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Alex Rodriguez Rumors
An opt-out clause is the ultimate safety net for an MLB player. Typically employed with deals of least five guaranteed years, an opt-out clause is inserted in the middle of the term and allows the player to abandon the rest of his contract and become a free agent.
Alex Rodriguez started the opt-out trend with his monster free agent deal with the Rangers in December 2000, and in total, ten players have received opt-out clauses. Six of those clauses have come due, and only one of those players, Vernon Wells, didn't secure additional money at the time. C.C. Sabathia leveraged his ability to opt out to add one year and $30MM to an already record-setting deal. The others — A-Rod, J.D. Drew, A.J. Burnett, and Rafael Soriano — got to take another lucrative bite at the apple of free agency.
A Deal-Making Idea
On the night before the 2005 Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, agent Darek Braunecker had a client in A.J. Burnett who he felt was on an island in terms of being the best pitcher available. It was at that point Braunecker conceived of the idea of asking for an opt-out clause in Burnett's deal. "I wanted to create something that might add additional value to the deal as opposed to just the monetary component of it," explained Braunecker in a January conversation.
Burnett's five-year, $55MM deal with the Blue Jays came together quickly once the team agreed to include an opt-out clause after the third year. "Quite honestly, it was a deal-maker for us," said Braunecker. "I presented the idea to [Blue Jays GM] J.P. [Ricciardi] and told him that we had another club that had already agreed to that provision, and that if he was willing to do it that he would have a deal. So, really, no pushback to speak of. He obviously had to get approval from [club president] Paul Godfrey, and Paul gave his blessing on it almost immediately and that's essentially what concluded those negotiations." Braunecker added, "It really wasn't much of a challenge, to be honest with you."
Three years later, agent Greg Genske had the enjoyment of negotiating on behalf of the offseason's best available starting pitcher, C.C. Sabathia, and eventually landed a record-setting seven-year, $161MM deal with an opt-out clause after the third year. There seems to be some disagreement about who proposed the clause. Back in 2008, Matt Gagne of the New York Daily News quoted Yankees GM Brian Cashman saying, "I offered it. They never asked for it. They never said they were afraid of New York, I never heard that….Just in case it was an issue, I went to their house and I said, 'I think you're going to love it here. But let me just throw this out there.'" Genske disputed Cashman's account, telling me in January this year, "That's not true at all. That was a negotiated item that was difficult to get the Yankees to agree to. It was the last item agreed to."
The sheer rarity of opt-out clauses suggests they're not something teams are readily offering up. Only ten opt-out clauses have been given out in total, though two of them came in January this year for Excel Sports Management clients Clayton Kershaw and Masahiro Tanaka. According to Cot's Baseball Contracts, 52 MLB contracts have been worth $100MM or more. Only seven of those included opt-out clauses. Asked if he's surprised we've seen so many top of the market deals without opt-out clauses, Genske replied, "I don't think I'm surprised. It certainly is a big deal for a club. If a club's going to commit themselves to those kinds of dollars, then they don't get the benefit of the upside fully if the player has the right to opt out. I certainly understand clubs' resistance to do it."
Perhaps the most intriguing "what if?" scenario in recent baseball history is what if Alex Rodriguez has joined the Red Sox (rather than the Yankees) prior to the 2004 season. The Deal, the latest instalment of ESPN's "30 For 30 Shorts" series, explores the near-trade that would've sent Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez and Brandon McCarthy from the Rangers to the Red Sox in exchange for Manny Ramirez, Nomar Garciaparra and Jon Lester. A-Rod even agreed to restructure his contract and take less money to make the deal work, though this was what eventually scuttled the trade, as the MLBPA wouldn't allow the agreement due to the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement. Only a few weeks later, Texas instead traded Rodriguez to the Yankees and the rest is history.
Here's the latest in a very newsworthy day from around the AL East…
- Derek Jeter's impending retirement underscores the Yankees' lack of shortstop depth, MLB.com's Bryan Hoch writes, as it seems that Jeter's eventual replacement isn't currently on New York's roster. The Yankees could sign one of the quality shortstops available in next winter's free agent class, Hoch notes, or Stephen Drew exists as a current option that could be signed to play second or third for a year and then take over at short in 2015.
- Scott Boras, Drew's agent, has recently been looking to get his client an opt-out clause after the first year of a new deal. While some see Boras' demands as a longshot, Fangraphs' Mike Petriello notes that the opt-out could fit into the Yankees' plans, making Drew an even more obvious upgrade for the club's infield.
