UPDATE: Rosenthal has updated his column, making it clear that he’s not advocating insurance fraud. Rather, he’s talking about the possibility that A-Rod may not be able to come back absent the PEDs he’s been allegedly taking these past several years. I get that distinction, but I don’t think it changes the calculus much. Insurance companies would still fight any permanent disability claim tooth and nail, seeing them as matters born of opportunity, not of his actual physical condition.
8:31 AM: In the last post we saw Darren Rovell suggest that A-Rod and the Yankees commit insurance fraud. I figured, well, that’s just Rovell being Rovell. He tweets a lot of off-the-wall things. But apparently he’s not alone on the Insurance Fraud Express. Rosenthal goes there this morning:
The Yankees probably cannot void Alex Rodriguez’s contract, and they might not even need to try. A-Rod just might void himself. Specifically, Rodriguez might find a doctor who says he is suffering from a career-ending injury, collect the $114 million remaining on his contract and never play again … A-Rod can attempt to go through his rehabilitation, then make the case that he is physically unable to perform. A doctor surely could make such a diagnosis quite plausible, given the weakened condition of Rodriguez’s two hips.
Absolutely no one was suggesting that A-Rod’s career was over this time yesterday morning. This is 100% inspired by the bad P.R. created by the Miami New Times story. To say it’s “plausible” that a doctor could be found to say that A-Rod is done as a baseball player is the sort of thing ambulance-chasing lawyers who are ambivalent about insurance fraud say. Sure, of course you could find a doctor to say that, I suppose. But it has to actually be true, not “plausible.”
Any insurance company that would be on the hook for A-Rod’s disability claim is ten steps ahead of any columnist baking up such schemes this morning. They have read the December report from A-Rod’s own surgeon in which he said that A-Rod had less cartilage damage than expected than that “his rehab has the highest chance of successfully getting back to the level with his hip that he was before his hip started hurting.” They have also read the reports since yesterday in which the Yankees are portrayed as looking for any way possible to get out from under the $114 million he’s owed. They will fight and fight hard against any claim that A-Rod is permanently disabled, especially given that all of this talk about his alleged permanent disability magically popped up on some Tuesday morning when A-Rod became far more unpopular than he was previously.
Everyone, back away from the ledge. Stop suggesting that A-Rod’s situation is any different than any other ballplayer busted for PEDs. The only difference is that (a) A-Rod is owed a lot more money than most of them; and (b) A-Rod is a lot less popular than most of them. That’s it. And that is all that is inspiring this talk of voiding deals or committing felony insurance fraud so the New York Yankees don’t have to pay him anymore.
With the White Sox losing Jeff Samardzija to free agency, Erik Johnson will likely get a shot to contribute out of the rotation to open up the 2016 season, GM Rick Hahn said in a conference call on Wednesday, per a report from MLB.com’s Scott Merkin.
“As we sit here today, I think it will be an opportunity for Erik Johnson to convert on sort of the return to form he showed back in 2015 when he was International League pitcher of the year for [Triple-A] Charlotte,” Hahn said. “Obviously, he got some starts in September and continued to show the progress in Chicago he had shown in the Minor Leagues over the course of the last season.
“So if Opening Day were today, then I think Johnson is penciled in to that spot in the rotation right now. In all probability, once we get closer to spring, there will be some competition for him to earn that spot. But if we were strictly looking at today, then I would think Johnson has the inside track on filling Samardzija’s innings.”
Johnson was called up from Triple-A Charlotte in September and made six starts, allowing 14 runs (13 earned) on 32 hits and 17 walks with 30 strikeouts in 35 innings. That followed up an impressive five months in the minors where he compiled a 2.37 ERA and a 136/41 K/BB ratio across 132 2/3 innings.
Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and MLB.com each included Johnson on their top-100 prospect lists, ranking him 63rd, 67th, and 70th, respectively. The right-hander was selected by the White Sox in the second round of the 2011 draft.
It was reported on Friday afternoon that Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was involved in a brawl at a Miami nightclub. Details were scant at the time, but he reportedly left with a bruise on his face.
Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that Major League Baseball plans to investigate Puig under the league’s new domestic violence policy for his role in the brawl. Citing a report from TMZ, Hernandez notes that Puig shoved his sister, “brutally sucker-punched” the manager of the bar, and instigated the brawl.
The Dodgers and Puig’s agent have thus far refused to comment on the situation.
Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes was the first player to be investigated under the league’s new domestic violence policy earlier this month, as he allegedly assaulted his wife. Reyes has pleaded not guilty after he was charged with domestic abuse in Hawaii.
As our own Craig Calcaterra pointed out, commissioner Rob Manfred does not need to wait for Puig to plead guilty or to be found guilty to levy a punishment.
Patrick Newman is reporting that the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and outfielder Dayan Viciedo are close to an agreement on a contract. Newman notes that the Dragons are close to signing pitcher Jordan Norberto as well.
Viciedo, 26, has struggled since making his major league debut in 2010 with the White Sox, batting an aggregate .254/.298/.424 with 66 home runs and 211 RBI in 1,798 plate appearances. He spent the 2015 season with Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox) and Nashville (Athletics), hitting a composite .287/.348/.450. While Viciedo can hit the occasional home run, he hasn’t shown the ability to do much else at the big league level. Given his age, he could prove himself in Japan and parlay that into a renewed shot in the majors in the future.
The White Sox signed Viciedo out of Cuba in December 2008, agreeing to a four-year, $10 million deal. The club re-signed him to one-year deals in 2013 and ’14 for $2.8 million each and $4.4 million ahead of the 2015 season.
Update (8:45 PM EST): Per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, Happ will get $10 million in 2016 and $13 million each in 2017 and ’18.
MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the Blue Jays have signed lefty J.A. Happ to a three-year deal worth $36 million.
Happ, 33, had a rebirth as a member of the Pirates last season after starting the season with 20 subpar starts with the Mariners. He made 11 starts for the Buccos, boasting a 1.85 ERA with a 69/13 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.
Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported this past August that Happ’s newfound success had to do with a delivery tweak suggested by Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage. The Blue Jays are certainly hoping that adjustment is the full explanation for his success.
The Jays’ signing of Happ most likely signifies they won’t be pursuing free agent lefty David Price.
This will be Happ’s second stint with the Blue Jays. The Astros dealt him to Toronto in a July 2012 trade. He posted a 4.39 ERA with a 256/113 K/BB ratio in 291 innings with the Jays, then went to the Mariners in a trade this past December that brought outfielder Michael Saunders to the Jays.