The embattled star third baseman's initial 211-game suspension was trimmed down, but Rodriguez will still be forced to sit out all 162 games of the 2014 season, plus any playoff games should the Yankees return to October.
That decision by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz will save the Yankees about $25 million this year, but Rodriguez remains under contract through 2017 at a total of—you guessed it—$61 million.
In his attempt to clear his ever-sullied name and fight for his ever-tarnished legacy, Rodriguez is suing the league, the players association and even the Yankees team physician. Still hoping to return to the field, however, Rodriguez told the media he's prepared to move forward. Via ESPN:
I think that in the year 2014, the league could have done me a favor because I've played 20 years without a timeout. I think 2014 will be a year to rest mentally and physically prepare myself for the future and begin a new chapter of my life...
I have 3 years left on my contract starting in 2015 and I hope to play very well and finish my career in New York.
Pretty much everything in baseball, like most professional sports, is about the business of decision-making, particularly cost-benefit analysis. That is, at the most basic level, determining whether the potential benefit of a decision is worth the cost.
In this case, the $61 million cost is a given. It's difficult, though, to see how the Yankees benefit from keeping Rodriguez around for three more years once he's eligible to return. In such situations, it's not unfathomable for a team to buy the player out of the contract, effectively paying the player to not play.
A price of $61 million is a steep one, but if any team can afford to go that route, it's the big-market, deep-pocketed Yankees.
Let's weigh the pros and cons of the Yankees making that very decision.
Pros of Paying Rodriguez to Go Poof
His name has been in the news for every possible wrong reason over the past year—from the bombshell Biogenesis scandal to instigating petty infighting with Yankees general manager Brian Cashman—and that is showing no signs of slowing, much less stopping.
Remember, Rodriguez will be 39 years old (going on the big four-oh in July) by the time he's able to step back onto the field in 2015.
Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner recently called Rodriguez "an asset," per Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News. But is that true at this point?
One of the best all-around players in the sport's history for more than a decade, Rodriguez hasn't been all that healthy or productive the past three seasons. Still, he is only six home runs away from tying Willie Mays for fourth all-time with 660 for his career, and that would net Rodriguez a $6 million bonus the Yankees would have to pay out.
If the Yankees owe Rodriguez $61 million one way or another, they simply could pay him that sum now, release him and be done with it. Plus, they'd get another roster spot out of it, which could be used on a better, younger, cheaper player.
Maybe this whole idea isn't quite so crazy, considering Rodriguez is a controversy wrapped in a distraction fastened to a ticking time bomb.
Is all that really worth the small chance that he can regain some of the former glory that had been escaping him long before anyone had ever heard of Anthony Bosch?
Cons of Cutting the Loss with Rodriguez
Sure, it's possible that Rodriguez, who wasn't half bad once he returned to health and played over the final two months last season (while appealing his suspension), could come back at age 39 after years of serious injuries and a full year away from Major League Baseball and perform capably on the diamond.
It's also possible that he could get hurt—again. Or, yep, suspended—again. Either scenario is just as probable.
Of course, in a warped way, that might give the Yankees a chance to recoup some of the $61 million via insurance payments (for injury) or termination of contract (for another suspension). But that kind of outcome likely would be a long shot.
There's also the fact that ditching Rodriguez would mean the Yankees would need to find someone to play third base. In effect, then, they would be paying Rodriguez's replacement his own salary—plus the $61 million owed to Rodriguez.
Another concern might be the risk that Rodriguez, after being cut by New York, could (maybe) catch on with another club and (attempt to) exact his revenge.
The biggest pitfall for the Yankees, though, just might be the potential that the litigation-happy Rodriguez could find some forum, some avenue to bring legal action against them. In that way, the Yankees wouldn't be totally done with Rodriguez even though he's no longer technically a part of the organization.
For a guy who is suing just about everyone these days, isn't it possible he could add his would-be former team to the mix?
Should the Yankees negotiate some sort of buyout with Rodriguez, they would be wise to add a clause that prohibits him from suing the organization and/or any of its employees—including any pending legal matters against the Yankees.
The Bottom Line
If this were to happen—if the Yankees really were to buy out Rodriguez—the next logical question becomes: Have we already seen Alex Rodriguez's final Major League Baseball game?
If the Yankees really were to buy out Rodriguez, the next logical question becomes: Have we already seen Alex Rodriguez's final Major League Baseball game?
While the possibility was floated above, would another team actually consider bringing in Rodriguez on a low- or even minimum-salary deal—remember, he'd still be getting paid by the Yankees—for the 2015 season?
The Miami Marlins have been mentioned in the past because Rodriguez is from the area, and he might help get some people to attend ballgames in South Florida for once. But, c'mon, the idea of Rodriguez essentially returning to the scene of the Biogenesis crime?
That would get ugly. Fast.
Given all that's happened with Rodriguez, who clearly has become Public Enemy No. 1—a pariah of the sport he claims to love more than anything else—it's hard to imagine right now that any club would take him and all the trouble and baggage he brings.
Let's not forget, Barry Bonds—another all-time great with a PED past—played his last game in 2007, a season in which he posted an OPS of 1.045 for the San Francisco Giants. Even after that, though, the Giants let Bonds go to free agency, and he couldn't get another gig.
Is that same fate going to befall Rodriguez? That may be a $61 million question only the Yankees can answer.
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