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Alex Rodriguez Rumors
With arbitrator Frederic Horowitz reportedly close to ruling on Alex Rodriguez's 211-game suspension, the embattled Rodriguez is weighing his options on how to proceed if his ban is upheld. He may be willing to forego a legal challenge to the suspension if it is substantially reduced, reports Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com.
A source tells Matthews that the magic number could be around 100 games, with a ban at or above that level making a further fight "likely." Presumably, a reduced suspension could result either from Horowitz's ruling or through negotiations with MLB. Sources told the New York Daily News yesterday that 65 games represented the level at which Rodriguez might be willing to back down.
These reports constitute a softening of the public position of Rodriguez's team, which has previously insisted that any suspension would warrant pursuit of relief in federal court. But if Rodriguez can whittle the ban down to a low enough point, the financial balance (and obvious risk of failure in a difficult legal challenge) could shift in favor of dropping his case.
A ruling on Rodriguez's grievance proceeding could come as soon as Friday, according to Matthews. Of course, the ultimate suspension length promises to have a major impact on the Yankees. New York stands to lose Rodriguez from its lineup, while also saving a big chunk of his sizeable salary, over the term of whatever ban is ultimately arrived upon.
Brendan Kuty of the Star-Ledger looks at how much money the Yankees can save based on the outcome of Alex Rodriguez's case. If his full 211 game suspension is upheld, the Yankees would be off of the hook for his $25MM salary in 2014 and roughly $6.8MM in 2015, good for a total of $31.8MM saved over the next two years. Meanwhile, if A-Rod manages to win his appeal, he could recoup those funds and potentially more thanks to the incentives he can get for passing Willie Mays (660), Babe Ruth (714), Hank Aaron (755), and Barry Bonds (762) on the all-time home run list. He's in line to get $6MM for each separate milestone. Here are more notes from around the Majors.
- The Pirates acquired first baseman Chris McGuiness from the Rangers because they were seeking a left-handed first bat to platoon with Gaby Sanchez and have a surplus of bullpen arms, tweets Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Pittsburgh shipped reliever Miles Mikolas to Texas in the deal, whom they acquired in late November from San Diego. It's possible the Pirates will use McGuiness more as a depth option than as their starter at first base against righties, however.
- Masahiro Tanaka will be more like Rangers standout Yu Darvish than big league bust Daisuke Matsuzaka, opines Gregg Doyel of CBSSports.com.
- The Twins and Blue Jays took different paths towards fixing their rotations this offseason, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. Since the season ended, Twins GM Terry Ryan has signed Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, and Mike Pelfrey with a series of moves that cost $84MM. Anthopoulos, meanwhile, hasn't signed any starters, opting instead to explore trades and bide his time on select free agents.
Masahiro Tanaka's workload is a serious concern, Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan writes. In the past five seasons, while pitching mostly in his early 20s, Tanaka has averaged more than 113 pitches per start, more than any pitcher in the U.S. big leagues during that period. MLB executives adore Tanaka's stuff (and, presumably, the results he's gotten in Japan), however, so they ignore warning signs about his pitch count. Those pitch counts don't mean it's certain that Tanaka will fall apart once he signs a big contract, of course — Passan points out that Yu Darvish also had an intense workload in Japan, and he's done just fine in the states. Here's more on Tanaka and the Yankees.
- The Yankees' offseason has been characterized by a need to wait for Alex Rodriguez and for Tanaka, writes NJ.com's Brendan Kuty. A decision on the status of Rodriguez's appeal could soon arrive, and once the Yankees know, they'll have a much clearer idea of their 2014 budget. That, in turn, will help clarify their pursuit of Tanaka.
- If the Yankees sign Tanaka, they'll go past the $189MM luxury-tax threshold regardless of what happens with Rodriguez, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal writes. In the previous two offseasons, the Yankees "operated as if they were in luxury-tax jail," passing even on the relatively inexpensive Russell Martin and avoiding big-ticket players like Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton. Now, after missing the playoffs with an injury-riddled roster in 2013, the Yankees appear prepared to exceed the $189MM threshold. They need Tanaka "desperately," given their current rotation.
- MLB teams' pursuit of Tanaka will be "insane," writes FanGraphs' Tony Blengino. Not only is Tanaka an excellent pitcher, he's only 25, which means he could be a better investment than most free agents, who are older. Also, unlike other Japanese talents, he's essentially a free agent. He doesn't have to deal with the posting system from previous years, in which Japanese teams, rather the players, reaped the benefits of the free market. Finally, teams have plenty of money to spend.
