Of all the possible outcomes involving Alex Rodriguez's connection to Biogenesis, the New York Yankees have been gifted the best-case scenario for both their short and long-term future.
On Sunday, A-Rod homered off of Justin Verlander, drove in two runs and played a major role in New York's 5-4 victory over Detroit. Through his first five games back in the lineup, Rodriguez has put together a .263/.364/.421 slash line. That .785 OPS fits into the top nine among all third base groups in the sport this season.
In other words, considering the lack of production in Rodriguez's place, he's been a boost.
As the saga of an impending appeal, jeers from the home crowd and must-win games fill the day-to-day narratives for the remaining 46 games of Yankees baseball this season, the front office and ownership group should be ecstatic about how the Rodriguez discipline, decision and appeal process shook out over the past few weeks.
In the short-term, A-Rod can provide a lift in the lineup. While the chances of playing October baseball still feel slim for the 2013 team, October isn't out of the question. The return of Rodriguez, along with Curtis Granderson and the trade acquisition of Alfonso Soriano, gives Joe Girardi a significantly better lineup than earlier in the season.
When the Biogenesis suspensions were handed down, the 211-game ban for Rodriguez was immediately appealed, allowing the 38-year-old third baseman the ability to play until the arbitration process commenced and rendered a verdict. Due to the unprecedented length of suspension and magnitude of Rodriguez's legal team, it's likely that the verdict won't come down until the offseason.
If A-Rod is suspended long-term, the Yankees will benefit in a major financial way.
Wiping A-Rod from the books could put the Yankees under a luxury tax threshold next year, saving them $15 million http://t.co/44qxbSVNkc— Scott Bixby (@ScottBix) August 5, 2013
First, obviously, would be the ability to remove Rodriguez's salary from the 2014 payroll. If the entire 211-game suspension is upheld, the savings would bleed into 2015. By then, it would be hard to imagine the team keeping a player nearing 40 years of age. If a buyout could be worked out between the Yankees and the former three-time MVP, the next two months could be his last in pinstripes.
Of course, considering Rodriguez's fight, and, based on what we know at the moment, the over-the-top nature of 211-games for someone without a positive drug test, A-Rod's suspension could be rendered significantly less than what it looks to be now. Yet, even a 162-game suspension would be a boon to the Yankees.
One year without Rodriguez would probably ease tensions and headaches in the media relations office at Yankees Stadium, but would have an even bigger impact on the bottom line and Brian Cashman's ability to spend in the near future.
With a self-mandated $189 million cap to their finances through 2014, the Yankees are attempting to reset their luxury tax bracket. With Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and Hiroki Kuroda set to hit free agency, not to mention potential holes at catcher and in the starting rotation, the team must spend enough money this winter to stay competitive in 2014. Of course, they can't spend too much.
If the franchise can expunge Rodriguez's $26 million salary for 2014 from the books, the idea of re-signing Cano, Granderson and Kuroda, while staying under $189 for the 40-man roster, is more than feasible.
Furthermore, the benefits of falling under the $189 million tax in 2014 can have lasting effects for the franchise. With the tax bracket reset for 2015 and beyond, the Yankees can spend big on future free agent classes. While the volume of impact free agents on the market is drying up due to mid-market teams paying their stars, quality will remain. After next season, 28-year-old Colby Rasmus, 27-year-old Clayton Kershaw and 30-year-old Max Scherzer could all be available to the highest bidder.
Over the past year, the rhetoric from Rodriguez and some circles of baseball fans has centered around the theory of the Yankees trying to get out of the $275 million pact they gave him after the 2007 season. While that may be true, it's virtually impossible to believe that A-Rod would walk away from his money or the team would be allowed to void the contract.
Now, a realistic and perfect alternative has become reality in the Bronx.
A-Rod is back, helping the 2013 team win games in an effort to make an improbable run towards October. Before long, it's likely he'll be gone for a significant period of time, benefiting the franchise in a unique, yet uncomfortable, way.