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Alex Rodriguez Rumors
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."
The Rangers are "making progress" on a deal with pitcher Jerome Williams, MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo tweets. Yesterday, a report indicated that, in the wake of the Derek Holland injury, the Rangers would look to add starting pitching depth, and Williams would certainly qualify. The righty posted a 4.57 ERA with 5.7 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 169 1/3 innings for the Angels in 2013. Here are more notes from the American League.
- One reason the Red Sox signed A.J. Pierzynski to a one-year deal is that they did not want to sign a catcher to a long-term deal and block prospects Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez in the process, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal writes. Pierzynski and Swihart were at the same autograph signing in Boston on Saturday, but it's not likely they'll ever play for the Red Sox together. Swihart hit .298/.366/.428 for Class A+ Salem last season, and he'll likely be at Double-A in 2014, probably with Vazquez at Triple-A. MLB.com ranks Swihart the Sox' No. 10 prospect, with Vazquez at No. 15.
- Perhaps unsurprisingly, the independent Long Island Ducks have invited Alex Rodriguez to play for them in 2014, Mark Herrmann of Newsday reports. "While some MLB suspensions have been honored by the Atlantic League in the past, if Alex Rodriguez were unable to participate in the Major Leagues this season, we would be open to exploring giving him a chance to play, stay sharp and compete," says Ducks president and GM Michael Pfaff. Rodriguez plans to continue to fight his suspension, which prevents him from playing for the Yankees in 2014.
Alex Rodriguez's fall from grace is among the "saddest baseball stories ever told," CBS Sports' Jon Heyman writes. On top of A-Rod's 162-game suspension, "his name has no value" and he's now "practically friendless." Heyman also estimates that Rodriguez is spending at least $1MM a month in legal fees. Here are more notes from around the American League.
- Angels GM Jerry Dipoto says the organization's farm system is improving despite a second consecutive No. 30 ranking from Baseball America, MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez reports. "We're better than we were [last year]," says Dipoto. "If that's deemed by Baseball America to be No. 30, we'll have to be content with living with their evaluation of our system. But we believe we're getting better; we believe we're in a better situation than that." The Angels did not have first round picks in 2012 or 2013 due to their signings of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, leading to tiny draft spending pools. But as Gonzalez has previously written, a number of other factors have also contributed to the Angels' weak farm system, including trades of prospects and the team's under-involvement in Latin America.
- Masahiro Tanaka has returned to Japan after meeting with various MLB teams in the US, Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News notes, citing Japanese media reports. The White Sox were among the teams that met with Tanaka.
- The Twins have interest in free-agent infielders Mark Reynolds and Justin Turner, but, via 1500ESPN.com's Darren Wolfson (on Twitter), a Twins official notes that other teams also have interest and that the "process has to play out."
Now that the results of Alex Rodriguez's appeal have been released, the Yankees' relationship to the 2014 luxury tax is somewhat clearer. Their balance so far is about $151.5MM, via Joel Sherman and Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. That figure does not include arbitration-eligible players and other costs, including insurance as well as in-season player promotions. Here are more notes on Rodriguez's suspension, which now covers the entire 2014 regular season and postseason.
- Even though he is not allowed to play in 2014, A-Rod still plans to attend Spring Training, tweets ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews, who cites sources close to A-Rod who believe the Yankees can't prevent him from doing so.
- Major League Baseball has not yet said what it thinks about Rodriguez attending spring training, FOX Sports' Jon Morosi tweets.
- A-Rod's suspension could end his career, Sherman writes. He won't be eligible to play again until he's 39, and he'll have been away from MLB action for the better part of two seasons. If the Yankees were to let him go, it's questionable whether any other team would pick him up, even at the minimum salary, given the "carnival" that surrounds him.
The result of Alex Rodriguez's appeal is in, and he will be suspended for 162 games, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets. Rodriguez plans to appeal the suspension in federal court. The suspension will cover the full 2014 season, and also the postseason, Yahoo! Sports' Tim Brown tweets. The suspension previously was 211 games. Even though the suspension was reduced, the decision by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz appears to be a victory for Major League Baseball, which won a suspension for A-Rod that goes far beyond those of other first-time PED offenders.
The MLBPA, meanwhile, says in a statement that it disagrees with the arbitrator's decision, but respects the process that led to it. "We recognize that a final and binding decision has been reached, however, and we respect the collectively-bargained arbitration process which led to the decision," says the union.
A-Rod's suspension for the entire season means the Yankees will save about $24.3MM against the 2014 luxury tax threshold. Rodriguez's luxury-tax figure is $27.5MM, but Joel Sherman of the New York Post notes (via Twitter) that the Yankees will be assessed about $3.16MM of that, since 183 days, and not 162, counts as a year. In any case, the suspension could help the Yankees get below the $189MM threshold, if they choose. The Yankees will also save $25MM in salary.
That savings could give the Yankees more flexibility to pursue Masahiro Tanaka or other free agents. Also, the Yankees may now look for another option at third base, even though they have Kelly Johnson — a report earlier today indicated that they could consider Michael Young or Mark Reynolds, both of whom are free agents.
SATURDAY: A decision on A-Rod is, in fact, imminent, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman tweets.
FRIDAY: This weekend, arbitrator Fredric Horowitz could reach a decision on Alex Rodriguez's suspension, Ronald Blum of the Associated Press reports. On August 5, MLB commissioner Bud Selig suspended Rodriguez for 211 games for his alleged role in the Biogenesis scandal. Horowitz heard the case during the course of a series of sessions from September through November.
Rodriguez could continue to challenge the suspension if it is upheld, but he also reportedly might consider accepting a lesser sentence, perhaps of something like 100 games. The ultimate result of the suspension will have a significant impact on the Yankees' offseason, both in determining how much (or whether) Rodriguez plays, and how much of his salary will count against the 2014 luxury tax threshold.
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.