Should Yankees fans be rooting for Alex Rodriguez to avoid a lengthy suspension? Joel Sherman of the New York Post points out that the Yankees' only chance of staying under the $189MM luxury tax limit is if A-Rod is suspended for the entire 2014 season, but the club would then have very little spending room to address its remaining needs. If Rodriguez is only suspended for 50 games or so, Sherman argues that the Yankees should abandon their plan of staying under the tax limit and spend freely to improve next year's roster. “We either have to be under $189MM or up over $200MM or more," a member of the organization tells Sherman. "Think how dumb it would look if we worked for a few years to get under $189MM and we didn’t and we were at like $192MM and just missed. Either we go under or way over.”
Here's some more from the Bronx…
- Also from Sherman, while the modified posting system will hurt the Yankees' chances of signing Masahiro Tanaka at a relative bargain (in terms of avoiding the luxury tax), the delay in finalizing the new posting agreement puts Tanaka's market closer to the Rodriguez arbitration decision. This will give the Yankees a better idea of their payroll situation and a better idea of what they'll be able to offer Tanaka. Sherman predicts a Rodriguez decision will come on either January 3rd or January 13th, with the latter date being preferable to MLB since it be after the Hall of Fame announcements.
- Brian Roberts' contract with the Yankees contains $2.6MM worth of incentives, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports. All of the incentives are tied to plate appearances.
- The Yankees have stayed away from the closer market this winter, which The New York Post's Ken Davidoff interprets as a sign that the club has a lot of confidence in David Robertson to finish games in 2014. While the Yankees could still acquire a reliever with closing experience, Davidoff believes such an acquisition would likely be for depth rather than as legitimate competition for Robertson.
- Johan Santana could be a good investment for the Yankees on a minor league deal, ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews opines. Matthews also suggests Roy Oswalt could be a similar type of low-cost veteran signing, while Paul Maholm could be a safer (if more expensive) choice for the back of the rotation.
- In news from earlier today, the Yankees' signing of Carlos Beltran was made official, and New York created 40-man roster space for the slugger by designated righty Brett Marshall for assignment.
The Yankees have "absolutely no intention" of trading Brett Gardner to clear room in their crowded outfield or to fill a need elsewhere, according to team president Randy Levine. Levine made the comments this morning on ESPN Radio's The Ian O'Connor Show (partial transcript courtesy of ESPNNewYork.com).
"We think he's going to be on the roster," Levine said. "One of the reasons the baseball people signed Jacoby Ellsbury is the two of them together present a tremendous dynamic one-two or nine-one, whatever Joe Girardi decides to write in at the top of the lineup. One will play left, one will play center, and it's a tremendous defensive situation. So, no, there's absolutely no intention to move Brett Gardner."
Gardner has been a popular name on MLBTR this winter with reports linking him to the Tigers, Reds, Indians, and Giants. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects a $4MM arbitration salary for the 30-year-old after he slashed .273/.344/.416 in 609 plate appearances with 24 steals and an AL-leading 10 triples in 2013. Gardner will be eligible for free agency next offseason.
Levine also addressed the Alex Rodriguez situation and its implications on the team's desire to remain underneath the $189MM luxury tax ceiling. With a decision from the arbitrator expected next month on A-Rod's 211-game suspension, Levine claims the third baseman is in the team's 2014 plans.
"From our planning purposes, we have Alex Rodriguez in our budget as is if he will be playing," Levine said. "And that's the way it will be until there's a change of circumstance. His money is in the budget. But as we stand now, we have a shot to get to 189. I think it's a fair shot. It all depends on what type of players become available to us, and what choices we have to make."
While the Yankees have spent big to bring Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran into the fold, the club continues to carry major holes in its infield and rotation, Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi writes. That the Yankees will need to acquire an impact free-agent starter to contend is a consequence of their failure to develop their own superstars, he says. Morosi ranks the Bombers' rotation as the AL East's third-best as things currently stand. Here's more out of the division:
- Alex Rodriguez says he's confident he'll be manning third base for the Yankees next season, ESPN reports. "I'm preparing as always, working hard," Rodriguez told reporters in Spanish. The Bombers would be off the hook for A-Rod's $25MM salary in 2014 if his suspension is upheld, but the 37-year-old still has impact potential. If he's allowed to play, Rodriguez will relieve GM Brian Cashman of the need to find a third baseman in a free agent market that just saw the Dodgers give two years and $15MM to Juan Uribe.
- The Yankees' interest in Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney could pick up following the Royals' four-year, $30.25MM deal with Omar Infante, Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com tweets. Levine says the two teams have previously discussed Barney, who's considered a strong defender but hit just .208/.266/.303 in 2013.
- Red Sox catcher Ryan Lavarnway is aware of talks to eliminate home-plate collisions, but he'd prefer the rule to remain as it is, Tim Healey writes for MLB.com. "I've talked to a few of the other catchers, and I think that in general we all want to see [the rule] the way it is," Lavarnway said. "We think that [home-plate collisions are] a part of the game."