- The Red Sox haven't offered Drew a contract for longer than one year, John Tomase of the Boston Herald reports (via Twitter). Drew would like at least a one-year contract and an option, a source tells Tomase.
- The Orioles continue to be in contact with Kendrys Morales' representatives and are still interested in the free agent slugger, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun tweets.
- It seems as if the Orioles prefer Ervin Santana to Ubaldo Jimenez, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun writes, as he has heard more tying the O's to the former free agent hurler than he has the latter. "I know the Orioles have talked to his people, but I didn’t get a sense that he was atop their list," Connolly says. There were whispers earlier this week that the O's were upping their pursuit of Santana or Jimenez. In the same piece, Connolly answers a number of Orioles-related questions from fans on Twitter.
Alex Rodriguez has voluntarily dismissed his lawsuit against MLB, the Commissioner's office, and the MLBPA, tweets Jim Baumbach of Newsday. Though the suit can be refiled, Rodriguez's decision likely indicates that he will no longer contest his suspension for all of next season.
Rodriguez had filed the lawsuit to challenge the arbitrator's decision to uphold most of the term of his suspension for using prohibited performance enhancing drugs. Though the Yankees will be without their everyday third baseman, the club will now definitively be off of the hook for the $25MM they owed him for 2014. The 38-year-old still is owed $61MM over 2015-17, in addition to $6MM bonuses for home run milestones begining with number 660.
Though Rodriguez had vowed to fight to the bitter end, there is no question that his legal case stood little chance of success. (Today was the deadline for his team to respond to the motions to dismiss the action.) If indeed this proves the end of Rodriguez's efforts to overturn his suspension, it could also be the final chapter in the Biogenesis saga.
Here's the latest from around the American League East:
- Red Sox first baseman/outfielder Mike Carp could still be dealt before Opening Day, reports Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com. Though Boston has reportedly held out for a substantial return for Carp, and the club values the depth he provies, he might be worth more to other clubs who could deploy him more regularly.
- Meanwhile, extension talks still have yet to begin between Jon Lester and the Boston front office, reports WEEI.com's Rob Bradford. Clayton Kershaw's extension does not necessarily serve as a comparable for Lester's purposes, says Bradford, but his absence from the open market could have an impact.
- The Orioles are having ongoing discussions with free agent starter Bronson Arroyo, reports Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter). We learned recently that Baltimore had active interest in the veteran.
- Confirming recent reports, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said today that the price of pitchers on the free agent and trade market remains too high for the club's liking, Sportsnet.ca's Shi Davidi tweets.
- Recent comments from Alex Rodriguez and Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner indicate that both sides believe a return to the field in 2015 is a realistic possibility. Rodriguez sounds as though he has accepted the likelihood that he will ultimately sit out the entire 2014 campaign, but a spokesman said Rodriguez would "get ready for 2015 should the judge rule against him" in his court challenge against his full-season suspension. Steinbrenner, meanwhile, said that Rodriguez is "an asset" on the field and insisted the club would take a business approach to dealing with Rodriguez's situation going forward.
After news of Alex Rodriguez's suspension broke yesterday, A-Rod continues to occupy the headlines today, in part because of 60 Minutes' interviews with Tony Bosch, Bud Selig, MLB's Rob Manfred and Rodriguez's attorney Joe Tacopina. You can watch the segment here. Here's more on the A-Rod saga.
- The group best positioned to prevent A-Rod from attending spring training is his Yankees teammates, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Since Rodriguez's suspension will prevent him from playing for the Yankees in 2014, his presence at spring training does not benefit the team. Instead, Sherman says, "[t]his would be about tweaking MLB and/or the Yankees while making sure to avoid what he dreads so much — irrelevancy." He would be a distraction. Sherman suggests that Rodriguez's teammates, perhaps led by Derek Jeter, could ask A-Rod not to attend spring training. If he refuses, Yankees players could explain their preferences to the media.
- Releasing Rodriguez wouldn't make sense, Sherman says, because A-Rod will have to take additional drug tests in the coming year. If he were to fail a test, or face any other kind of additional punishment, the Yankees would be off the hook for even more salary.
- One potential obstacle to Rodriguez playing independent baseball this summer is that the Yankees still control his rights, USA Today's Bob Nightengale writes. That means they can, say, send him to their spring training facility in Tampa and have him work out there. He needs the Yankees' permission to play elsewhere, and the Yankees can help avoid a "sideshow" by denying him that privilege.
MLBPA has released a statement saying that it is considering legal options amidst news that Tony Bosch and MLB executive Rob Manfred will appear on 60 Minutes tonight. "After learning of tonight's 60 Minutes segment, Players have expressed anger over, among other things, MLB's inability to let the result of yesterday's decision speak for itself," says the MLBPA.
