Alex Rodriguez Rumors

Yankees, A-Rod Settle Home Run Milestone Dispute

The Yankees have reached agreement with Alex Rodriguez on a settlement regarding the payment of a home run milestone bonus clause in his contract, as the Associated Press reports (via ESPN.com). New York will pay out $3.5MM to charitable organizations under the settlement.

Rodriguez and the MLBPA had reportedly planned to contest the team’s refusal to pay a $6MM bonus for his 660th home run, the first of several that trigger such bonuses under his deal. The club cited the fact that the bonus was termed a discretionary marketing opportunity under the contract in asserting that it was not obligated to make payment. (Click here for the contract’s details.)

The settlement avoids a potentially ugly grievance proceeding, which all involved were surely motivated not to undertake. It is unclear whether the parties have reached any agreement or understanding regarding future milestones. The next one up is Babe Ruth’s 714 mark, though that seems a long shot for this season with Rodriguez sitting at 669 long balls. Of course, his contract does promise him another $40MM after this season, covering the 2016 and 2017 campaigns.

Notably, the deal means that the Yankees will avoid paying any luxury tax on the $6MM bonus, which would have cost the club $3MM. That adds to the savings achieved on the actual payout.


AL East Notes: A-Rod, Red Sox, Chen

The filing deadline for Alex Rodriguez‘s potential grievance against the Yankees has been put on hold by agreement between MLB and the player’s union, the Associated Press reports (via the New York Times). Presumably, the deal was struck to avoid a major sideshow and to allow the sides more time to work out an agreement regarding the disputed milestone marketing bonuses contemplated in A-Rod’s contract. One of those bonuses was triggered recently when Rodriguez tied Willie Mays on the all-time home run list with his 660th long ball. The team has offered to settle the issue by making a charitable payment (of less than the $6MM provided in the deal) in Rodriguez’s name, per the report.

  • The Red Sox bet on bats, says WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford, and they haven’t come through to the extent necessary to overcome the team’s other deficiencies. Bradford argues that is is due not only to the talent on the current roster, but the club’s need for “a flat-out bigger dose of player-driven accountability.” In an appearance on WEEI radio today (via Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald, on Twitter), manager John Farrell said that effort is not a problem, at least currently, though he acknowledged that “there have been times where we’ve had incidents with [effort] that had to be addressed.”
  • Looking forward, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs argues that the Red Sox may need to figure out a way to move forward with only one of David Ortiz and Hanley Ramirez on next year’s roster. That could be a tall order (and a potentially painful one) given Ortiz’s rather iconic standing and apparent intention to play next year, combined with HanRam’s big contract and current lack of productivity on defense.
  • Orioles lefty Wei-Yin Chen was recently optioned despite his excellent results this year, with the team citing fatigue, as Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun explains. Of course, moving Chen down for ten days also allows the club to skip his upcoming start against the lefty-mashing Blue Jays while freeing a roster spot that the club used to add Chris Parmelee (and prevent him from exercising his opt-out clause). Chen’s agent, Scott Boras, called it a “grossly irregular” move that disrupted the starter’s routine. Ultimately, Baltimore had the right to utilize one of Chen’s options, of course, and service time does not appear to be an issue. But it is a rather interesting and unusual move to demote an established starter, even for an organization that has taken full advantage of the chance to shuttle players between the minors and active roster in recent years.

Quick Hits: A-Rod, Gutierrez, Butera, Manfred

With a solo shot off of Chris Tillman during tonight’s 4-3 Yankees win over the Orioles, Alex Rodriguez officially passed Willie Mays for fourth place on the all-time home run list.  Rodriguez’s 661 career homers put him behind only Babe Ruth (714), Henry Aaron (755) and Barry Bonds (762) in the record books.  While A-Rod’s feat is certainly noteworthy in its own right, his homers have drawn even more attention due to the controversy around the so-called “milestone” bonuses in his contract that the Yankees are refusing to pay.  Here’s some more news from around the league…