- The A.J. Pierzynski signing appears to call Lavarnway's role with the 2014 Red Sox into question, Healey says. Pierzynski and David Ross are expected to handle Boston's catching duties next season.
- The Orioles will struggle to keep Rule 5 draft selection Michael Almanzar on the 25-man roster for the entirety of 2014, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports. Like fellow Oriole Danny Valencia, Almanzar is limited to the infield corners and hits right handed. Almanzar has a .250/.302/.373 line in six minor-league seasons.
After looking at the Red Sox earlier this evening, let's check out the rest of the American League East..
- General Manager Alex Anthopoulos says the Blue Jays haven’t had recent talks with Josh Johnson and gets the impression that he has better options elsewhere, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. Earlier today it was reported that Johnson is down to three or four teams with the Pirates among the finalists and Tim Dierkes learned that all of those clubs are in the National League.
- Nick Markakis is among the Orioles in need of a better 2014 campaign, writes Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com. Markakis was plagued with injuries in 2012 and struggled in 2013, even though he played a full season. If he's going to turn things around, 2014 – his walk year – might be the time to do it.
- Anthopoulos acknowledged that he had dialogue with Carlos Ruiz's agent and "liked the player" in an interview on Sportsnet 590, BN-S tweets. The Phillies re-signed Ruiz to a three-year, $26MM deal earlier this week.
- Yankees president Randy Levine denied conspiring with MLB to run Alex Rodriguez out of the game or to personally benefit financially if his 211-game suspension is upheld, a source familiar with his testimony told Wallace Matthews and Matt Ehalt of ESPNNewYork.com.
- Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (video link) looks at Matt Wieters' future with the Orioles.
Jay Z may claim that he "made the Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can," but the rap icon's high profile won't play any part in what the Yankees offer his Roc Nation Sports client Robinson Cano, Dan Martin of the New York Post reports. “The New York Yankees value Robinson as a great baseball player and appreciate his value on the field. But any value that’s added with Jay Z isn’t added to the equation,” a source tells Martin. Here's the latest news from the Bronx…
- Cano's original 10-year, $310MM demands haven't changed, ESPN New York's Andrew Marchand reports. Cano and his representatives are supposed to meet this week, with Marchand saying that the Yankees are looking for a deal in the $190-$210MM range for the star second baseman. Earlier reports suggested that Cano's demands had changed, and I would imagine his number will lower simply because no other team could (or would) come close to that $300MM mark.
- Also from Marchand, he hears from a source that the MLB/NPB dispute over the posting system will be settled and Masahiro Tanaka will be posted before the end of December.
- Alex Rodriguez's drawn-out suspension appeal and the possibility that his salary could come off the Yankees' books for 2014 will likely delay the free agent market. "A-Rod could slow everything down," a baseball official told Marchard. "Players always want the Yankees involved and the threat of them having extra money is leverage they probably will want to use."
- The Yankees, meanwhile, are hoping to get Rodriguez's situation resolved as soon as possible. Ken Davidoff of the New York Post outlines the latest in the A-Rod appeal hearings, which resumed today.
- The Yankees are interested in bringing back Raul Ibanez to serve as the designated hitter against righty pitchers, according to George A. King III and Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. Ibanez played for the Yankees in 2012 and "grew impatient waiting" for a contract offer last winter, eventually signing with the Mariners. Some in the Yankee organization believe it was a mistake letting Ibanez leave, particularly since he enjoyed a 29-homer season in Seattle.
- Jhonny Peralta has been rumored to be a Yankee target but signing him could be difficult given the uncertainty with A-Rod and Derek Jeter's continuing presence at shortstop, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes. “They’re going to have trouble getting a legit shortstop to go there until it’s over with Jeter,” a player agent tells Martino. The Bronx Bombers reached an agreement with Brendan Ryan earlier today, but Ryan projects as a backup while Peralta can find a clear starting job elsewhere.
- Also from Martino, the Yankees' interest in Peralta is bad news for the Mets, as it remains to be seen if they can afford a bidding war for Peralta's services with the Yankees or any other free-spending team.
- Carlos Ruiz could have been of interest to the Yankees, but with the Phillies catcher now off of the market, they've set their sights higher and are zeroing in on Brian McCann, Andy McCullough of the Newark Star-Ledger writes. “He’s made for New York,” one rival executive said of McCann. “This guy is as mentally tough as it gets.”
MLBTR's Zach Links also contributed to this post
The Boston Red Sox are the 2013 World Series champions, just a season removed from a last-place finish in the AL East. CBS Sports' Jon Heyman details how the Sox focused on acquiring less-heralded free agents who could handle the pressure of playing in Boston, and almost all of those free agents delivered big contributions throughout the season and through the playoffs. While the return to good health and good form by several holdover Red Sox stars also played a huge role, several teams will be looking to replicate Boston's free agent strategy in the coming offseason.
