Young to the other side of the diamond.
From their current roster, it's far more likely that the other Young – as in Michael, would make the shift to occupy the shortstop position. He appeared in seven games there during the 2003 season. The Rangers would like to take advantage of Young's bat and speed in the leadoff position where he hit .296 in 109 games in 2003. But he'll need to improve in setting the table for the No. 2 hitter (either Soriano or Blalock). In more than 700 plate appearances in 2003, he walked a paltry 36 times.
Bottom line: Michael Young will remain eligible for the second base position, which is among the toughest to adequately fill in the fantasy realm. His combination of speed (13 stolen bases in 2003) and pop (14 HRs in 2003) make him an attractive pick in the eighth round.
Blalock wasn't much better in the walk department, taking only 44 free passes in 600 plate appearances. Hitting .300 with 29 bombs, and hitting a game-winning HR in the All-Star game will force people to let that slide.
Now you add Alfonso Soriano to the mix. He walked a paltry 38 times in 720-plus plate appearances. He's been the darling of draft day, coincidentally finishing second only to Rodriguez on the draft board. Soriano will still dominate the 2B position with regard to his power numbers and near–.300 average, but will he get to run in Texas?
Stolen base totals from the Rangers the past couple seasons have been dismal, with only 65 in 2003 and 62 in 2002. The signings of Eric Young (25 or more steals in each season since 1993), Michael Young (13 in 2003) and the arrival of speedy but green outfielder Ramon Nivar suggest that Showalter will turn these guys loose. In order to score enough runs for this pitching staff, he'll have to.
Bottom line: So much for the patience at the plate lessons that Donnie Baseball was going to give Soriano this Spring Training. Except for those of you using the OBP and walk categories, who cares? Soriano remains the No. 2 player in the draft. With Teixeira and a healthy Brian Jordan batting behind him, Soriano is going to get the green light to fly. He's a no-brainer.
2. The Rangers go to the AAA affiliate and bring up Manny Alexander.
Yes, that Manny Alexander. He's the same Alexander that has been in and out of the bigs for eight seasons with the Orioles, Cubs, Red Sox and Mets. This might be a short-term fix if something should happen to one of the Youngs.
Bottom Line: No chance. You'd get as solid a fantasy contributor by selecting me, and I'm a good clubhouse guy to boot.
3. The Rangers could trade for a shortstop.
The Rangers can hit the market and see what's available. One player who would fit well in Arlington is the Chicago White Sox's jack-of-all-trades, Jose Valentin. Rey Ordonez signed a minor-league deal with San Diego in January but will have a hard time supplanting rookie Khalil Greene or Ramon Vazquez for playing time. He might be worth a look for the Rangers.
Bottom line: I can't possibly speculate what the Rangers will do here. I threw out two names of guys who appear to be expendable, but there are plenty of other stopgap plug-ins out there. Keep an eye on the MLB news section of Yahoo! Sports for updates.
To flip the coin: What does this mean for the Yankees? Well, they get another guy who flat-out mashes, so it'll mean nothing to A-Rod's value. The mere image of A-Rod in pinstripes is frightening. The lineup consists of Derek Jeter hitting ahead of some combination of Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi, Bernie Williams and Hideki Matsui. Oh, and that Jorge Posada guy is pretty solid, too.
Jeter becomes more valuable with A-Rod's addition. Opposing pitchers will make him hit his way on. I mean, imagine looking over to see number (hey, what number will he wear anyway?) on deck and Jason Giambi on the top step. Assuming that Giambi rediscovers his power stroke and Williams stays healthy, everyone's driving in and scoring 100 runs at the top of this lineup
Bottom line: The only downside is that Rodriguez may not run as much in this lineup. OK, so his stolen base total potentially runs down to 10. He's now etched in stone as the No. 1 pick in each draft, as he'll be eligible for the 3B position in Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Baseball after 15 games.
As for second base, the Yankees need to fill the crater left by Soriano's departure. Miguel Cairo and Enrique Wilson are the current Yankees vying for this position. With neither speed nor an explosive bat to offer as their selling point, neither figures to be the everyday guy by the beginning of the season.
Recently acquired Mike Lamb played 2B for one game in 2002, meaning he's not a great option at the moment, either. At least Soriano's predecessor, Chuck Knoblauch, had some speed to offer in between launching balls over the heads of first basemen.
Bottom line: This is one we all will keep a closer eye on as Spring Training commences. There doesn't appear to be much of an option in the minor leagues, which means that Brian Cashman will be back on the market trying to secure an everyday player to complement his scary lineup.
There you have it. The guy that everyone tags as the best in the game becomes the toast of Broadway. There's no doubt that Rodriguez will continue to enjoy tremendous success, especially with additional games at Skydome, Camden Yards, Fenway and Tropicana. Relax, Pedro fans. I know he's a .133 career hitter against Martinez.
George Steinbrenner has given baseball fans another 189 million reasons to hate him. Let the games begin.
- Alfonso Soriano
- Michael Young