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Alex Rodriguez Rumors
In an appearance on WAAF’s Hill-Man Morning Show, Jon Lester explained recent comments that he wouldn’t necessarily go to the highest bidder this offseason (via WEEI’s Rob Bradford). “…I don’t need to go to the highest bidder if that isn’t going to make me happy,” said Lester. “I’m not going to just take the highest bid, the money, the most years just because it’s in front of you. … I make decisions based on me and my family and is this place — whether it’s Boston or one of the other 29 teams – is this place going to be good for me and my family?” Lester did note that he could still end up signing the highest bidder, of course, but the happiness of his family will be the top priority. Lester also repeated that he doesn’t have any hard feelings toward the Red Sox, and he discussed his farewell to owner John Henry as well.
Here’s more from the AL East…
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos appeared on Sportsnet 590 The Fan with Mike Wilner and Ben Ennis today, and Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith provides some of the highlights. Of particular note was the fact that Anthopoulos said top prospect Daniel Norris could be a factor out of the team’s bullpen in September if he continues to pitch well. The 21-year-old Norris has skyrocketed up prospect rankings this year on the heels of a 2.25 ERA with 11.2 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 108 innings across Class-A Advanced, Double-A and Triple-A.
- Nicholson-Smith also writes that the Blue Jays have made several waiver claims this month, but none have resulted in the acquisition of a new player. The team isn’t expected to make a trade today, but it will need to clear a roster spot for the returning Edwin Encarnacion. Nicholson-Smith notes that the Jays are willing to cut ties with out-of-options players, and Anthopoulos has expressed some frustration with Juan Francisco‘s strikeout tendencies. However, he adds that the Blue Jays do value Francisco’s left-handed power.
- Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner isn’t committing to bringing back longtime general manager Brian Cashman in 2015, but the Yankee GM tells George A. King III of the New York Post that he’s not bothered by the situation. “That’s the process,” said Cashman, whose contract expires after the 2014 season. “There isn’t much to say at this point. That’s for another day.” Steinbrenner’s comments to King were of a similar nature, as he chose to focus on the season at hand rather than the future of his GM.
- Steinbrenner also says he’s had no recent conversations with Alex Rodriguez, writes MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch, but the Yankees are expecting A-Rod to return in 2015 following his 162-game suspension. The 39-year-old former MVP has three years and $61MM remaining on his contract.
The Yankees’ playoff chances may hinge on a game of catch that will take place today at Yankee Stadium. General manager Brian Cashman confirmed to George A. King III of the New York Post that Masahiro Tanaka will throw today for the first time since a slight UCL tear was discovered in the righty’s throwing elbow. If Tanaka feels good after his session, he’ll continue his rehab process with an eye towards a return in September. If he doesn’t feel right, Tanaka may have to undergo Tommy John surgery and could be in jeopardy of missing the entire 2015 season.
Here’s some more about the Bronx Bombers…
- The trainer for Christopher Torres, a 16-year-old Dominican shortstop, made a complaint to the commissioner’s office claiming the Yankees backed out of an agreed-upon $2.1MM bonus with the youngster, Baseball America’s Ben Badler reports. The Yankees claim no deal was ever reached, while Torres’ trainer says that by not informing Torres of their decision until June, the shortstop was left unsigned with no teams had room left in their international budget. Badler goes into great detail about the case and the gray area created when teams agree to sign international players months in advance of the July 2 signing period, which is against MLB rules but is very common around the league.
- The Phillies asked for Aaron Judge in exchange for Marlon Byrd, according to Bill Madden of the New York Daily News. Needless to say, the Yankees balked at giving up Judge, who was drafted 32nd overall in 2013 and is ranked by MLB.com as the fifth-best prospect in the Yankees’ farm system.
- With the Yankees struggling at the plate and facing questions at third base and DH for 2015, Newsday’s David Lennon writes that Alex Rodriguez would’ve been a useful piece on the roster right now. Had A-Rod worked out a 125-150 game suspension last August instead of appealing and ending up suspended for all of 2014, he would already have been eligible to return, Lennon notes.
- Also from King’s piece, Rusney Castillo‘s private workout with the Yankees will take place on Friday. The Cuban outfielder also has an upcoming session with the Mariners, and he has already worked out for the Phillies and Red Sox. King hears from sources that Castillo could sign for between $35-45MM, which is a step up from the $25-35MM we last heard was Castillo’s likely price range, though given the heavy interest in his services and the big-market teams involved, it isn’t surprising his price tag is going up.
