As expected, Alex Rodriguez‘s camp filed a suit with a federal court today regarding his 162-game suspension. Arbitrator Fredric Horowitz’s ruling has been unsealed as part of the suit — you can read the whole thing right here (PDF link) — which was filed against both MLB and the players’ union. They need to show the MLBPA didn’t do enough to help Rodriguez to get this thing off the ground. The Earth has officially been scorched.
As you know by now, former Biogenesis chief Anthony Bosch appeared on 60 Minutes last night to discuss the scandal. Bud Selig and MLB COO Rob Manfred were on as well. There wasn’t a great deal of investigative reporting done and they missed a golden opportunity to ask Bosch why he changed his story after agreeing to cooperate with MLB. There were a few softball questions about the “integrity of the game” and stuff like that. Kinda silly. I did enjoy watching MLB’s chief witness, who they’ve sunk seven figures into between legal fees and personal security and all that, insinuate pretty much every player is doing PEDs on national television. That was great. Otherwise everyone involved comes out of the segment looking like a slimeball.
Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The Knicks are the only local team playing tonight, so I guess you’re on your own for entertainment. Talk about the 60 Minutes piece, the Knicks, or anything else here. Go nuts.
After weeks and weeks of waiting, we now know Alex Rodriguez has been suspended for the entire 2014 season. The team still owes him some salary and he will count a small amount against the luxury tax this year (as I explained earlier), but for the most part his massive $27.5M luxury tax hit has been wiped off the books. Plus they don’t need to worry about his first $6M homerun milestone bonus. You can bet the front office and ownership are rejoicing.
With A-Rod suspended, it is once again time to look over the team’s payroll situation. As a reminder, the numbers listed are luxury tax hits, not actual 2014 salary. The two can be and often are different. For reference, here are Part One (last January), Part Two (August), Part Three (November), and Part Four (December) of the series.
- Under Contract ($153.766M): CC Sabathia ($24.4M), Mark Teixeira ($22.5M), Jacoby Ellsbury ($21.9M), Brian McCann ($17M), Hiroki Kuroda ($16M), Carlos Beltran ($15M), Derek Jeter ($12.81M), Ichiro Suzuki ($6.5M), Alfonso Soriano ($4M), Matt Thornton ($3.5M), A-Rod ($3.156M), Kelly Johnson ($3M), Brian Roberts ($2M), Brendan Ryan ($2M)
- Arbitration-Eligible ($14.8M projected): David Robertson ($5.5M), Brett Gardner ($4M), Ivan Nova ($2.8M), Shawn Kelley ($1.5M), Frankie Cervelli ($1M)
- Pre-Arbitration-Eligible: Zoilo Almonte, Dean Anna, Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Cesar Cabral, Jose Campos, Preston Claiborne, Ramon Flores, Shane Greene, Slade Heathcott, David Huff, Bryan Mitchell, J.R. Murphy, Eduardo Nunez, Vidal Nuno, David Phelps, Michael Pineda, Jose Ramirez, Austin Romine, Gary Sanchez, Nik Turley, Adam Warren
- Potential Bonuses ($10.1M): Jeter (up to $7M based on awards), Roberts (up to $2.6M in incentives), Kuroda (up to $500k based on innings)
- Other ($12.085M): Benefits (approximately $12M), Kuroda’s translator ($85k)
Roberts’ one-year contract — Dan Connolly says it includes a $2M base salary plus $2.6M in plate appearance-based incentives — is not yet official but it will be very soon, so I’m including him. And yes, Kuroda’s translator counts against the luxury tax according to Dan Martin and Ken Davidoff. So silly.
The 15 players who are on the 40-man roster but not on the active 25-man roster are typically estimately at $2M-5M, so let’s go with $5M. Adding together everything above gives us a $195.751M payroll for luxury tax purposes for this coming season. If we say Jeter and Roberts are unlikely to trigger their bonuses but Kuroda will hit his, we’re still at $186.151M. It’s worth noting the players’ union expects Gardner’s salary to be “considerably higher” than projected by Matt Swartz’s model. We’re just going to have to wait to see about that.
That $186.151M gives the team just $2.849M to spend under the $189M luxury tax threshold. It also leaves them with this projected 25-man roster come Opening Day:
|McCann||1B Teixeira||LF Gardner||Sabathia||Robertson|
|2B Roberts||CF Ellsbury||Kuroda||Kelley|
|DH||SS Jeter||RF Beltran/Soriano||Nova||Thornton|
|Beltran/Soriano||3B Johnson||? (Phelps)||? (Warren)|
|C Cervelli||OF Ichiro||?|
Based on what we heard yesterday, that last bench ? is going to a low cost player like Nunez, Anna, Scott Sizemore, Corban Joseph, or Yangervis Solarte. Johnson’s flexibility means he’s the emergency fifth outfielder in any given game. Barring a surprise addition, the position player portion of the Opening Day roster is pretty much set aside from that forthcoming Spring Training competition.
