What Voiding Alex Rodriguez's Contract Would Mean for the Yankees' Future

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterJanuary 30, 2013

August 9, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez (13) in the dugout during the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami New Times report linking Alex Rodriguez to PED use between 2009 and 2012 may be the New York Yankees' excuse to rid themselves of the biggest albatross contract in sports.

If they actually managed to do so, they'd then say hello to a much brighter future than the one they're looking at now.

Wallace Matthews and Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com say that the Yankees are going to do everything they can to void A-Rod's contract, which has five years and $114 million remaining on it. They have miles of red tape to get past, but they're at least considering their options.

There may be another way for the Yankees to get out of A-Rod's deal if they are unable to void it. Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com wrote that a doctor could determine that Rodriguez has suffered career-ending injuries, which is possible given the fact that he's had two hip surgeries in four years.

If doctors declared A-Rod's career to be over, he would still get the money he's owed. The difference is that insurance would be picking up the tab, perhaps as much as 85 percent of it.

These notions are music to your ears if you're a Yankees fan who's fed up with A-Rod—and that's all of you guys, right?—but I wouldn't get your hopes up too high.

There's no precedent for a player having his contract voided because of PEDs, and the Yankees can't lift a finger until MLB punishes A-Rod first. The league may not be able to do that, as it's hard to suspend players without a positive test.

For the insurance scenario, A-Rod would have to miss the entire 2013 season. There's a chance that could happen, but for now, he's projected to return around the All-Star break.

But what the heck, let's go ahead and entertain a hypothetical. What if the Yankees are able to get out from under Rodriguez's contract? 

First, they'd be relieved. Second, they'd roll up their sleeves and get to work.

In the Short-Term

If the Yankees find a way to wash their hands of A-Rod's contract, it's highly unlikely to be in the very near future.

The insurance scenario won't play out unless Rodriguez misses 2013, and it could take months for MLB to accumulate the evidence it needs to suspend A-Rod for his PED use and thus pave the way for the Yankees to void his contract.

If something is going to happen, it's probably going to happen early on in the 2013-2014 offseason. There will be a window shortly after the end of the season for the Yankees to tend to in-house affairs, and the A-Rod cluster-mess will be at the top of their list of priorities if MLB suspends him and/or he misses 2013 due to his hips.

If A-Rod's contract is successfully jettisoned or handed over to insurance companies, the Yankees will find themselves with a great deal of money sitting on their lap. A-Rod is owed $86 million between 2014 and 2017, and the Yankees could be off the hook for most or all of that.

Of that, $25 million would be for the 2014 season, which means the Yankees would have a ton of extra wiggle room for their plan to get under the $189 million luxury-tax threshold. 

The Yankees' first move could be to lock up Robinson Cano, who supposedly has no interest in giving the club a hometown discount. If A-Rod's contract were to come off the team's hands, the Yankees wouldn't have to give Cano a hometown discount, as they could easily sign Cano to a multi-year deal worth $20 million or so per year.

The Yankees would still have money left over to re-sign free-agent-to-be Phil Hughes, who will be in for a raise if he has a big season in 2013. They could also work out a more lucrative deal for Derek Jeter, who may not be interested in accepting his player option for the 2014 season.

It's possible that the Yankees would also move to bring back Curtis Granderson, but they could choose to cut him loose and go after somebody younger and more versatile. Jacoby Ellsbury, for example, could find himself on their radar if he has a bounce-back season in 2013.

With Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda set to come off the books, the Yankees could also turn their eyes to the pitching market. They will have quality options to that end, as hurlers like Tim Lincecum, Josh Johnson, Matt Garza and Adam Wainwright are all scheduled to hit free agency after 2013.

While the Yankees are at it, they could choose to target a new closer to take Mariano Rivera's place. They'll have options there, too, as players like Fernando Rodney, Joel Hanrahan and Ryan Madson are due to be free agents after 2013.

