*(Rodriguez that is, for anyone thinking this was about Man U.)*

Will he stay, or will he go?

It certainly seems that most fans want him gone. Of the nearly 9,000 votes cast in our latest poll, less than 500 votes were registered in favor of keeping the mercurial Alex Rodriguez.

But at what cost? Do they Yankees eat his entire salary just to get him off the roster? Do they keep him and hope he rebounds from his late-July broken wrist?

Here’s our take.

Should the Yankees trade Alex Rodriguez? If a deal makes sense and the numbers work, go for it.

Should the Yankees trade Alex Rodriguez at all costs? Absolutely not.

Before we break down the type of deal we’d be looking for, it’s important to understand who Alex Rodriguez is as a baseball player.

1. He’s still an above-average player.

Hate him all you want, but facts are facts. We’ve said it before and Brian Cashman recently said the same thing: Arod is still an above-average player.

Here’s Cashman a few days ago:

Is he still a superstar? No. Is he still an above-average player at his position? Yes. He was this year and we expect him to be one moving forward.

It’s obvious that Cashman is getting this “above-average” terminology by looking at sabermetric stats, which is pretty cool. Arod’s OPS+ for 2012 was 112 (12% above average) and his wRC+ was 114 (14% above average).

As washed up as many Yankee fans claim Arod is, the Yankees could do a lot worse at 3B (how’d Casey McGehee work out?). Of the 18 full-time 3B in MLB, Arod ranked 8th in wRC+.

And for those who don’t like sabermetric numbers, Arod ranked 9th in regular OPS (.783) among the same pack of third basemen.

Considering King Felix broke Arod’s wrist in July, it’s reasonable to assume that given an offseason to recover some strength in that wrist, Arod will be back into the “above-average” category once again next season.

2. He’s clearly declining.

Albeit still above-average, Arod is noticeably fading, particularly when it comes to his power. Here’s a chart we posted during the playoffs:

arod power

Observers state that Arod’s bat speed has slowed down, and it’s affected his effectiveness versus fastballs. Here’s another chart we posted during the playoffs:

As we said earlier, facts are facts, and if we want to make the case that Arod is still “above-average”, we also have to make the case that he is a declining talent, and not anywhere close to the Hall of Fame/Magic Juice levels he was in his heyday.

3. His contract is one of the worst we’ve ever seen.

Thank you, Randy Levine. Between Arod and Rafael Soriano, we hope Scott Boras takes Randy Levine out to a nice dinner every once and a while. Alex’s 10 year/$275 million contract will expire when Rodriguez is the tender age of 42. He has 5 years / $114 million remaining. But wait! He also has $30 million in home-run milestones for reaching 660, 714, 755, and then tying and breaking Barry Bonds’ record (762 & 763).

We guess Levine thought they’d make the milestone money back (and then some) because of the media blitz surrounding Arod hitting these home run totals. But, is anyone really going to celebrate Alex reaching these numbers? Is there a more disliked athlete in American sports than Arod? Derek Jeter delivers babies, Alex eats them.

So what do the Yankees do?

If Arod is traded, it’s critical to understand that the Yankees create a hole at 3B, which would have to be replaced. Money needs to be available to replace Arod’s production, which is still above-average for the time-being.

It’s equally important to keep in mind the Hal Steinbrenner Commandment: “Thou shall not exceed $189 million in luxury tax payroll by 2014.”

Arod’s contract counts for $27.5 million towards the luxury tax payroll each season ($275 million divided by 10 years). This is why paying Arod’s full salary to play somewhere else is the absolutely wrong thing to do. The Yankees would still be on the hook for that $27.5 million, and then they’d have to find a replacement 3B. That would make no sense, and only further impede the Yankees’ ability to get under $189 million and not suffer from a Wins & Losses standpoint.

So the key is to trade Arod, leave yourself with enough money to find a reasonable replacement for him in the short-term, and acquire some financial flexibility that could be used elsewhere over the next 5 years.

