The midway is open and the carnival barker is walking down, shouting for everyone to step right up, because he's got the biggest and best prize. This is Scott Boras' style, like it or not, and no matter how much baseball teams want to ignore him and his client Alex Rodriguez, the best player in baseball, they can't.
A-Rod is a free agent after opting out of the final three years of his contract with the New York Yankees and leaving $81 million on the table. With the Yankees reportedly ready to tack on another $150 million or so to his current deal, Rodriguez is certain that Boras, the agent everybody loves to hate, can snag him an all-time contract – perhaps upward of $300 million, besting his own record 10-year, $250 million deal with Texas in 2000.
Seven major league franchises are worth less than $300 million, according to April's Forbes, which would seem to take them out of the running. And plenty of others wouldn't dare wade in that pool, knowing the deep end extends about 20,000 leagues.
Here are 10 teams, in order of likelihood, that might make the leap.
Why? There are about 50 good reasons. The Angels need a bat in the worst way. They can move Chone Figgins to any number of positions, opening up third base. Rodriguez would give them instant cachet in Los Angeles. Bartolo Colon's monster salary comes off the books this offseason. True bilingual star in a market lacking one. Everything fits.
Why not? Publicly, owner Arte Moreno balks at devoting too much of his payroll to one player. If there's one player to splurge on, though, it's Rodriguez. Which makes the Angels the favorite.
Why? Pretty much all the reasons the Angels need him. Oh, and they're about to hire Joe Torre, who has managed Rodriguez for the last four seasons.
Why not? Four potential issues. First, though owner Frank McCourt has raised the payroll to about $108 million, the Dodgers still made the second most money in baseball aside from Florida last year, according to Forbes. Which is to say: In baseball terms, he's stingy. Next: After outfielder J.D. Drew opted out of his Dodgers contract after last season, general manager Ned Colletti stopped talking with Boras, his agent. They still aren't speaking. Also: Torre, fully aware of Rodriguez's drama-queen antics, might put the kibosh on. And: The Dodgers have Andy LaRoche, a top prospect, ready to fill the hole at third next season.
Why? They need a marquee name to replace Barry Bonds, if, in fact, they're serious about cutting ties with him. Pedro Feliz could move from third base to first. And with Bonds, Armando Benitez and Matt Morris off the books, they've certainly got the payroll flexibility.
Why not? Actually, San Francisco probably is the best fit for Rodriguez. But with the Barry Zito contract looking like a seven-year bust, do the Giants really want to commit to another player for that long – and one who, in a few ways, mimics everything that was bad about Bonds?
4. Chicago Cubs
Why? The Cubs spent $300 million on free agents last season, so what's another $300 million in one fell swoop? Ryan Theriot probably isn't the long-term solution at shortstop, and though Rodriguez likely could play there a few more years, he could move back to third at the end of Aramis Ramirez's contract in 2011 or to first when Derrek Lee leaves after 2010.
Why not? Sam Zell, the new owner of the Tribune Company, will red flag any free-agent dabbling this offseason as he tries to sell the team. A potential $300 million liability, no matter how great the earning power, will probably not be worth it.
5. New York Yankees
Why? He carried them last season, will probably win the American League MVP unanimously and, well, his departure creates a big hole at third base that they can't fill from within. Perhaps most important: They can pay him the most.
Why not? The Yankees have spent so much time talking about how they wouldn't negotiate with Rodriguez if he opted out that even the slightest word of chatter between the two parties would make the Yankees look like fools. And Hank Steinbrenner, in his first months running the team, cannot afford that.
Why? To stick it to the Yankees. And because with SportsNet New York turning into a television powerhouse, the Mets now rank third in total revenues behind the Yankees and Boston Red Sox, meaning they can afford him.
Why not? Where does he play? David Wright moving to second base is laughable, and he and Jose Reyes' contracts are too good to move. And even though they could afford him, the Mets don't want their payroll rocketing into the Yankees-Red Sox stratosphere.
Why? The Tigers enjoy a great relationship with Boras, and while that never parlays into any kind of a discount, it at least gets them in the conversation.
Why not? No room anywhere, unless the Tigers want to dump Brandon Inge, which, after last season, is wholly possible. Detroit traded for Edgar Renteria this week, so no longer do the Tigers need a shortstop to accommodate Carlos Guillen's move to first base.
Why? Mike Lowell's free agency creates a potential hole at third base, and, hey, the Red Sox have tried trading for A-Rod before. With Manny Ramirez's $20 million salary off the books following the 2008 season, Boston could afford A-Rod, too.
Why not? They've got too good a thing going to inject a player who hasn't even made the World Series in any of his 12 full seasons. Anyway, Boston is going to need all the scratch it can put together to keep Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Jonathan Papelbon through their arbitration years. Yes, that's far down the road, but if Rodriguez really wants eight to 10 years, it's an important consideration.
Why? Florida has been trying to get a new ballpark for years, and A-Rod – a Miami boy – would be the biggest chip yet. Imagine a lineup topped by these four: Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla, Miguel Cabrera, A-Rod. Wow.
Why not? The Marlins are worth $244 million. And even if owner Jeffrey Loria profited $43.3 million last season, according to Forbes – 58 percent more than the next-best team – he has never shown any desire to spend it. Loria makes Scrooge look like a reckless spender.
10. Texas Rangers
Why? They've done it before.
Why not? They've done it before.