  • Cuban right-hander Vladimir Gutierrez is now eligible to sign with teams during the 2015-16 international signing period, Baseball America’s Ben Badler reports.  Gutierrez has received residency in Mexico and registered with MLB, though since he still needs to be officially declared a free agent by the league, he may not be able to sign immediately when the signing period opens on July 2.  Gutierrez will be subject to the international bonus pool limits, so teams that are facing $300K signing caps in the upcoming signing period (the Angels, Diamondbacks, Rays, Red Sox and Yankees) won’t be able to afford the promising youngster.
  • Angels GM Jerry Dipoto was hoping to keep Drew Butera after the catcher was designated for assignment, but as Dipoto told reporters (including MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez), “it became fairly clear that he was going to get claimed on waivers, so putting together a trade made the most sense.”  Butera was dealt to the Royals for infielder Ryan Jackson earlier today.
  • On the Royals side of that trade, GM Dayton Moore told reporters (including MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan) that Butera won’t supplant Erik Kratz as the primary backup catcher.  “We’re just trying to get through this period of time,” Moore said, in reference to Kratz’s stint on the DL with an injured foot.  Since Butera is out of options, I’d guess he could be on the move again once Kratz is healthy.
  • Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke to reporters before a recent Rangers/Astros game about a number of baseball topics, including the possibility of a shorter schedule.  The Associated Press has a partial recap of Manfred’s comments.
  • One topic that isn’t a major priority for the league office is adjusting the designated-for-assignment period.  As Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle tweets, Manfred said “that rule actually has functioned fairly effectively over a period of time.”  Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal and MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth both recently explored how some players, like Alex Hassan, can have their careers essentially put on hold due to constantly being in “DFA limbo.”
  • In his latest Insider-only post, ESPN’s Buster Olney cites the AthleticsScott Kazmir and the RedsMike Leake as potential trade candidates if their teams continue to struggle.  Both hurlers are scheduled for free agency this winter.  Olney speculates that the Dodgers could be interested in either pitcher to bolster their rotation, while Kazmir could also be a fit with the Red Sox or Astros.
  • While the Marlins bullpen hasn’t pitched very well this year, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro doesn’t think the club needs to turn to Edward Mujica, who was designated for assignment by the Red Sox earlier today.  Mujica pitched well for the Marlins in 2011-12 but as Frisaro notes, he’s struggled this year and Miami doesn’t really have any roster space for him.


Cashman Confirms Yankees Will Not Pay A-Rod Home Run Bonus

Yankees GM Brian Cashman confirmed long-standing reports that the club does not intend to pay Alex Rodriguez a $6MM “milestone” marketing bonus for his 660th home run, as Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports.

“We have the right, but not the obligation to do something, and that’s it,” Cashman said. “We’re going to honor our responsibilities of the contract. So there is no dispute, from our perspective.”

Of course, the move was widely expected long before Rodriguez matched Willie Mays with a pinch-hit blast at Fenway. Though only $6MM is directly at issue, avoiding the payment would actually keep $9MM in the Yankees’ coffers because of the luxury tax that would come with it.

If and when a grievance is filed, the issue will be one of contract interpretation for a unique clause. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported key details of the clause back in February, writing that the provision permits New York to elect whether or not to “designate” various record-tying home runs as “milestones” — so long as the “decision is made in good faith and in accordance with the intent of the parties.” As I explained at the time, and as Cashman’s comments reflect, that language gives facial validity to the Yankees’ position.

Of course, an arbitrator will ultimately likely be left to decide the matter, and the MLBPA is “prepared to intervene on Alex’s behalf,” spokesman Greg Bouris said, via Steven Marcus of Newsday. I’d expect that the union and/or Rodriguez will look to explore all aspects of the matter, potentially including the Yankees’ knowledge of Rodriguez’s PED usage and the negotiations that took place at the time that the contract was agreed upon.


Yankees Notes: Luxury Tax, Pirela, A-Rod

MLB’s luxury tax has not kept pace with rising MLB revenues, Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs explains. The luxury tax threshold grew from $117MM in 2003 to $178MM in 2011, but held steady there for three years before a modest increase to $189MM in 2014, where it remains today. The threshold was once set at 90 percent of the average team’s revenue, but now it’s only 63 percent. That threshold has clearly disincentivized heavy spending for several teams. For example, the Yankees’ payroll has stayed roughly the same since 2005 (hovering at around $210MM-$220MM), even as their revenues have skyrocketed. The luxury tax appears, then, to be limiting player salaries, which means the MLBPA could try to change the system in the next round of CBA negotiations, perhaps aiming to have the luxury-tax threshold tied specifically to each year’s overall league revenues. Here’s more from New York.

