While we’re all waiting for an Alex Rodriguez decision to be announced, I can’t help wondering what might happen after the decision is announced. If Fredric Horowitz settles into one of these categories, how might the Yankees respond to their sudden clarity?
Seems incredibly unlikely, but if the arbitrator decides that Rodriguez can’t be suspended without a positive test — and doesn’t buy into the obstruction stuff — then Rodriguez could be a fully available player on Opening Day. That leaves Rodriguez as the regular third baseman (might need regular days off, but he’s not going to be a platoon player), which leaves Kelly Johnson and Brian Roberts to essentially split time at second. The Yankees infield would be, essentially, complete. In fact, they would likely be finished adding significant position players unless they trade away either Brett Gardner or Ichiro Suzuki. Also, it would be nearly impossible to imagine keeping the payroll beneath $189 million, in which case, they might as well blow the luxury tax threshold out of the water in bids for Masahiro Tanaka and bullpen pieces.
Given that everyone else involved with Biogenesis accepted at least 50 games, this might be the lowest reasonable expectation for a Rodriguez suspension. Biogenesis is treated as his first offense, the CBA stuff is thrown out, and Rodriguez misses roughly two months. That’s not enough to save significant money toward the luxury tax threshold, and it might not be enough for the Yankees to make a significant move toward filling the hole at third base. A right-handed guy like Mark Reynolds or Jeff Baker or Placido Polanco might still fit as a platoon player for a while, leaving the Yankees to choose between cutting Johnson, Roberts or that right-handed hitter after Rodriguez returns. It’s not an ideal suspension for the Yankees because it doesn’t do enough one way or the other.
We’ve twice seen Manny Ramirez play in minor league games while serving a suspension, so I have to assume Rodriguez would be allowed to do the same, meaning he would be eligible to return after exactly 100 games (having, in theory, already gotten himself into game shape). That would likely put him in the Major League lineup in late July, right before the trade deadline. That means four months without him, which would basically force the Yankees to construct their team as if he weren’t coming back at all. Hard to game plan for something that’s probably going to happen in late July. That might mean a guy like Reynolds would get a longer look, or it might — with the money saved from the A-Rod contract — prompt the Yankees to be more aggressive in trying to convince Stephen Drew to play various position for a year. Even a 100-game suspension might not be enough to get beneath $189 million.
162 games (or more)
For the sake of this exercise, there’s not a huge difference between 162 games and 211 games. Either way, you have to wonder whether Rodriguez would ever play again after missing a full season and trying to come back when he’s approaching his 40th birthday. One year or more would seem to put Rodriguez’s future in real jeopardy (as if it’s not there already). For the Yankees, it just might spur them to legitimately try to stay beneath $189 million. Still seems incredibly unlikely, but the conversation is far more viable if Rodriguez is completely off the books for a year. Here’s one other thought: It’s hard for the Yankees to suggest Derek Jeter move to third base while they’re uncertain whether they’ll have Rodriguez (what if he actually agreed, and suddenly that position were occupied). If Rodriguez is definitely finished for the year, though, I wonder if the Yankees might try to convince Jeter to move while offering the shortstop job to Drew. No reason to think that’s going to happen — the Yankees have adamantly said Jeter is their shortstop — but moving Jeter to a new spot would be a lot easier if the Yankees knew for certain that third base were going to be available. The free agent market doesn’t offer a good third base solution, but it does have a good shortstop.
Associated Press photo