The news of Bosch and Manfred's interviews comes a day after the decision to reduce Alex Rodriguez's suspension to 162 games. Although the suspension was reduced from 211 games, the decision was still widely considered to be a victory for Major League Baseball. The MLBPA feels that the interviews are "inconsistent with our collectively-bargained arbitration process" and the confidentiality stipulated by the Joint Drug Agreement.
"It is unfortunate that Major League Baseball apparently lacks faith in the integrity and finality of the arbitrator's decision and our Joint Drug Agreement, such that it could not resist the temptation to publicly pile-on against Alex Rodriguez," the statement reads. "It is equally troubling that the MLB-appointed Panel Arbitrator [Manfred] will himself be appearing in the '60 Minutes' segment, and that Tony Bosch, MLB's principal witness, is appearing on the program with MLB's blessing."
Yesterday, the MLBPA released a separate statement, saying that it disagreed with the arbitrator's decision in Rodriguez's case, but adding that it recognized the decision was "legal and binding" and that it respected the process that led to it.
MLB was ready to pass expanded replay and eliminate home plate collisions at last month's Winter Meetings. However, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports, the main hurdle is union approval. In an email to FOX Sports, MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark wrote the union's executive board discussed both issues "at length" during its December meeting, but "a consensus on both matters was not reached." Clark added "what has been contemplated exceeds what was agreed to" in regards to instant replay and "as it relates to home plate collisions, there are several points of view to explore with the players and we continue to do so." In today's news and notes from the American League:
- The Yankees will not make a final decision about how to handle the possibility of Alex Rodriguez reporting to Spring Training until speaking with the comissioner's office, reports ESPNNewYork.com's Andrew Marchand. One baseball official told Marchand the Yankees could send Rodriguez to their minor league camp and even go as far as instructing coaches not to hit him grounders or throw him batting practice.
- The only reason for Rodriguez to attend Spring Training is to give the media even more A-Rod headlines next month, opines Jayson Stark of ESPN. Several industry sources familiar with baseball's Basic Agreement and Joint Drug Agreement tell Stark neither agreement explicitly gives a player suspended for the season the right to attend Spring Training with one official calling the wording "intentionally vague."
- The Somerset Patriots of the independent Atlantic League have released a statement on their Facebook page saying they will not sign A-Rod and doing so "would be a hurtful precedent." However, the San Rafael Pacifics of the independent Pacific Association are open to the possibility, tweets the San Francisco Chronicle's John Shea, who first wrote about the team's interest last August. In the article, Shea notes the Pacific Association does not adhere to MLB suspensions and has no mandatory drug testing.
- Mitch Moreland told reporters, including Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com, he still isn't sure whether he will playing for the Rangers or elsewhere in 2014. "They’ve definitely made a lot of moves and have been very active this offseason," Moreland said. "From what I know right now, I’m still here and still a Texas Ranger and happy to be here and looking forward to the season." Earlier today, we learned Texas has been unwilling to discuss Moreland in trade talks. If that remains the case, Moreland says he has been told his role will be changing and he will use Spring Training to prepare himself to play first base, the outfield, and DH.
- The Twins are still showing no interest in exploring multi-year pacts with any of their three arbitration eligible players, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects a total of $4.8MM for the trio of Trevor Plouffe, Brian Duensing, and Anthony Swarzak. In a separate tweet, Berardino reports an arbitration hearing will probably not be needed for Swarzak because the salary gap should be pretty narrow. The filing deadline is Tuesday.
- After sitting out 2013, Chone Figgins wants to play this season and will work out for teams in Tampa this week, tweets ESPN's Jerry Crasnick. After a .298/.395/.393 line with the Angels in 2009, Figgins signed a four-year, $36MM deal with the Mariners and proceeded to struggle in Seattle with a .227/.302/.283 slash over the life of the contract.
The fallout over Alex Rodriguez's suspension for the entire 2014 season is still settling over both the Bronx and the entire baseball world. Here's the latest on both A-Rod and other Yankee-related topics…
- The Yankees will "most likely" not sign another infielder to a Major League contract, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter link). As Rosenthal notes, that would take the Yankees out of the running for Stephen Drew and Michael Young. Drew might've been a long shot anyway given Scott Boras' salary demands and the fact that Drew is a natural shortstop, though Young and Mark Reynolds were reportedly both on the Yankees' radar. Reynolds, however, has already rejected a minor league offer from the club and only wants a Major League deal.
