Yankees get A-Rod, Rangers get financial relief

By Jim Callis
February 16, 2004

Pulling off the blockbuster that the Red Sox attempted but failed to complete in December, the Yankees acquired Alex Rodriguez on Monday from the Rangers. In return, Texas will receive Alfonso Soriano and a player to be named later. The Rangers also will pay $43 million of the $179 million Rodriguez is owed over the next seven years, as well as $24 million in deferred payments.

Normally in Trade Central, we break down the strengths and weaknesses of the players involved. In this case, that seems superfluous. Is there anyone out there who doesn’t know that Rodriguez has a chance to go down as the greatest shortstop in baseball history—at least until New York moves him to third base to avoid a clash of egos with Derek Jeter, an inferior defender? Is there anyone who doesn’t realize that Soriano has one of the best power/speed combinations in the game, albeit along with a shaky grasp of the strike zone and questionable defensive skills at second base?

Rather than state the obvious, we’ll focus on the as-yet-unamed prospect in the trade. The Yankees have given the Rangers a list of five players to choose from, and Texas can wait until the conclusion of spring training to make its decision. Though initial speculation was that New York would give up a pitching prospect, baseball sources say the five-man list contains four hitters, including outfielder Rudy Guillen, shortstop Joaquin Arias and second baseman Robinson Cano, as well as righthander Ramon Ramirez. Here’s a synopsis of those four players, all of whom signed out of the Dominican Republic and ranked Nos. 3-6 on our Yankees Top 10 Prospects list:

Guillen, age 20 (No. 3): Signed for $100,000 in 2000, Guillen is the best athlete in the Yankees system. He’s a five-tool center fielder with raw power, plus speed and a strong arm. He hit .260/.311/.414 with 13 homers, 79 RBIs and 13 steals in 133 games at low Class A Battle Creek in 2003. His plate discipline (32 walks, 87 strikeouts) is his biggest weakness.

Arias, age 19 (No. 4): Arias received a $300,000 bonus in 2001. Known as “Spiderman” because his arms and legs appear to be going in different directions at once, he nonetheless has good body control and is both the fastest baserunner and best defensive infielder in the system. He also has a quick bat and promising raw power, though he needs to draw more walks. He hit .266/.306/.343 with three homers, 48 RBIs and 12 steals in 130 games at Battle Creek last year.

Ramirez, age 22 (No. 5): Originally signed by the Rangers as an outfielder in 1996, Ramirez was released by Texas in 1998. He signed with the Hiroshima Carp in 2002 but pitched just three innings in the Japanese majors. After he impressed the Yankees in winter ball after that season, they outbid the Phillies for his rights. They paid $350,000 to the Carp and $175,000 to Ramirez. He has the best breaking ball in the New York system, a power curveball, along with a 92-95 mph fastball. He pitched in 20 games (18 starts) last year between high Class A Tampa, Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Columbus, going 3-10, 4.43. In 102 innings he had a 96-29 strikeout-walk ratio and a .275 opponent average. He led the Arizona Fall League with a 1.44 ERA.

Cano, age 21 (No. 6): Cano is one of the better hitters in the Yankees system, with a smooth stroke, plus bat speed and natural strength that should lead to lots of power once he adds loft to his swing. As he has filled out, he has lost some quickness, which may prompt a move from second to third base. He also could use some more plate discipline. Cano hit .277/.321/.374 with six homers and 63 RBIs in 136 games between Tampa and Trenton last year.

Our baseball sources confirmed that catcher Dioner Navarro, the Yankees’ top prospect, is not included on the five-player list.

February 17 update: The Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram has reported and Baseball America has confirmed that third baseman Bronson Sardinha is the fourth hitter on the list. Additionally, the pitcher is now believed to be righthander Jose Valdez rather than Ramirez. The scouting reports on Sardinha and Valdez:

Sardinha, age 20 (No. 10): A supplemental first-round pick in 2001 out of a Hawaii high school, Sardinha has two brothers playing pro ball—Dane with the Reds and Duke with the Rockies. Sardinha is a pure line-drive hitter with power potential, though in each of the previous two years he struggled to hit before getting demoted. Last season, he hit .239/.333/.353 with nine homers, 58 RBIs and 13 steals in 130 games between Tampa and Battle Creek. Drafted as a shortstop, Sardinha moved to the outfield and now has settled at third base.

Jose Valdez, age 20 (No. 21): Another product of the Yankees’ Dominican program, Valdez signed in 2000. He has a 90-94 mph fastball and a good feel for a splitter, but doesn’t have much of a breaking ball or changeup. His future may be in relief, where he could pitch in the mid-90s. He went 12-8, 3.68 in 25 starts at Battle Creek and Tampa in 2003, with an 85-46 K-BB ratio and .253 opponent average in 149 innings.

March 23 update: The Rangers chose shortstop Joaquin Arias to complete the trade.

BA correspondent George King (New York Post) contributed to this story.