  • The Yankees are closely watching infielder Jose Pirela as he continues his rehab assignment at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Bryan Hoch of MLB.com writes. Pirela suffered a concussion in Spring Training. “I think he is doing better,” says Yankees manager Joe Girardi. “It’s something that we have discussed about what we might possibly do with him or not do with him, but obviously I think at-bats are important. He was out a month.” Last offseason, Pirela appeared likely to compete with Rob Refsnyder for the Yankees’ second base job, although those plans changed when the team signed Stephen Drew. The 25-year-old Pirela hit a solid .305/.351/.441 at Scranton last season before making a good impression by going 8-for-24 in his first cup of coffee in the big leagues.
  • The Yankees ought to pay Alex Rodriguez his $6MM bonus for tying Willie Mays’ career home run mark, Steve Wulf of ESPN The Magazine writes. The team has kept its championship banner from 2009, a year when Rodriguez posted a .933 OPS in the regular season and hit six postseason home runs while taking PEDs. To deny A-Rod his bonus because of PED use would therefore be hypocritical, Wulf argues.
  • The battle between the Yankees and A-Rod will be an argument about whether Rodriguez’s milestone 660th home run is about him or about the number itself, writes ESPN’s Jayson Stark. The Yankees’ position will be that the home run isn’t marketable because of A-Rod’s troubling legacy, while Rodriguez’s camp will say that the meaning of the number 660 (and the numbers 714 and 755) in baseball history and in American sports culture more broadly are bigger than A-Rod himself.

Heyman’s Latest: A-Rod, BoSox, Bryant, Ventura, Gordon, Duda

In this week’s edition of his Inside Baseball column, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports begins by looking at the contentious courtroom showdown that stands between Alex Rodriguez and as much as $30MM worth of home run milestone bonuses. As Heyman notes, people on all sides of the case have reasons to dislike A-Rod. Rodriguez filed a lawsuit (that was eventually dropped) against the MLBPA, and he parted ways with agent Scott Boras more than six years ago. The Yankees’ reasons for resenting Rodriguez are obvious, as are those of the league, with whom Rodriguez battled to reduce a 212-game suspension to a still-significant 162 game ban. Heyman looks at the arguments that can be made by both sides as well as the potential fallout once the situation is finally resolved.

Some highlights from the latest edition of Heyman’s newest weekly column…

  • Though the Red Sox aren’t blinking when it comes to trade talks with the Phillies regarding Cole Hamels, one rival GM considers Boston the favorite. The Phillies quite like center field prospect Manuel Margot, and Boston does have other nice pieces. Heyman notes that one scout actually expressed concern to him about Mookie Betts‘ ability to hit the ball on the outer half of the plate, but the Sox remain steadfast in their refusal to part ways with Betts.
  • The Cubs aren’t concerned with a potential grievance being filed against them on behalf of Kris Bryant. Rather, their main concern is trying to find a way to extend him beyond his current allotment of team control. Heyman hears that Cubs are already considering trying to make him a Cub for life, though he also notes that it’s a bit early for those discussions.
  • White Sox skipper Robin Ventura signed an extension of an unreported length prior to the 2014 season, and Heyman now hears that Ventura is under contract through the 2016 season. The contract length is said to be of little importance to ChiSox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who loves Ventura.
  • The Royals plan to try to do “whatever they can” to retain Alex Gordon beyond the 2015 season. The 32-year-old Gordon’s $12.5MM player option has increased to $13.25MM based on performance escalators, per Heyman. While Gordon has implied that he will exercise the option in the past, it’s exceptionally difficult to envision him merely picking up the option rather than trying for a highly lucrative multi-year deal. The Royals never felt they had a great shot at retaining James Shields, but their hope with Gordon is that the career Royal and Nebraska native might be easier to retain. Heyman adds that while the club is interested in trying to extend Salvador Perez beyond the 2019 season, those talks aren’t likely to come until after the season.
  • Juan Uribe is off to a decent start with the Dodgers, but the hot play of Alex Guerrero and the addition of Hector Olivera in Spring Training could eventually lead to Uribe becoming available on the trade market. Uribe’s at hasn’t lined up with his previous seasons to this point, but he’s hit a perhaps surprisingly strong .293/.333/.435 dating back to Opening Day 2013.
  • Rival executives are anxiously anticipating a Brewers fire sale following the club’s awful 5-17 start to the season, Heyman hears. One exec listed Carlos Gomez, Khris Davis, Jean Segura, Gerardo Parra, Kyle Lohse and Francisco Rodriguez as players who will draw interest, noting that Jonathan Lucroy is probably untouchable, while Matt Garza and Ryan Braun are somewhat overpriced.
  • The Mets were trying for a three-year extension that contained a club option and would’ve guaranteed Lucas Duda a bit shy of $30MM. I’d imagine that with Duda could end up the beneficiary in that scenario, particularly if he can sustain the increase in his walk rate and the more notable decrease in his strikeout rate.
  • Multiple Yankees people have shot down the notion that the team would pursue Hamels when asked by Heyman. One replied that the team is “not looking” at Hamels, while another wondered if Hamels is still a legitimate ace or more of just a big name.