The pitching staff is much more up in the air. We know the Yankees are pursuing Masahiro Tanaka but signing him is not a given. If they fail to sign him, Brian Cashman has indicated they could look for cheap starters a la Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon back during the 2010-11 offseason. What we do know is there will be a fifth starter competition in camp, so that guy will be cheap. I have Phelps in parentheses in the table just because he seems like the favorite for the job, but it could just as easily be Warren. I do expect both to be on the Opening Day roster though, one as a starter and one in the bullpen.
The last three bullpen ?s could all wind up going to cheap internal candidates and the Yankees have a ton of ‘em. Huff, Betances, Claiborne, Cabral, Nuno, Robert Coello, Brian Gordon, Matt Daley, David Herndon, on and on it goes. I would love to see the Yankees add one (preferably two) relievers with some more big league pedigree, someone like Grant Balfour or Luis Ayala or even Joel Hanrahan, who isn’t expected to return from Tommy John surgery until sometime in May or June. Cheaps bullpens are great, but a bullpen in which Kelley is the second best reliever makes me a wee bit nervous.
So let’s say that out of those seven total ?s, five will be filled internally. Sizemore, Phelps, Warren, Huff, and Betances. Sound good? Good. Those guys will all earn something close to the league minimum, meaning another $3M or so added to the payroll. That brings us up to $189.151M total with one rotation spot and one bullpen spot still open. So the Yankees are already over the luxury tax threshold without a full roster or money set aside for midseason call-ups and waiver claims and whatever else.
There is obviously some leeway here — my $5M assumption for the 15 non-active roster players is conservative — but it’s clear signing Tanaka will put the Yankees over the luxury tax threshold. No doubt about it. Going with a cheap starter and a moderately priced reliever like Ayala would also put them over the threshold. Heck, going cheap with that last rotation and bullpen spot still puts them right up against the threshold at the very least, if not over. And remember, Gardner’s salary may end up larger than projected and they’ll need to call guys up throughout the season. The only two ways the Yankees can realistically clear payroll is by trading Gardner or Ichiro, and they’d have to eat some cash to move the latter. Plus they’d have to pay players to replace them.
Even with A-Rod almost completely off the books, the Yankees are still going to wind up over the luxury tax threshold this summer. The only question is how much. As one team executive said recently, “We either have to be under $189M or up over $200M or more. Think how dumb it would look if we worked for a few years to get under $189M and we didn’t and we were at like $189M and just missed. Either we go under or way over.” Given their current payroll situation, it looks like they’ll be way over. Hooray for that.
We were waiting months for Saturday’s announcement. Alex Rodriguez was officially suspended for the entire 2014 season after arbitrator Fredric Horowitz upheld MLB’s original 211-game ban but reduced the terms to a mere 162 games. A-Rod has also been suspended for the postseason, should the Yankees qualify. He’s out of the year, officially.
Even though we all kinda knew Alex was going to be suspended when it was all said and done, we really didn’t know how long he would sidelined. Fifty games? A hundred? The full season? Now we know it will be the entire year and, more importantly, now the Yankees know. They finally have payroll and roster clarity and can move forward with the rest of the offseason. Let’s break down how A-Rod’s suspension impacts the team.
40-Man Roster Implications
This is easiest, so let’s get it out of the way first. Rodriguez will be on the restricted list during the suspension, meaning he does not count against the 40-man roster even though he is technically still on it. It’s similar to the 60-day DL. That now open 40-man spot will go to Brian Roberts once his one-year contract is made official, which Joel Sherman says has happened. The team hasn’t announced anything yet though.
Can He Play Elsewhere?
Not without the Yankees’ permission. A-Rod is still under contract with the Yankees and they’d have to give him the okay to play in an independent league or overseas. (Korea and Japan honor MLB suspensions, so they aren’t an option anyway.) There is no reason for the Yankees to give him permission to play elsewhere either. They still owe him a boatload of money and don’t want some independent league coach or trainer working with him. The team has to protect its investment, basically.
Even though he has been suspended for the full year, A-Rod will still count as $3,155,737.70 against the luxury tax according to Sherman. His actual take home salary will be a little south of that (roughly $2.9M) since his 2014 salary ($25M) is lower than his contract’s luxury tax hit ($27.5M). Rodriguez was suspended 162 games but the regular season actually runs 183 days, so, in essence, the team is still financially responsible for their off-days.
