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Alex Rodriguez’s lawyer accuses the Yankees of being misleading about his client’s injury

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When denying a report that his camp had leaked the names of Ryan Braun and Francisco Cervelli to the press, Alex Rodriguez cryptically said yesterday that “for the next seven weeks, it’s going to be a very, very bumpy road.” He wasn’t kidding.

Rodriguez’s bombastic new lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, has made some pretty bold claims in an interview with the New York Times, the most prominent of which is that the Yankees hid results of an MRI that showed a torn labrum in his hip and allowed him to play hurt in the postseason last year.

“They rolled him out there like an invalid and made him look like he was finished as a ballplayer,” Tacopina said.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg in Tacopina’s all-out-assault. In addition to claiming that the Yankees and MLB are working in concert to ruin his client, he relayed a supposed conversation where team president Randy Levine wished A-Rod’s hip injury would prevent him from every playing again.

Rodriguez learned the extent of his injuries in the off-season, and the Yankees sent him to Dr. Bryan T. Kelly, a prominent surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan. Tacopina said Kelly later told Rodriguez that before the surgery, Levine told Kelly, “I don’t ever want to see him on the field again.”

“It sent chills down Alex’s spine,” Tacopina said.

And while the “What would George do?” card is usually reserved for hacky columnists, Tacopina found a way to use it in defense of his client.

“We have basically had enough,” Tacopina said Friday night. “The process is being perverted when they act the way they do to make their case. They are pushing Alex to his limit.”

He added: “The legacy of George Steinbrenner would be horrified. This is the New York Yankees. This isn’t some thug-culture club.”

Oh, how soon we forget Howie Spira. In any case, Levine told the New York Times that “each and every one of these allegations is specious and completely false.” He also told Andy McCullough of the Newark Star-Ledger that A-Rod needs to “put up or shut up” and file a grievance if he “really believes” that he was mistreated by the team.

By the way, Rodriguez is in the lineup at third base this afternoon against the Red Sox. This situation is reaching new levels of awkward.

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

Brandon Belt
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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.

Keith Law: The Braves have the best farm system in baseball

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Flags fly forever! Hooray for The Process championship!

Ah, sorry. This is about as much rooting as I’ll get to do this year, so cut me some slack.

This is the week when ESPN’s Keith Law releases his prospect and farm system rankings. He kicks off his content this week with a top-to-bottom ranking of all 30 farm systems. As a rule he limits his analysis to players who are currently in the minors and who have not yet exhausted their rookie of the year eligibility. The top system: the Atlanta Braves. The bottom: the Los Angeles Angels, about whom Law says “I’ve been doing these rankings for eight years now, and this is by far the worst system I’ve ever seen.” Enjoy Mike Trout, though, you guys.

If you want to know the reasons and the rankings of everyone in between you’ll have to get an ESPN Insider subscription. Sorry, I know everyone hates to pay for content on the Internet, but Keith and others who do this kind of work put a lot of damn work into it and this is what pays their bills. I typically don’t like to pay for content myself, but I do pay for an ESPN Insider subscription. It’s worth it for Law’s work alone. And though he drives me crazy sometimes, Buster Olney’s daily column/notes thing is also worth the money over the course of the year.