In our view, the number to work with is Arod’s $27.5 million annual luxury tax value, not the actual amount he has left on his contract. Hal is concerned with the luxury tax number, so that’s what we’ll focus on too.

With 5 years remaining on his deal, Arod’s cumulative hit to the luxury tax payroll would be $137.5 million (compared to the actual $114 million he has left on his deal).

For those more sabermetrically-minded (and we’ll do a non-sabermetric view too), let’s call the present version of Arod a 3-win player. Fangraphs repeatedly cites that 1 win is worth $5 million on the free-agent market. If Arod is a 3-win player and the Yankees need to replace that production, this means they need $15 million in annual flexibility to acquire a 3-win third baseman on the open market. That’s $75 million over 5 years for luxury tax purposes, which implies the Yankees could only give about $62.5 million in cash to a team looking to acquire Arod. Again, this is all based on Arod’s luxury tax hit (137.5 – 75 = 62.5)

Somehow though, we don’t think $62.5 million would do the trick, and as cited earlier, Arod is in his decline years. He’s not going to be a three-win player through age 42, especially if his bat continues to slow and he keeps getting hurt — just reduced playing time alone will take away from his cumulative production. Thus, over the remainder of his contract, let’s call Arod a 2-win player, on average. That’s worth $10 million on the open market, which is $50 million over 5 years for luxury tax purposes. That means the Yankees could chip in $87.5 million to a team, and have $10 million annually in flexibility to replace Arod over the next 5 years (137.5 – 50 = 87.5).

For those who aren’t into sabermetrics, ask yourself the question: “Is $10 million annually enough to replace Arod’s production?” It’s not a slam dunk, but it’s a possibility.

Here’s a scenario:

The Yankees re-sign Eric Chavez and play him exclusively against right-handed pitching. Chavez hit .298/.365/.543 against RHP this season, and he’s knocked them around his entire career (.280/.358/.511). According to Fangraphs, Chavez was worth 1.8 wins last season. Can he repeat that? Maybe. But’s let knock him down to 1.5 wins.

The Yankees could then promote one of the prospects we outlined a couple days ago, and platoon them against left-handed pitchers. The right-handed David Adams and/or Ronnier Mustelier could serve that side of the platoon, and scratch out 0.5 to 1 win in their rookie season.

Would that be enough to generate above-average production at third-base, or replace Arod’s 2-3 wins? Three wins is unlikely, but 2 wins isn’t out of the question. Plus, we get to see some homegrown talent!

Even if a Chavez/Adams/Mustelier combo doesn’t equate to Arod’s production in the short-term, there’s an additional tangible benefit. It would be a cheap solution! Eric Chavez had a base salary of $900k (not including incentives) in 2012, and the rookies would make the MLB minimum. Even if you increase Chavez’s base to $5 million, that still leaves about $4.5 million the Yankees could deploy elsewhere, and possibly make up for Arod’s short-term loss.

In summary, here’s our main points:

1. You can’t just pay the rest of Arod’s deal and send him on his way. He’s still a productive player, and you need money to replace him. The $189 Steinbrenner Cap makes that very difficult.

2. Arod’s luxury tax hit over the next 5 seasons is $137.5 million. That’s the most important number to Hal Steinbrenner.

3. The Yankees could chip in anywhere from $62.5 to $87.5 million, and still have money to replace Arod’s production over the remainder of his contract. It could be a struggle in the short-term to replace him, but long-term is doable.

4. If the numbers don’t work, Arod should be a member of the 2013 Yankees.

*Note: The $6 million per HR milestone wasn’t included in our plan, but who knows if he’ll reach all of them. We assume that would be discussed with any trading partner, but we’ll leave that to the GMs, owners, and team presidents. Our goal of this article was to provide a baseline negotiation framework.

When in doubt: It’s Arod’s Fault.