The Yankees are going to try to get out of paying A-Rod his contract incentives


Alex Rodriguez is owed $64 million from the New York Yankees in guaranteed salary over the next three seasons. The parties also agreed to so-called “marketing bonuses” if he hits certain home run benchmarks. Specifically, he is to get $6 million if he ties Willie Mays (660), $6 million more for tying Babe Ruth (714), $6 million more for tying Hank Aaron (755), and another $6 million if he matches Home Run King Barry Bonds’ total of 762.

At the moment, the only one that seems likely for A-Rod to reach is Mays’ 660, as he is currently sitting on 654 career home runs. Even a part-time, old and deteriorated A-Rod can guess right on six mistake pitches over the next three years, right?

The Yankees, however, aren’t interested in paying up if he does. From the Daily News:

The Yankees, however, now view the marketing bonuses as worthless and invalid, according to sources, the result of Rodriguez’s suspension for violating the game’s collectively bargained drug policy and his scorched-earth attack on baseball and the Yankees. The club plans to do battle with its onetime superstar over paying the bonuses, and is prepared to fight Rodriguez if he files a grievance with the Players’ Association.

As the Daily News notes, the “marketing bonuses,” are part of a separate deal, not his player contract, which suggests that the usual sorts of considerations tied up in player contracts and the collective bargaining agreement don’t apply (i.e. the silliness invoked whenever someone talks of “voiding A-Rod’s deal” is not necessarily applicable). We’d have to see that separate deal to know everything it entails. Of obvious significance would be whether A-Rod was obligated to do anything other than hit dingers under that deal. If there were, say, some sort of promise on his part that he “remain marketable,” however that might be defined. Or not get himself involved in things which harmed his reputation compared to where it sat in the fall of 2007 when he signed the deal.

It’s probably worth noting that tying Barry Bonds was considered by the Yankees at the time to be a “marketable” event. When they agreed to that deal, the book “Game of Shadows” had been on the market for over a year and a half, and it detailed Barry Bonds’ association with BALCO and copious intake of performance enhancing drugs during his career. Bonds was indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice a month before the Yankees and A-Rod finalized that deal.

Perhaps Bonds was included in the deal as some sort of incentive for A-Rod to “retake the home run record in the name of clean-living baseball players.” There was certainly some news commentary at the time about that. Or, perhaps, the Yankees just considered the home run record to be the home run record — a great achievement — and paid no mind to what the public thought regarding the manner in which the current record holder achieved it. That, if they truly thought home runs achieved by PED use was shameful, that the big deal would be passing Aaron, not Bonds.

Regardless of how that all shakes out, if the contract does not contain good behavior and reputation obligations on the part of Rodriguez, the Yankees are going to have a hard damn time convincing a judge that the deal should not be enforced because the law doesn’t allow people to simply read-in new terms to contracts after the fact. If it does contain such terms, you can bet your life that A-Rod — his current efforts at conciliation notwithstanding — will likely fight any notion that his PED use was not a risk the Yankees assumed. And he’ll fight it tooth and nail.