AL East: A-Rod, Reyes, Blue Jays, Red Sox

The Yankees‘ apparent determination not to pay Alex Rodriguez a milestone bonus under his contract if (really, when) he matches Willie Mays on the all-time home run list has been well-documented. But as David Waldstein of the New York Times reports, the financial motivations are even stronger than had previously been realized. New York would be required to pay a 50% luxury tax on the potential $6MM bonus, meaning that $9MM is actually at issue from the team’s perspective.

Here’s more from the rest of the AL East:

  • The Blue Jays have placed shortstop Jose Reyes on the 15-day DL with a cracked rib and will recall Jonathan Diaz to take his place on the active roster. As Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca explains, the injury was suffered early in the season, and it remains unclear precisely what motivated the move at this point. While it could just be that the club wants Reyes to heal up for a long season, his long list of injury struggles make this a situation to monitor.
  • Reyes is not the only area of concern for the Blue Jays, whose reliance on internal options in the bullpen has started to come into question, as Davidi writes. It was a mistake for Toronto not to find an upgrade or two over the winter, he opines, arguing that the current mix of arms has left the club short of reliable options since the rotation, too, has some questions. Manager John Gibbons discussed the matter at some length, noting that the club may be asking too much of young hurlers Miguel Castro and Roberto Osuna. The division already looks like it could be a tightly-contested affair all season long, and the Jays’ relief corps is an obvious area for upgrade as the summer approaches.
  • Speaking of pitching concerns, the Red Sox rotation has long been an area of attention. Alex Speier of the Boston Globe looks into the team’s league-worst 5.75 starters’ ERA, noting that the club still believes its current options will improve. But as Speier explains, recent history shows that we are reaching a point where it may no longer be reasonable to expect a significant leap forward in productivity from the group as a whole.
  • With a competitive division to navigate, the Red Sox front office is set up for a difficult test of its patience, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com writes. GM Ben Cherington hinted that there could be more early trade activity this year, in part because of an increased sense of urgency owing to the spread of talent in the AL East. We have already seen greater creativity in structuring deals over the last year or so, and Cherington at least hints that the destabilization of established transactional patterns could continue. “The old saying was to take the first two months, figure out what you are and what you need to do, and then take the next two months to try and solve your needs and then let your team play for the last two months,” said Cherington. “I don’t think that it has to be that. Every team’s situation is different and has different needs.”

AL East Notes: Navarro, A-Rod, Hanley

Though Bernie Williams hasn’t played in a Major League game since 2006, the longtime Yankees outfielder won’t officially hang up his glove until Friday, when he’ll sign his retirement papers prior to the Mets/Yankees game at Yankee Stadium.  Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News notes that Williams is also scheduled to have his #51 retired by the Yankees later this season and be honored with a plaque in Monument Park.  Here’s some more from around the AL East…

  • Blue Jays catcher Dioner Navarro has been placed on the 15-day DL with a strained hamstring, the team announced.  Navarro has been frequently mentioned as a trade candidate since the Jays signed Russell Martin, and Navarro has himself said that he’d prefer an everyday role elsewhere, though he’s committed to the Jays.  The veteran has received semi-regular playing time this season as Mark Buehrle‘s personal catcher and part-time DH duty.
  • With Alex Rodriguez closing in on his 660th career home run and the $6MM contract bonus associated with tying Willie Mays’ mark, Ken Davidoff and Joel Sherman of the New York Post look at how the impending dispute between A-Rod and the Yankees will play out.  It’s possible the arbitration hearing to decide the matter wouldn’t take place until the offseason, Davidoff/Sherman write, as “there is no reason to speed this case along, especially because neither the Yankees nor A-Rod seem anxious to mess with the positive vibe around the controversial slugger.”
  • Outfielder Ramon Flores enjoyed a big Spring Training and he’s tearing up Triple-A pitching, yet as Mike Axisa of the River Ave Blues blog writes, the Yankees don’t currently have a spot for him at the Major League level.  New York would have to trade someone to create even a bench spot for Flores, and dealing Flores himself might not net a big return since he has no MLB experience.
  • Hanley Ramirez has looked defensively shaky in his new left field role, yet Red Sox manager John Farrell told WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford that he doesn’t plan on removing Ramirez for a better fielder in late-game situations.  “I want to show him the confidence to bring him along….I think the benefit of not taking him out far outweighs, at least at this point and time, taking him out because of his continued growth and us showing faith in him in left field,” Farrell said.  Needless to say, the Sox have a lot invested in Ramirez’s development as a left fielder since (at least for this season) they have nowhere else in the field to play him; Pablo Sandoval (3B), Xander Bogaerts (SS), David Ortiz (DH) and Mike Napoli (1B) are locked in at other possible positions.

