Why Alex Rodriguez's Appeal Is Slowing Down the 2014 Free-Agent Market

Jason Catania@@JayCat11MLB Lead WriterNovember 19, 2013

USA Today

A few weeks into the offseason, the open market isn't quite yet, well, open for business.

The biggest name to sign a deal with a new team is...Tim Hudson? The former Atlanta Braves pitcher, who agreed to a two-year, $23 million deal with the San Francisco Giants on Monday, is a perfectly fine get for a team that's been on the lookout for pitching.

But with all apologies to Hudson, who has had himself a great career to this point, he's also a 38-year-old coming off a broken ankle that cost him the second half of 2013.

That profile doesn't exactly scream "big-name signing."

It's not uncommon for it to take time before the hot stove starts cooking. The moving and shaking and wheeling and dealing usually gets going around the time of the winter meetings, which are coming up in early December, a little less than three weeks from now.

A few weeks into the offseason, and former Brave Tim Hudson is the free agent with the biggest name to have inked.
A few weeks into the offseason, and former Brave Tim Hudson is the free agent with the biggest name to have inked.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

But aside from the timing and what seems to be a consensus opinion that this free-agent class is lacking, it's also possible that there's another dynamic to blame for this offseason's slow start.

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Here's a hint: His initials are Alex Rodriguez.

It may seem a tad trite to bang the A-Rod drum as reason behind why more of the top-tier names, like Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo and Ervin Santana haven't signed, but there just may be something to that stance.

You're well aware by now that Rodriguez, who played last season even after being suspended by Major League Baseball for 211 games last August for his alleged involvement in the Biogenesis scandal, is appealing the ban.

The arbitration process, though, which didn't begin until after the playoffs, remains in a holding pattern, as the two sides are continuing with their no-love-lost "courtship," which was yet again delayed last week when Rodriguez fell ill.

At least the hearings have advanced to the stage where witnesses are being called, with the latest expected to be Yankees president Randy Levine, according to the New York Daily News.

When might all this actually come to an end with a ruling? For an update, here's Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York:

The 211-game suspension should be upheld, reduced or eliminated by Christmas, probably a bit sooner. After the appeal hearing's conclusion, arbitrator Fredric Horowitz will have 25 days to decide. He can come to a decision at any point.

So what does this have to do with the free-agent market exactly? As is always the case this time of year, it comes down to money, cash, dough, the green stuff.

Whatever you want to call it, the Yankees may or may not have a lot more lying around, depending on the outcome of Rodriguez's appeal. That's because next year, the Yankees third baseman is due at least $25 million—and in all likelihood upward of $31 mill, if he hits merely six more home runs to tie Willie Mays for fourth all-time.

That's quite a chunk of change that the Yankees could be throwing at another prime free agent or three this winter.

Part of the reason this is so important is that the club is attempting to stay under the $189 million payroll for 2014 to avoid once again having to pay the ever-increasing luxury-tax penalty.

One imagines that, in such a scenario, not knowing whether a potential $31 million will fall on the debit or credit side of the ledger could be the sort of thing that pushes pause on a potential spending spree.

And not just for the Yankees. So much of free agency is about agents and reps determining and defining the market for their players, which becomes especially challenging when one of the deepest-pocketed teams in the sport can't say for sure whether they can even open up their wallet, let alone flash the cash.

Cano, in particular, is in a tricky spot. As the Yankees' longtime star second baseman and top name on the market, he's looking to land a massive contract. Because his maybe-former teammate is holding things up, though, Cano already has indicated that he's willing to wait until the new year—if it takes that long—according to John Harper of the Daily News.

To be sure, Rodriguez's appeal process is far from the only obstacle that's standing in the way of the inevitable domino effect that comes when a big name or two finally does sign.

As mentioned above, getting the general managers together in one place—that would be the winter meetings in Orlando, Fla., from Dec. 9-12—often proves to be baseball's version of an aphrodisiac for trading.

Plus, there's that whole hold-up surrounding the as-yet unresolved agreement between Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball with regards to the posting process for Japanese players. Caught in the middle of that is star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, who arguably would be the top available arm on the market—if made available.

But in the end, it's hard to ignore or argue that Rodriguez's ongoing (never-ending?) appeal isn't hijacking, or at least stalling, this year's free agency.

Plus, it's fun to pull a page out of the league's book and blame A-Rod.