Big-time contracts come with risks as well as possible rewards

NASHVILLE — The reckoning comes. The details come later — the what and when and how — but the reckoning always comes.

It came for the New York Yankees on Monday, as General Manager Brian Cashman talked about Alex Rodriguez facing hip surgery for the second time in four years.

The reckoning will come for the Angels, and for the Dodgers. Sign big-time players to big-time contracts, and they grow into old-time players with injuries or struggles. Let the big-time players go, and someone else assumes the risk and reward.

If that is the cost of winning, the Angels and Dodgers have assumed it. We are parched for a World Series in L.A., where the droughts are a decade for the Angels and a quarter-century for the Dodgers.

“Ownerships are being impatient,” former Dodgers Manager Joe Torre said. “The obligation is to go out and win for your fans. Not too many people have the patience for a rebuilding process any more, especially in a big market like L.A.”

The Yankees signed Rodriguez to a 10-year contract when he was 32, and he had played at least 154 games for seven consecutive seasons. He has not played more than 138 games since then, and he is expected to sit out the first half of next season.

Cashman said he hoped Rodriguez, with the richest contract in the game, could return as an “above average” third baseman.

The Angels signed Albert Pujols to a 10-year contract when he was 31. His key offensive numbers — home runs, walks, batting average, on-base plus slugging percentage — dropped for the third consecutive season and he will report to spring training coming off knee surgery.

“When you are giving guys long-term contracts, you’re not thinking about the long term,” Torre said. “You’re not thinking about the end of it. You’re thinking about what it takes to get him.”

With the Dodgers expected to outbid all comers for Zack Greinke — in a contract for at least five years — this is a good time to remember that half of all starting pitchers are injured every year.

This is also a good time to remember that a prudent, three-year offer would be dismissed out of hand. You want the guy, or you don’t.

“The Yankees gave Alex a 10-year deal. Are they sorry?” Torre said. “I’m sure [they’re] not. They won the World Series in ’09.”

Now? They have Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera coming off surgery. Rodriguez is the youngest of the three.

Unfortunately for the Yankees and their entitled fan base, the era of replacing an injured star by raiding a small-market star appears to be ending. The have-nots might not be able to win a bidding war for a free agent, but revenue sharing affords them a chance to keep their own.

So, no, the San Diego Padres are not interested in trading third baseman Chase Headley to the Yankees, or to any other team for that matter.

Headley could command a bushel of prospects. He led the National League in runs batted in last season and finished fifth in most-valuable-player voting, and he is two years from free agency. The Padres have enough prospects.

“When teams trade a player at peak value, it’s usually because the team is not very good,” Padres General Manager Josh Byrnes said. “If he’s good and we’re good, we’re trying to keep that together.”

The Padres scored more runs in the second half than the Detroit Tigers — in pitcher-friendly Petco Park, no less.

“It’s been such a long process to try to get a better offense,” Byrnes said. “We feel we’ve taken huge strides in that direction.”

The Dodgers feel the same way, with an older and better-paid cast. Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez are signed through age 36, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier though 35.

“The deals we have of that ilk,” Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti said, “they don’t take players deep into the second half of their thirties.”

They do take players to 2017, and beyond. If the Dodgers win in 2013, well, who cares?