After weeks of haggling, the decision finally came out Saturday that Alex Rodriguez’s suspension was reduced from 211 games to 162—which was expected.
The suspension is a bit of a catch-22 for Yankee fans though, given that New York is off the hook for the $25 million owed to him next season. Let’s look at some of the burning questions that come from this.
1. Any chance the Yankees can get out of the still remaining $61 million (plus bonuses) owed to Rodriguez from 2015-17?
Very little. Unless A-Rod gets caught for the same offense again, he will still be owed an average of more than $20 million a year for three seasons in which he’ll turn 40, 41, and 42. Yikes.
2. Will A-Rod ever play for the Yankees again?
Probably not. There is a good chance that he’ll be released before spring training 2015 as his off-the-field issues and declining production actually make it worth paying him his full salary to sit at home. Last summer they probably only put up with him coming back in hopes that a suspension would give them some (or all) salary relief from a contract that looked bad the day it was signed.
3. Who should the Yankees replace Rodriguez with?
There’s not much left in free agency for third basemen but 37-year-old Michael Young could be a bargain. Young has played in 135 games or more every season since 2002 and is a career .300 hitter. He surely could be had for a cheap, one-year deal and brings little baggage with him. The downside to him is declining defense as well as power (just eight home runs last season). Still, with the few options available, outside of a trade, he’s the best one.
4. What does this mean for the team’s pursuit of starting pitching?
Obviously this puts the Yankees in a much better position, financially, to go get Masahiro Tanaka. The money they save from A-Rod’s suspension would more than cover the $20 million fee that would be paid to Tanaka’s Japanese team, Rakuten.
Should they miss out on Tanaka, they could front-load a deal to any of the remaining top starters like Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, or Matt Garza.
5. Overall are the Yankees better or worse off with A-Rod’s suspension?
Better off—though not by much. Essentially they can move on without A-Rod starting right now and then just plan to release him when 2015 rolls around. Hard to put a price on that but they needed a resolution.
For 2014, they get payroll flexibility to front-load a deal to sign a much-needed top starter. Plus, given that A-Rod hit just .244 in 44 games last season, his production may not be that hard to replace on the open market.
Of course for 2015-17 they are saddled with more than $60 million in salary for a player who, even if he did play, would likely never match the production needed to make it worthwhile. It’s not a great situation to be put in, but the Yankees are a little better off without him and $25 million of his salary.