This is a pretty big and expensive shopping list, to be sure, but the Yankees could afford to go all-out next winter if A-Rod's deal came off their hands. If his $25 million salary for 2014 were to disappear, they'd find themselves with less than $60 million in salaries committed for the 2014 season.

That would leave them with roughly $130 million to spend before having to worry about crossing the luxury-tax threshold. Even in a day and age when player salaries are rising meteorically, that's a lot of money for one offseason.

In the Long(er)-Term 

The Yankees would find themselves as much as $25 million richer if A-Rod's contract disappeared after 2013, and as much as $61 million richer between 2015, 2016 and 2017.

They'd also, of course, find themselves without a long-term answer at the hot corner. Needs like that can't go unfilled for long.

There won't be many attractive free-agent options for the Yankees next winter, as the third-base market is slated to feature few stars. The most attractive potential option is Martin Prado, but Bob Nightengale of USA Today says the Arizona Diamondbacks are optimistic about extending him.

The Yankees' best options will be to either trade for a star third baseman next winter, which won't be easy if their farm system doesn't get any better in 2013, or just wait until after the 2014 season for a handful of star third basemen to hit the market.

As things stand right now, Chase Headley, Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez will be free agents after the 2014 season. All three will still be in the middle of their prime years (though Ramirez's best years look to be behind him) and looking to get paid.

Headley obviously stands out as the most attractive of the bunch after the season he just had, as he hit 31 homers and won a Gold Glove. If he does hit free agency after 2014, the Yankees surely will be interested in bringing him aboard. Exactly how much they covet Headley is something only they know, but they were reported to be interested in a trade for him at the deadline in 2012.

Assuming the Yankees spend after 2013 and are still committed to staying under $189 million in 2015, they won't have too much money left to spend after signing Headley or one of the others. However, they should also be in the market for a new shortstop after 2014, as Jeter's career will either be over or continuing on at another position where less range is required.

Elvis Andrus will be there if the Yankees want him, and he'd be an appealing long-term option because he'll only be in his mid-20s. It would take a significant investment to sign him, but not too significant if Andrus' offensive skills fail to develop any further. Shortstops with good gloves are valuable, but not too valuable so long as they're only capable of an OPS in the low .700s.

If all the dots connect the way the Yankees will be able to connect them with Rodriguez's contract off their hands, they'll go from being an old team to being a youthful team with a lot of talent. Making A-Rod's contract disappear is essentially their ticket to a full reboot.

This reboot, however, would come with a few strings attached.

In the Forever-Term

The Yankees will have dodged a bullet if Rodriguez's contract goes away. And for that, they would be thankful.

But they'd also be more cautious. One of their first orders of business would surely be to make a point of never putting themselves at risk of another A-Rod situation ever again.

That would be a matter of instituting a policy of never again giving 10-year contracts to players in their early 30s, even it if seems like a good idea at the time. They know now that not every player ages as well as Derek Jeter, and that such 10-year contracts can turn into monstrous leeches on a team's payroll and general psyche if the player they're given to breaks down in his old age.

But simply not handing out long-term contracts to older players isn't the only change the Yankees could make. They could also make a policy of putting PED language into all of their long-term contracts that would protect them in the event of another scandal.

This would allow the Yankees to avoid having to go through technicalities to void a contract because of PEDs, which Matthews and Marchand say is what they're trying to do in A-Rod's case. If MLB and the MLBPA allow it, the Yankees could make it much simpler by putting clauses into contracts that plainly state that the team has the right to void a contract if the player tests positive or is proved in another way to have purchased and used PEDs.

Protection such as this would accomplish two things:

First and foremost, it would allow the Yankees to sleep soundly at night, knowing that they'll be able to do something if one of their high-priced players gets involved in a PED mess.

Second, it would give their high-priced players incentive to stay clean and keep their noses out of trouble. They'd know not to be as reckless as A-Rod has allegedly been.

Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted. Salary and contract info courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts

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