Offensive catchers like Gary Sanchez and the recently demoted John Ryan Murphy surely come up in the conversations that Yankees GM Brian Cashman has had with other clubs, writes David Lennon of Newsday. Cashman told reporters yesterday that he expects to make a trade or multiple trades between now and the deadline. “Everybody’s making their phone calls,” Cashman said. “There are some big players that are available, but the price tags are going to be extremely high. There might be smaller pieces that can pay big dividends for teams.”
More afternoon links pertaining to the Yanks…
- Brett Gardner tells NJ.com’s Kevin Manahan that despite his strong season that could potentially have led to a larger free agent deal, he has no regrets about signing a four-year, $52MM extension with the Yankees. Gardner, who is hitting .291/.355/.415 with six homers, 14 steals and strong outfield defense, says he thought he was a goner when New York signed Jacoby Ellsbury but is as happy right now with his four-year extension as he was when he signed it.
- A spokesperson for Alex Rodriguez tells Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that all legal matters pertaining to A-Rod have been resolved (Twitter links). Rodriguez fully plans to play in 2015, the spokesperson adds.
- GM Brian Cashman spoke with the Daily News’ John Harper about trades, stating that he didn’t want to wait for the return of CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda to improve his club. Harper agrees with previous reports saying that Cashman isn’t going to move breakout reliever Dellin Betances, but he notes that slugging Double-A catcher Peter O’Brien has been moved around the field in an attempt to showcase him for trades. Many scouts question his ability to catch in the big leagues, however, and he’s not believed to be close to MLB-ready. He’s hitting .266/.305/.591 with 23 homers this season.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
C.C. Sabathia received a stem cell injection in his right knee last week and will be out of action until at least July, Yankees GM Brian Cashman tells Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Cashman said he has checked in with teams about trade possibilities and while “nothing has materialized,” Cashman “will keep an eye out to see if something does.” Three-fifths of the Bombers’ regular rotation is currently injured, with Ivan Nova out for the season and Michael Pineda on the DL until mid-June at the earliest.
Here’s the latest from the Yankees and Mets in this roundup of Big Apple baseball news…
- Alex Rodriguez told advisers last summer that he was considering retirement rather than go through a lengthy battle with Major League Baseball over his record PED suspension, reports Teri Thompson, Bill Madden, Michael O’Keeffe, Christian Red and Nathaniel Vinton of the New York Daily News. A-Rod was convinced to fight his suspension, however, after consulting with Desiree Perez, a New York nightclub manager affiliated with Jay Z and who also played a role in Robinson Cano signing with the Mariners. Rodriguez may have been motivated to listen to Perez in part because, as the article states, he would like to become a player agent, possibly with Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports agency.
- Back when Wil Myers was still a Royals prospect, Kansas City offered him to the Mets for a trade package of Jonathan Niese and Zack Wheeler, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News tweets. Myers, of course, ended up being the centerpiece of the five-player package the Royals sent to the Rays in exchange for James Shields and Wade Davis. It’s an interesting what-if to ponder for both the Mets and Royals; Myers would’ve given the Amazins a cornerstone player in the outfield, but at the cost of two quality young arms. For K.C., Shields was the better win-now move, though he had only two years of team control and Davis has become a relief pitcher. Wheeler is controllable through the 2019 season while Niese’s five-year contract has club options that could’ve extended the deal through 2018.
- Also from Martino, he looks at some trade possibilities for the Yankees and Mets this summer. The Mets looked at LaTroy Hawkins, Fernando Rodney and Grant Balfour over the winter and could explore trading for veteran closer help, plus shortstop could still be a position the Mets are looking to upgrade. As for the Yankees, they could also use shortstop help but acquiring a big name could be awkward given the awkwardness of benching Derek Jeter during his final season. A move for Diamondbacks shortstop Didi Gregorius makes sense for both New York clubs.
- Particularly in the wake of the Sabathia news, the Yankees also need starting pitching. Martino writes that while the Yankees may not have the prospect depth to attract a major trade chip, their financial resources could help them take big contracts off the hands of losing teams. Possible trade candidates in this vein could be the Diamondbacks’ Bronson Arroyo or the Blue Jays’ Mark Buehrle or R.A. Dickey (if Toronto falls out of the race, that is).
- In an Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Paul Swydan criticizes both the Mets front office and manager Terry Collins for some transactions and personnel moves that Swydan feels “have left the Mets in an all-too-familiar middling position.”
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 had joined the Red Sox (rather than the Yankees) prior to the 2004 season. The Deal, the latest episode 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.