Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez hit his first home run of the season — and first since September 20, 2013 — in Thursday’s win against the Blue Jays. With the bases empty, Rodriguez sent a Daniel Norris offering well over the fence in left field, bringing the Yankees to within 5-2 at the time.
It was also home run No. 655 of Rodriguez’s career, leaving him five short of tying Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time leaderboard. Rodriguez’s 10-year, $275 million contract includes a $30 million “marketing agreement” that would pay him $6 million for reaching each of five milestones: 660, 714 755, 762, and 763 career home runs. Barring a season-ending injury or yet another suspension, Rodriguez will almost certainly tie Mays during the first half of this season, in which case the Yankees would have to pay Rodriguez his first $6 million milestone award.
The Yankees, however, are expected to go to arbitration to avoid paying Rodriguez, per a report from Bill Madden and Teri Thompson of the New York Daily News. This is no surprise, as this was reported several times during the off-season, most recently at the end of February. However, now that the season has started and Rodriguez looks quite capable of hitting five more home runs, it’s important to note that the Yankees haven’t changed their stance on the issue, at least publicly.
The Yankees believe, because A-Rod has admitted to performance enhancing drug use and was suspended for his involvement with Biogenesis, that Rodriguez’s accomplishments are tainted and as such are not marketable. The MLB Players Association said that it will support Rodriguez if this issue goes to arbitration.