- The 162-game suspension will reduce Rodriguez's salary to just under $2.87MM for 2014, though Forbes Magazine's Maury Brown notes that the Yankees will pay A-Rod $3MM on Wednesday in the last instalment of his original $10MM signing bonus. Brown's piece also looks at several other facets of Rodriguez's suspension, including possible implications for the MLBPA and future PED testing rules.
- Rodriguez's suspension gives the Yankees millions in salary relief, a situation that The Denver Post's Troy Renck and FOX Sports' Gabe Kapler both see as a sign that MLB needs to do more to penalize teams who have players suspended for PED violations. Renck suggests that wins could be removed from a team's record, while Kapler suggests that a team should pay a suspended player his full salary, but the player would then have to donate his salary while under suspension to an MLB-approved charity.
- "The hard reality is that no matter what you think of A-Rod, the Yankees brought this situation upon themselves, purely out of greed," ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews writes, noting that Rodriguez's contract was negotiated by Yankees upper management above GM Brian Cashman's objections. Matthews suggests that the club could just release Rodriguez and pay the remaining $61MM on his contract just to avoid the distractions if A-Rod shows up at Spring Training as planned.
- From earlier today, the Yankees agreed to sign infielder Scott Sizemore to a minor league deal.
- Wendy Thurm writes for Fangraphs that the Rodriguez affair has brought uncertainty to how baseball treats PED-related offenses. For example, it's still unclear what provisions of the Joint Drug Agreement and the Collective Bargaining Agreement Commissioner Bud Selig used to decide on his original suspension of 211 games. And unless arbitrator Frederic Horowitz's opinion is released, we won't know what JDA and CBA sections were cited when that penalty was reduced to 162 games.
- Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports opines that MLB's victory obscures a larger problem for baseball: that PED-related stories threaten to overwhelm the sport. Stars like Rodriguez and Ryan Braun have become "corporations of one" who "keep PEDs in the news — first by using, then by perpetuating legal challenges because they have the resources to do so."
- Dave D'Alessandro of The Star-Ledger says it's time for A-Rod and the Yankees to negotiate a buyout for the rest of his contract. While Rodriguez has threatened further litigation, doing so would merely allow the Yankees to file a countersuit for the $61MM that he's owed from 2015-2017, according to D'Alessandro.
- A-Rod's career may be over, Bob Nightengale of USA Today writes. Rodriguez will be 39 1/2 years old when he's reinstated in 2015 and have just two months' worth of games on his resume since the end of the 2012 season.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports says several factors in the case portend a contentious round of negotiations when the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires in 2016. Baseball managed to obtain the largest PED suspension in the game's history even though A-Rod never tested positive, and used questionable investigative tactics to build its case against the infielder. "Now more than ever, [players] need to fight for due process and protect their rights," Rosenthal warns.
Hiroki Kuroda gave the Yankees "top priority" this offseason after he decided to pitch another year, the hurler tells Sponichi (via an article by Mike Axisa of River Avenue Blues). Kuroda says the Yankees approached him about an extension as early as August. As Axisa notes, the episode is another indication that the Yankees have abandoned their "no extensions" policy. Here's more Yankees notes, with a heavy emphasis on Alex Rodriguez, who will be suspended for the entire 2014 season:
- The A-Rod suspension gives the Yanks a much better chance of getting under the $189MM luxury tax threshold, but they'll also need to find someone to play third base, Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News writes. While the Yankees have Kelly Johnson in the fold, he's played just 16 games at third in his Major League career.
- Other potential fits include Mark Reynolds and Michael Young. Reynolds, you may remember, played 36 games in pinstripes last season. There's also Dustin Ackley and Nick Franklin of the Mariners, whom another source says the Yankees expressed interest in at the Winter Meetings. A trade may not be in the cards, however, McCarron says.
- ESPN's Jerry Crasnick examines the fallout from the suspension, noting that cases such as Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro indicate A-Rod has little chance of entering the Hall of Fame. Meanwhile, Commissioner Bud Selig can now argue that he's left the game "in a better place."
- While Rodriguez plans to take his case to federal court, Ian O'Connor of ESPN New York opines that such a bid is also unlikely to succeed. "Federal judges historically have little interest in hearing cases already settled in collectively bargained arbitration," O'Connor writes.
- Daniel Lazaroff, a professor at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, says A-Rod winning an injunction that would allow him to play in 2014 "is about as likely as the 'steroid-era' players being elected to the Hall of Fame." Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times has more from Lazaroff in his column on the suspension.
- Peter Schmuck of The Baltimore Sun expects a long court battle, which might be A-Rod's "only chance to preserve any semblance of a legacy."