Reports from ESPN New York indicate that the Yankees have begun to explore ways to void third baseman Alex Rodriguez‘s contract in the wake of his connection to a “wellness clinic” in Miami, which reportedly supplied athletes with PEDs, including human growth hormone (HGH) and other substances banned by MLB. Rodriguez’s name appears in the records of Anthony Bosch, the nutritionist who ran the wellness clinic, sixteen times, including direct links between A-Rod and HGH. The Yankees see this is a possible route of escape from the last five years and $114 million of his contract.
If that happens, however unlikely it may be, the Phillies should call immediately.
Don’t get me wrong: there is no precedent for teams being able to void contracts for using, buying, or being connected with PEDs. But the evidence of A-Rod’s connection is pretty damning early and the Yankees plan to pursue options of voiding his contract based on everything from visiting a non-team approved doctor and the fact that he may have broken the law by purchasing banned substances. ESPN cites a source that reports that the Yankees are exploring “20 different things” to get him out of town.
Should A-Rod become available, his .272/.353/.430, 18 HR and 13 SBs would be welcomed at the hot corner at a reasonable price, even with Michael Young on the roster. Young has been described by General Manager Ruben Amaro as someone who can fill in at first as recently as January 22 and Young may have some versatility up the middle.
A-Rod has played a near neutral third base defensively for the Yankees, a vast improvement over Young and his 2.2 fWAR provided nearly $10 million in value last year in a down year. In the unlikely event that A-Rod is released, would he accept a two-year, $10 million deal to come to the Phillies?
Can A-Rod still play at a high level? Debatable: he obviously is not what he once was. His defensive value has remained steady while his speed numbers have declined, as expected. He has struggled to see the field as much as he used to but he did play over 80 games at third the last two seasons while getting days from the field off as a DH, playing 137, 99, and 122 total games the last three seasons. His hip injury is concerning to the point where Ken Rosenthal has suggested he could choose to collect the final five years of his contract by having a doctor essentially say that he is no longer fit to play. He is facing a possible second surgery in the last four years and, this time, would be unable to use performance enhancers to supplement his recovery.
But imagine this scenario: the Phillies are fighting for their lives at the All-Star break. The Yankees have been able to void their contract with A-Rod and he has fully recovered from his second hip surgery by June, as estimated. And Young at third base isn’t setting the world on fire. Do you make the call to A-Rod?
More importantly: as a fan, would you want that? Would you want a solid veteran Top-10 third baseman who is among the greatest of all time who can still contribute to a baseball team on your team knowing he has sidestepped the rules?
Since A-Rod’s steroid mea culpa with Peter Gammons in 2009, Rodriguez has maintained a storyline that he only took steroids from 2001 through 2003 in response to the pressure of being the highest paid player in Major League history. Now? A-Rod has hired a lawyer to defend him from the new allegations that that was not the only period he took them.
As a fan, there would be trust issues involved. A-Rod’s story on the surface has changed from him never taking steroids, to him taking steroids only for a short period until a 2003 epiphany, to now being accused of being in connection with a nefarious and infamous “wellness clinic” in Miami. Rodriguez, in his 2009 interview with Gammons, suggested that he took steroids in part because it was part of the culture. Are we naive enough to believe that it is still not part of the culture, particularly in light of the NFL’s Ray Lewis being accused taking a compounded form of deer antlers and the realization that the NFL doesn’t have HGH testing? And if we are naive enough to believe that it is not in the game, like the sports writers who cheered Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa but now hold them out of the Hall of Fame, would that affect how you felt about the Phillies if they would pursue A-Rod?
In terms of play on the field, A-Rod is not the best player in the game any longer or even the best third baseman in the American League. But he is absolutely worth exploring should he be available for a contract of no longer than two years, $4-5 million a year.