East Notes: A-Rod, Red Sox, Markakis

We checked into the west earlier tonight; now, let’s look at the latest from the east:

  • The Yankees are prepared to go to arbitration to avoid paying Alex Rodriguez any home run marketing bonuses, Bill Madden and Teri Thompson of the New York Daily News report. Rodriguez is seeing plenty of plate appearances, and it is probably only a matter of time before the issue is triggered. New York will simply not declare any triggering home runs as milestones (click here for an explanation of how the contract works), leaving it up to Rodriguez and the union whether to file a grievance.
  • The Red Sox‘ prescient pursuit of Mookie Betts in the 2011 draft is at least partially attributable to the concept of neuroscouting, writes Alex Speier of the Boston Globe. To some extent, it seems, the club is still working to assess the merits of its neurological program, as well as to delineate between its scouting and development components. GM Ben Cherington explains the intuition that justifies the effort: “If you have that strength, then you might improve that. Hopefully we think we can improve it. But the player who starts with the advantage still probably has the advantage.”
  • At the big league level, Cherington is trying to return the Red Sox to the depth it had in 2013, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal reports. Protecting against (or avoiding) injury and underperformance are key goals, of course, and depth — as well as the intelligent deployment of it — can help to maximize productivity.
  • The Braves‘ offseason was dedicated rather clearly to shedding salary and adding young pitching, with the notable exception of the signing of Nick Markakis. David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution looks at the reasoning, explaining that the team was motivated both by near-term and mid-term goals. At its most basic, there was simply a hole in right field that needed to be filled. But the organization also wanted to add a steady, veteran presence to the lineup and clubhouse over the next few years. “This guy’s a great leader and a great player,” said assistant GM John Coppolella. “We thought he fit us really well. We had a lot of inside information from Dave Trembley, who managed him when (Markakis) was a kid with the Orioles. … There isn’t anything wrong with this player, anything that he doesn’t do well. He’s a very good player who fits not only what we’re going through now as we try to remodel, but as we start getting to the playoffs and getting to the World Series, he will be a key part of that as well.”

Details On A-Rod’s Home Run Milestones, Representation

The Yankees feel they have a strong case that the team should not be obligated to pay Alex Rodriguez for a series of home run milestone bonuses included in his deal with the club, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. Rodriguez’s contract provides that he can earn $6MM for reaching each of five career home run tallies, starting with his 660th, but the club is said to have begun developing a legal strategy to avoid any such pay-outs.

The reason for the club’s confidence is apparent in the new details on those clauses provided in Heyman’s report. Rather than simply promising Rodriguez the sum if and when he hits the necessary home run, the language provides that the club need not “exercise its right to designate” a home run as a milestone if that “decision is made in good faith and in accordance with the intent of the parties.”

As I explained in detail a while back, it already was at least plausible to think that the Yankees could craft an argument that the marketing bonus pay-outs should be invalidated. That the actual deal language seems to contemplate scenarios where a bonus would not be paid would appear to lend significant credence to such an attempt. Of course, Rodriguez is also promised another $61MM for the next three seasons.

Of course, as Heyman notes, this matter is not likely to be resolved quietly unless the sides agree to some sort of settlement. Particularly given the contract’s reference to the “intent of the parties,” any kind of formal dispute would seem quite likely to involve testimony from Rodriguez, his agent at the time of the deal, Scott Boras, and top Yankees brass. Indeed, Heyman indicates that Rodriguez’s camp has already sought to engaged Boras regarding obtaining his testimony, with the super-agent rebuffing those initial advances. And, of course, the MLBPA would again be in a difficult position but would almost certainly seek to uphold the marketing provisions.

Adding to the complexities is the fact that Rodriguez apparently is not currently retaining an agent. Sources tell Heyman that Rodriguez has “parted ways” with Dan Lozano, the representative he had hired to replace Boras.