Here are some notes from around baseball as the Hot Stove League has officially begun…
- The Red Sox were immeasurably helped by the "payroll miracle" of their August 2012 blockbuster trade with the Dodgers, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. The Yankees could get a similar "financial reset" if all or most of Alex Rodriguez's 2014 salary is removed from the books via suspension, allowing the Yankees to re-sign Robinson Cano, sign other free agents and also avoid the $189MM luxury tax limit.
- Rodriguez's appeal hearing may not be decided until late December, Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger reports, which could impact the Yankees' offseason spending plans.
- Adrian Cardenas, drafted 37th overall by the Phillies in 2006, walked away from a promising career at age 25 and with just 67 Major League PA to his name. In a fascinating piece for the New Yorker, Cardenas details the thought process that went into his decision and his gradual disillusionment with the professional side of the game.
- The Diamondbacks don't have much payroll flexibility for 2014, as The Arizona Republic's Nick Piecoro notes in his breakdown of the Snakes' salary obligations. Piecoro suggests that the D'Backs could sign free agents by backloading their contracts for 2015 and beyond, when the club has more money coming off the books.
- The Dominican Republic recently passed a law stating that children of undocumented Haitian immigrants would no longer be considered Dominican citizens, even if they were born in the country. Jorge Arangure of Sports On Earth investigates how this ruling could make it harder for amateur ballplayers of Haitian descent to obtain the proper visa or citizenship information to play in Major League Baseball.
- The Pirates can afford to be more patient this offseason, GM Neal Huntington tells Jenn Menendez and Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. A.J. Burnett's future needs to be decided first, however, since his status will determine the rest of the Buccos' moves. "If we retain A.J, that will be a significant positive, but also it's going to cost us a good chunk of the available money, and we'll have to react accordingly," Huntington said.
- The Marlins could fill a few needs by targeting the Angels' Mark Trumbo and Chris Iannetta in trades, MLB.com's Joe Frisaro opines as part of a reader mailbag.
- The Blue Jays have hired Kevin Seitzer as their new hitting coach, Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star reports. Seitzer previously worked as the hitting coach for the Diamondbacks and Royals, and he and Jays manager John Gibbons worked together on the K.C. staff from 2009-11.
Yesterday, the Associated Press reported MLB Chief Operating Officer Rob Manfred testified, during the Alex Rodriguez arbitration hearing, baseball did not concern itself if Biogenesis founder Tony Bosch distributed illegal substances to minors and was only interested in possible criminal activity involving players. Today, Manfred called the report "ridiculous" telling Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel his testimony was "totally out of context and mischaracterized" and accused the A-Rod camp of leaking the story. "The larger point is this: From our perspective, one of the reasons we pursue cases like the A-Rod case is we think players should be role models for kids," Manfred explained to Haudricourt. "It's almost comical that A-Rod, who already has admitted in the past he used steroids, would express an opinion on our stance on children and PEDs." The hearing will resume next month. In other news and notes from the American League:
- Mike Napoli's strong postseason is further proof his avascular necrosis is not an issue as he enters free agency for the second time, reports MLB.com's Lindsay Berra. Napoli was frustrated by having to settle for a one-year, $5MM deal (incentives pushed the eventual value to $13MM) after a three-year, $39MM contract was scrapped because of the AVN diagnosis. "I waited seven years for free agency and then got an opportunity, and it got taken away because of something I didn't even know I had and had never had any pain from," said Napoli. "I'm a little more confident about negotiating a contract now that I've shown all year that my hips aren't an issue, but I'm sure I'm going to have to go through all the steps again, with all the MRIs and talking to doctors."
- There are six questions the Tigers must answer this offseason, writes MLive.com's Chris Iott. Among the answers, Iott predicts Jim Leyland will return as manager, the Tigers will not re-sign Jhonny Peralta (despite his desire to remain in Detroit), but will re-sign Joaquin Benoit and Omar Infante.
- The Orioles don't have a lot of inventory to deal this winter after trading away six players in midseason acquisitions, writes Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com. Zach Britton, Brian Matusz, and Steve Johnson head the list of tradeable players, according to Dubroff.
- Nolan Ryan left his imprint on the Rangers, especially the pitching staff, with his attitude and focus on conditioning, opines Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News.
- Ryan received a $10MM buyout (his ownership stake plus incentives) when he announced his retirement from the Rangers, Grant reports in separate article. However, according to Forbes, Ryan wound up losing money on his ownership investment. Ryan's original equity interest was valued at $13MM (6% ownership); but, dwindled to $7MM (1% ownership) because he declined to participate in various cash calls to cover his share of the losses the franchise incurred.