So, the best thing A-Rod can do for the Yankees now is not play?
CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman reports that the Yankees have insurance on Alex Rodriguez’s contract that would cover 75-80 percent of his salary if he proves unable to play due to injuries.
Rodriguez is currently expected to miss 4-6 months following hip surgery in January, potentially leaving him sidelined until June or July.
The way insurance on baseball contracts typically works is that it doesn’t kick in unless a player misses the entire season. Whether that’s the case here is unknown, but it’s a pretty good case there won’t be any immediate windfall for the team.
Rodriguez is signed for five more seasons at a total of $114 million. If his body continues to break down, then perhaps the Yankees will recover big portions of his salary in future years. It might also have luxury-tax ramifications. Technically, A-Rod’s salary would still count against the tax even if he were injured and insurance was covering it, but if the Yankees dropped him from the 40-man roster, it no longer would.
That’s what happened with disappointing import Kei Igawa before his contract expired. Since he was no longer on the 40-man, his salary didn’t figure in for tax purposes. However, the Yankees also couldn’t pay someone to take him — which would have had luxury tax ramifications — and they essentially held him hostage in the minors until his contract was up.
Infielder Javier Baez is back in camp with the Cubs after helping Puerto Rico to a second-place finish in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He was the focal point of what was, to many, the most memorable play of the entire tournament: Baez pointed at catcher Yadier Molina, who was attempting to throw out a would-be base-stealer, before applying the tag for the final out of the eighth inning.
While Baez didn’t receive much criticism for his theatrics, aside from an insignificant handful of spoilsports, he is one of the players who most exemplifies the emotional, celebratory culture that foreign players bring to Major League Baseball. U.S. (and Tigers) second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the other side of that spectrum, as he said prior to the WBC final that he hopes kids mimic the solemn way U.S. players play the game rather than the emotional, passionate way players from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic play the game.
Baez isn’t about to apologize for the way he and his teammates play the game. Via CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney, Baez said, “We do a great job playing and having fun out there. That’s what it’s all about. This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it. but, you know, everybody’s got their style and their talent. I have a lot of fun.”
He continued, “It’s their choice to look at how we play, how excited we get. To us, it’s really huge what we did, even though we didn’t win. All of Puerto Rico got really together. We were going through a hard time over there and everything got fixed up for at least three weeks. Hopefully, they keep it like that.”
Angels outfielder Mike Trout came up with an idea that would allow less experienced umpires an opportunity to call some major league spring training action. As ESPN’s Buster Olney reports, Trout thinks the veteran umpires should only call five or six innings as they get back into regular season shape. The rest of the innings could be called by minor league umpires.
According to Olney, baseball officials loved Trout’s idea when they heard about it last week. One official said, “It makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons.” Another said, “That’s Trout — he’s always paying attention to stuff beyond what he’s doing.”
Of course, I have to agree that the suggestion is a great one. As Olney notes, the turnover rate for umpires every year is relatively low, so younger, less-experienced umpires have few opportunities to get a feel for what it’s like calling major league action. Even beyond the actual interpretation of the rules, interacting with big league personalities would also be helpful for minor league umpires.