Alex Rodriguez appeared to be either doing some ruminating or some regretting when he said on the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball broadcast that he wished he’d taken more control of his career earlier, made more concessions and followed his heart to the New York Mets.
The guess here is, maybe A-Rod was really trying to create an interesting story; while there’s no doubt he loved the Mets and he did once take less (more on that below), it’s hard to imagine anyone signing for half, or less. If there’s one thing Rodriguez should regret about his career, it certainly shouldn’t be about how his negotiations went: Twice he set contract records, he played more than half his career in his beloved New York and won a World Series there.
It was in that winter of 2000-01 that Rodriguez signed his record $252 million deal with the Rangers, a deal that included the first-ever “opt out,” which led to another record deal, that one for $275 million. It’s hard to imagine he regrets that. (Though via text, A-Rod declined to discuss his thoughts further.)
Rodriguez actually gushed at the time about how excited he was to make a deal with Rangers owner Tom Hicks, and others suggest he was in fact so excited that he talked openly about investing money with Hicks’ company (which wouldn’t have worked out so well considering Hicks’ own financial reverses) though ultimately he did not invest with Hicks.
Had Rodriguez followed his heart (and friends do say the Mets were his first choice) he would have suffered a bit of a post-World Series slide in Queens (it soon became the Art Howe era), and he would have had to settle for $120 million tops, according to Mets executives at the time.
You see, the Mets’ star was Mike Piazza, and he had signed for $91 million. And the other divisional star was Chipper Jones, and he had recently signed for $90-something million. The Mets were among teams that figured $100 million, or perhaps a little bit more, would be good enough, sources said. And beyond that, the Mets announced they didn’t want him.
After A-Rod’s agent at the time, Scott Boras, met with Mets GM Steve Phillips, Phillips soon announced that the Mets weren’t going to pursue A-Rod because they didn’t want a “24 and 1” situation. Apparently there was some brief discussion of accommodations, and eventually word is that Phillips suggested A-Rod could make up some money by marketing himself in New York, and Boras wondered allowed whether there was space at Shea Stadium to accommodate any of the potential marketing opportunities.
Who knows whether it was the marketing grab or the money (others with the Mets figure it was ultimately the money Mets ownership didn’t want to pay, or maybe a combination of the money and marketing)? Instead they made an offer to try to keep Mike Hampton for about $100 million, but were easily outbid for even him by the Rockies (that was the one where Hampton said he chose Colorado because Denver has a better school system than New York), then wound up signing Kevin Appier for $42 million, who they traded for Mo Vaughn.
So if anyone had anything to regret it would seem to be the Mets. Years later, after he opted out of his first record deal, A-Rod did meet with Yankees owner Hank Steinbrenner on his own. Boras at the time was talking to the Dodgers about a potential $320 million deal, which hasn’t been reported. But Boras figured the Yankees, who loved A-Rod at the time, would also get back in.
In any case, Rodriguez wasn’t willing to wait to find out. A-Rod, wanting to return to the Yankees, wound up working out a $275 million deal with $30 million in marketing incentives based on homers back with president Randy Levine (Boras and GM Brian Cashman had been discussing about $235 million over eight before A-Rod opted out).
Though the Yankees clearly desired Rodriguez, he had gotten nervous about the their involvement, ultimately drawing him into the talks. So maybe that’s what he was recalling. In that case, the $30 million home run incentive agreement A-Rod worked out with the Yankees was disallowed by MLB; Boras came back in to rework the deal by converting it to marketing incentives.
Anyway, he did take less in that deal – but only about 15 percent less, not the 50 percent less he would have had to take with the Mets.