People continue to assume A-Rod is going to simply walk away from $114 million

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More for the “Oh, won’t that nasty old A-Rod just go away, please” file. This from the Daily News. Let’s do this in call and response form:

Alex Rodriguez is unlikely to ever wear the pinstripes again, sources familiar with the Yankees’ situation with their troubled third baseman told the Daily News …

Unless someone from the Yankees says “we’re going to release A-Rod” there is no support for this whatsoever.

“I don’t know why he would want to go through the pain of rehabbing and trying to play up to the caliber of player he was, and come back to a game where nobody wants him,” said a baseball official.

I can think of 114 million reasons. Plus the fact that his entire identity is tied up in being a professional athlete and most professional athletes don’t make sober assessments about when their careers are over. They have their careers forcibly taken from them, often hanging on too long and requiring that teams release them.

Even before the latest steroid allegations surfaced, Yankee officials had already privately begun preparing for the likelihood that Rodriguez would never finish out the mega-deal he signed in 2007.

Yet publicly they all said that his rehab would be six months and that, while it could be longer, it was unlikely. And his doctor said that his hip was less damaged than anticipated. Indeed, no one said A-Rod was finished in New York until about ten minutes after the Miami New Times story broke the other day.

Meanwhile, the Rodriguez scenarios include: (1) A-Rod being forced to retire because of the injury, enabling the Yankees to collect 85% of the insurance on the contract, which would leave him with a paid-up deal that comes off the Yankee books and subsequently lessens their luxury-tax burden.

See yesterday’s commentary about the likelihood of the Yankees being able to collect on an insurance claim for A-Rod.  In any event, even if his hip ended his ability to play baseball — which no one other than columnists have suggested — he would not retire. He’d sit on the DL for five years, just like Albert Belle did, collecting his money. Also: an insurance scenario would not give the Yankees luxury tax relief.

(2) Rodriguez completes the rehab but continues to play in a diminished role, is unhappy with his level of play and decides to voluntarily retire. In that case, the Yankees would engage him in settlement talks.

Again, there is zero incentive for A-Rod to voluntarily retire. If the Yankees don’t want him, they can cut him and he can go play elsewhere while still collecting all the money he’s owed. If no other team signs him, he gets $114 million from the Yankees for sitting on the beach and doing nothing.  There is no reason in the world why he should or would engage the Yankees in “settlement talks.” Unless the writers of this column can come up with one, their suggestion is nonsense.

If Rodriguez is found to have been involved, he could face a 50-game suspension by MLB, or worse: If he was not truthful when baseball officials interviewed him several times over the past years about his involvement with steroids and human growth hormone, commissioner Bud Selig would have the power under the collectively bargained drug agreement to increase the suspension.

The commissioner’s power comes from a paragraph in the joint drug agreement that says anything not covered under the listed penalties can be covered by the discretion of the commissioner.

I have read the Joint Drug Agreement up and down, backwards and forwards, and I cannot find a clause that says this.  If I missed it, someone point it out to me.  If there is something in there to this effect, someone is going to have to tell me how A-Rod’s alleged acts — taking banned PEDs — is “not covered under the listed penalties.”  Like I said earlier today, A-Rod is a player like any other. Just because he makes a lot of money and is hated does not make him eligible for greater discipline than anyone else.

All of this is wishcasting by Yankees sources. Or, more likely, Yankees sources attempting to communicate to A-Rod through the media, telling him that he is unwelcome and hoping he decides to do the highly irrational thing of walking away from $114 million.

Unless and until someone from the Yankees, anonymously or otherwise, suggests that they are going to simply release A-Rod outright, there is every reason to think that he will play for them again.  He will do his rehab and get himself in a position to play if he is able, if for no other reason, than to force the Yankees to play him or release him.  In no event does it make any sense whatsoever for him to retire or to enter into negotiations with the Yankees for a buyout.

We get it, Yankees. You don’t want to pay A-Rod the silly contract you gave him.  But no matter how much you beef about it now, you’re gonna end up paying the guy.

The Nationals sign Kevin Jepsen

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Chris Cotillo of SB Nation reports the Nationals have agreed to terms with free agent reliever Kevin Jepsen.

Think of this as the latest in what will likely be a series of no-risk bullpen additions. The Nats, basically, collecting as many almost free arms they can find in an effort to fix their bullpen woes without having to give up anything valuable at the trade deadline. Just like the K-Rod signing earlier this week or the Edwin Jackson signing two weeks ago.

Jepsen pitched for Tampa Bay and Minnesota last year, posting a 5.68 ERA with the Rays and a 6.16 ERA with the Twins, appearing in 58 games in all. He went unsigned this past offseason.

Eh, it might work. It probably won’t, but it might.

Rival Executives Expect Justin Verlander To Hit The Trading Block

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About a month ago, a report circulated that if the Detroit Tigers weren’t above .500 by the end of June, they were going to chuck the season, look to trade off veterans and rebuild. It’s now June 29 and the Tigers are 34-42 and sit six games out of first place.

As such, we should not be too terribly surprised to see a report from Jeff Passan of Yahoo that multiple baseball executives expect Tigers ace Justin Verlander to hit the trade market sometime in the next two weeks. Passan notes that the Tigers haven’t formally offered him and that he’s just passing along speculation from rivals, but it’s pretty astute speculation.

The question is what the Tigers can get for Verlander. On the one hand, yes, Verlander is Verlander and has been one of the top starters in baseball for a decade. While he had struggled for a bit, last year featured a return to Cy Young form. He still has a blazing fastball and there is no reason to think he could not anchor the staff of a playoff caliber team.

On the other hand, as Passan notes, his 2017 has been . . . not so good. He looks amazing at times and very hittable at other times. Overall his walk rate is way up and his strikeout rate is down. There doesn’t appear to be anything physically wrong with him — various ailments contributed to his 2014-15 swoon — so it’s possible he’s just had a rough couple of months. Like I said, Verlander is Verlander, and it may not be a bad gamble to expect him to run off a string of dominant starts like he has so many times in the past.

The problem, though, is that anyone acquiring Verlander is not just gambling on a handful of starts down the stretch. They’re gambling on the $56 million he’s owed between 2018 and 2019 and the $22 million extra he’ll be guaranteed for 2020 if he finishes in the top five in Cy Young voting in 2019. Those would be his age 35, 36 and 37 seasons. There are certainly worse gambles in baseball, but it’s a gamble all the same.

If the Tigers don’t find any gamblers out there on the market, they’re going to have to make a gamble of their own: let Verlander go and get relatively little in return if another club picks up that $56 million commitment or eat it themselves and get prospects back in return to help kickstart a rebuild. Personally I’d go with the latter option, but I don’t work for the Illitch family.