This Day in Transaction History: Yankees complete A-Rod deal with Rangers

Álex Rodríguez
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The Yankees and Rangers agreed on a blockbuster deal on February 16, 2004 sending star Álex Rodríguez to the Bronx in exchange for second baseman Alfonso Soriano and a player to be named later. That player, Joaquín Árias, was named on April 23, 2004 so the deal was technically completed 16 years ago, nearly to the day.

Rodríguez, 27 years old at the time, had signed a 10-year, $252 million contract with the Rangers heading into the 2001 season. At the time, it was the richest contract in sports. Rodríguez was plenty productive during his three years in Texas, playing in 485 of 486 possible games while hitting .305/.395/.615 with 156 home runs, 395 RBI, 382 runs scored, and 44 stolen bases. Rodríguez led the AL in home runs in ’01 and all of baseball in dingers in the following two years. He won the AL MVP Award in 2003 after coming in second the year prior.

The Rangers were not able experience team success despite his production, winning 73, 72, and 71 games in 2001, ’02, and ’03, respectively. The trade was an admission of defeat by the Rangers and helped clear his salary off the books.

Soriano burst onto the scene in 2002, swiping 41 bases to lead the AL while leading the sport in hits (209) and runs (128) as well as plate appearances and at-bats while swatting 39 home runs and 51 doubles. It’s one of only 13 player-seasons featuring at least 35 home runs and 40 stolen bases. Coincidentally, Rodríguez had one of those seasons in 1998 with the Mariners. Soriano would only spend two solid but unspectacular years in Texas as they sent him to the Nationals going into the 2006 season for Brad Wilkerson, Armando Galarraga, and Terrmel Sledge.

Arias didn’t make much of an impact at the major league level. He posted a .754 OPS in 32 games in 2008 and reemerged as a utility infielder with the Giants from 2012-15. He retired with a .643 OPS across 474 games.

The Yankees were in the midst of a run of dominance few franchises have ever seen and one the Yankees in particular hadn’t seen since the late 1940’s through the early 1960’s. At the time Rodríguez joined the squad, the Yankees won four championships: in 1996, and in 1998-2000. However, they came up short in the Fall Classic in both 2001 and ’03 and didn’t make it out of the Division Series in 02.

The best player was joining the best team, but the deal wouldn’t result in another championship until 2009. The Yankees were booted out of the playoffs in the Division Series three straight years from 2005-07 and they missed the postseason entirely in ’08. Though Rodríguez added two more MVP Awards to his trophy case in ’05 and ’07, he was developing a reputation as someone who couldn’t perform under pressure. He had just two hits in the final four games of the 2004 ALCS when the Yankees blew a 3-0 series lead in MLB’s first ever reverse sweep in a seven-game playoff series. Rodríguez went 2-for-15 in the 2005 ALDS, 1-for-14 in the ’06 ALDS, and 4-for-15 in the ’07 ALDS. Most other teams would’ve been happy with the regular playoff appearances and the increased revenues but the Yankees, at least at the time, measured success in championships and they had none in the first five years of Rodríguez’s tenure.

Rodríguez, who re-upped with the Yankees on a 10-year, $275 million contract after the 2007 season, didn’t pay off for the Yankees until ’09. His regular season production was his worst since his early days in Seattle, thanks in part to missing the first 28 games of the season due to a hip injury. He would go on to finish the year with 30 home runs and 100 RBI, but they marked his lowest totals since 1997. However, Rodríguez showed up big time in the playoffs this time. He went 5-for-11 with a pair of homers in a cakewalk sweep of the Twins in the ALDS. He then registered nine hits in 21 at-bats, including three homers, as the Yankees fought off the Angels in six games in the ALCS. Rodríguez helped lead the Yankees to the 27th championship in franchise history with three doubles, a home run, and six RBI as the reigning champion Phillies were defeated in six games in the World Series. The Yankees had their first title in nearly a decade, vindicating their acquisition of Rodríguez, and Rodríguez washed off the stink of previous postseason failure.

Rodríguez and the Yankees, of course, would remain married through 2016, which included a lot of controversy. The Yankees made the playoffs four more times with Rodríguez but weren’t able to translate any of that into more titles. As he reached his mid-30’s, Rodríguez’s body began to break down and he was also caught up in baseball’s Biogenesis scandal. He was suspended for the entire 2014 season as a result. He returned in 2015 and ’16, playing out the final two years of his career before calling it quits.

Rodríguez retired with 696 home runs, good for fourth on the all-time list behind Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, and Babe Ruth. He accrued 117.5 career WAR, per Baseball Reference, 16th-most in baseball history. Rodríguez also retired with 3,115 hits, 2,021 runs scored, 2,086 RBI, 548 doubles, and 329 stolen bases. Rodríguez will be eligible for the Hall of Fame for the first time in 2022. It’ll be interesting to see how voters consider him given his performance-enhancing drug use. Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, both linked heavily to PED use during their careers, remain on the ballot towards the end of their 10 years of eligibility. Whether or not they eventually get voted in may have an impact on how Rodríguez’s case is handled.

The trade was a tremendous win for the Yankees, even though Rodríguez came at a steep monetary cost. The Rangers could have done worse in the deal, but it didn’t make them look good. They wouldn’t break their playoff drought until 2010, when they would lose back-to-back World Series to the Giants and Cardinals, respectively.

Since retiring, Rodríguez hasn’t been living a quiet life. He became a TV personality, including joining ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball. He rejoined the Yankees’ organization as an advisor. He also began dating and then became engaged to pop icon Jennifer Lopez. And recently, the two have been linked to a potential acquisition of the Mets.