New York Yankees Alex Rodriguez speaks during a news conference in Chicago

Source: A-Rod blew his chance to take a deal for a 50 game suspension

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Buster Olney wrote something that turned my head today. That A-Rod had a plea deal possible back in the spring — for a low, low, number of games — and turned it down:

If Rodriguez had agreed to something last spring, before MLB investigators had all the Biogenesis details from Bosch, Rodriguez might’ve been able to barter for a suspension for something close to 50 games, or what a first-time offender gets for a first positive PED test.  If he had taken responsibility then, owned up and made his best possible deal, then A-Rod probably would’ve been back on the field late in the 2013 season, with the whole matter behind him.

I was skeptical of this when I first read it, as I recalled no report, credible or otherwise, suggesting that A-Rod or any of the Biogenesis-connected players had a plea deal on the table in April or May, which is the timeframe Olney mentions. And certainly no plea deal to A-Rod in the neighborhood of 50 games at any time.

But, inspired by Olney’s report, I made some calls. And Buster was right. According to sources familiar with Major League Baseball’s investigation, there was a window of time — while Rodriguez was still represented by attorneys Jay Reisinger and James Sharp and before Major League Baseball flipped Tony Bosch and got him to cooperate — where A-Rod could have made a deal for a substantially shorter suspension than he ultimately received. Possibly as low as 50 games.

It was apparently not to the level of a formal offer — there aren’t documents or emails regarding this stuff — but informal conversations had begun suggesting such a framework. A-Rod and the legal team which came to represent him through the arbitration rejected the overtures, however. Major League Baseball eventually obtained the cooperation of Bosch and the settlement ship essentially sailed.

I say “essentially” because of reports in July and August — just before the 211-game suspension was announced — that A-Rod and the league were talking about a deal. But those were offers well in excess of 100 games and by that point it was worth the gamble to fight. At the same time, it’s worth remembering that, back in the spring, a 50 game suspension may not have seemed like a great deal — it was uncertain how Major League Baseball would prove its case nor was it clear that MLB had an argument or even a desire to seek more than a 50-game suspension against A-Rod in the first place. But, there was a chance for A-Rod to get back on the field after a suspension — indeed, a suspension he would have served while on the disabled list — and have it all behind him last season.

And, hindsight nor not, A-Rod, it seems, had a chance to save his baseball career. That chance came in the spring. But he blew it.

Pirates sign left-hander Cory Luebke

Cory Luebke Getty
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
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Eric O'Flaherty wasn’t the only reclamation project added by the Pirates today, as the club also announced that they have signed left-hander Cory Luebke to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Luebke once looked like a solid rotation piece for the Padres, but he hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since April 27, 2012. He’s undergone a pair of Tommy John surgeries since. Now 30 years old, he logged seven innings in the minors last season before requiring a procedure to remove loose bodies around a nerve in his forearm. The Padres cut ties with him in November after declining a $7.5 million club option for 2016.

It’s hard to count on much from Luebke at this point, but he told Adam Berry of MLB.com that he feels healthy and hopes to compete for a bullpen job in the spring.

White Sox reportedly considering Ian Desmond

Ian Desmond
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Many have speculated on a potential match between the White Sox and Ian Desmond this winter, but we haven’t heard much in the way of legitimate interest. That could be changing with spring training right around the corner, as MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that Chicago is among the teams considering the free agent shortstop.

After turning the page on Alexei Ramirez this offseason, the White Sox currently have Tyler Saladino in line to serve as their starting shortstop in 2016. The 26-year-old is considered a strong defender, but he batted .225/.267/.335 with four homers over 254 plate appearances as a rookie in 2015. Desmond is coming off a nightmare of a walk year and has seen his strikeout rate climb by 8.5 percent since 2012, but he possesses more offensive upside and it’s not hard to imagine a bounceback campaign while calling U.S. Cellular Field home.

Similar to fellow free agents Yovani Gallardo and Dexter Fowler, Desmond is attached to draft pick compensation after turning down a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Nationals. It’s a big reason why a potential deal with the Rays is reported to be a “long shot.” Chicago’s No. 10 overall pick in this year’s draft is protected, so they would give up their No. 28 overall pick if they sign a qualifying offer free agent like Desmond.

Pirates sign reliever Eric O’Flaherty

Eric O'Flaherty
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Left-hander Eric O'Flaherty has agreed to a minor-league deal with the Pirates that includes an invitation to spring training.

O’Flaherty was one of the best relievers in the league for the Braves from 2009-2013, posting a combined 1.99 ERA in 249 innings, but Tommy John elbow surgery derailed his career and he struggled for the A’s and Mets in 2015 while dealing with shoulder problems.

It’s tough to know if O’Flaherty is healthy at this point, but the 31-year-old southpaw certainly has a chance to be a nice reclamation project for the Pirates on a no-risk contract.

Mariano Rivera to get his plaque in Monument Park on August 14

Mariano Rivera
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The greatest closer in history is going to get the ultimate honor the New York Yankees bestow on August 14. That’s when Mariano Rivera will get his plaque in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium before a game against the Rays.

There was some chatter in the last year or two about whether the Yankees were somehow lowering their standards out there, what with guys like Tino Martinez getting honored. But if that’s something you care about it won’t matter in this instance. Rivera would’ve been worthy even if the old snobby ways had held and only inner-circle types got a plaque, what with him being a key member of five World Series-winning teams and his status as the all-time saves leader in the regular season and the postseason.

The Yankees retired Rivera’s No. 42 in 2013. He’ll get his plaque in August. Then, on the first ballot for which he is eligible, he’ll be voted into the Hall of Fame, likely with a percentage in the mid-to-high 90s.