Even with A-Rod almost completely off the books, the Yankees are right up against the $189M luxury tax threshold. I don’t see how they can get under without going cheap in the rotation and bullpen while shedding some salary (Brett Gardner?). They did come into about $22M of extra “real money” thanks to the suspension, money that figures to go to the pitching staff. Masahiro Tanaka is the obvious target but that money could lead to more bullpen help as well. Heck, maybe they’ll add someone like Ubaldo Jimenez even if they do sign Tanaka. That’d be neat. Don’t think it’ll happen though. Point is, the suspension saves the Yankees a bunch of cash, both real dollars and dollars against the luxury tax.
Injunction Junction, Some More Dysfunction
Last week we heard Alex could take the case to a federal judge and seek an injuction if his camp felt the ruling was too harsh, something he reiterated in his statement on Saturday:
I have been clear that I did not use performance enhancing substances as alleged in the notice of discipline, or violate the Basic Agreement or the Joint Drug Agreement in any manner, and in order to prove it I will take this fight to federal court. I am confident that when a Federal Judge reviews the entirety of the record, the hearsay testimony of a criminal whose own records demonstrate that he dealt drugs to minors, and the lack of credible evidence put forth by MLB, that the judge will find that the panel blatantly disregarded the law and facts, and will overturn the suspension. No player should have to go through what I have been dealing with, and I am exhausting all options to ensure not only that I get justice, but that players’ contracts and rights are protected through the next round of bargaining, and that the MLB investigation and arbitration process cannot be used against others in the future the way it is currently being used to unjustly punish me.
This morning, A-Rod’s lawyer Joe Tacopina confirmed they will file the suit seeking the injunction today.
There are a shocking number of lawyers writing about baseball these days (including Ben) and from what they’ve all said, A-Rod’s camp is going to have a very difficult time getting a federal judge to look at this case. They tend to steer clear of collectively bargained matters unless there is gross misconduct or something like that. Rodriguez will have to show Horowitz was essentially working with MLB, as Wendy Thurm explained a few weeks ago.
The only thing I know for sure at this point is that if the case goes to federal court and a judge issues an injunction against the suspension, A-Rod will be allowed to play, just as he was allowed to play during his appeal late last year. It is a very unlikely outcome but not completely impossible.
Rodriguez confirmed through spokesman Ron Berkowitz that he plans to attend Spring Training in a few weeks, which is his right. The Joint Drug Agreement says suspended players are allowed to participate in camp and even play exhibition games. The Yankees and MLB are going to get together sometime soon to figure out a way to prevent this from happening, according to Andrew Marchand. I don’t know how likely that is; the Collective Bargaining Agreement and JDA are pretty airtight. If they keep him out against the rules, Rodriguez could file a grievance, which would add legitimacy to his whole “MLB and the Yankees are conspiring to get me out of the game” allegation.
If push comes to shove and A-Rod reports to Spring Training next month, Marchand says the Yankees can simply assign him to minor league camp in an effort to minimize the circus and keep him away from the big leaguers. The could even go as far as instructing their coaches to ignore him — to not hit him grounders during infield practice or throw him batting practice. They could also keep him out of Grapefruit League games by arguing he will not play this year and they need the games for the players on the roster to prepare. One thing I do know about Alex is that he truly loves playing baseball and Spring Training gives him a chance to get on the field. I’m curious to see how this how situation plays out in the coming weeks.
Why Don’t They Just Release Him?
I don’t think A-Rod will ever play another game. Not in the big leagues and certainly not for the Yankees. That’s just my opinion. I think the team will cut ties with him at some point, likely next winter after his suspension is over. It’ll be a Barry Bonds situation — plenty of teams will need help at third base in 2015 but no one will bother to give him a chance because his production isn’t worth the distraction. Remember, Bonds was way better during his final year (157 wRC+) than A-Rod was last year (113 wRC+).
So, if that is the case, why don’t the Yankees simply release Rodriguez now? They would still reap the payroll benefits of his suspension and they wouldn’t have to deal with the potential Spring Training headache. I suppose there are several answers to this question but the easiest is that A-Rod could still do something in 2014 that gives the team a way out of all or part of the remainder of his contract. Maybe he tears an ACL playing basketball like Aaron Boone, allowing the team to void his contract. Maybe he fails a drug test and gets another suspension. Maybe he gets hurt during a workout and the team can recoup some salary through insurance. All sorts of stuff can happen between now and next year that helps the Yankees.
Eating $61M — Rodriguez’s total salary from 2015-17 — is a tough pill to swallow but it’s tough to see an alternative at this point. He will be almost 40 years old when his suspension is over and he will have missed nearly two full years. Coming back from that might be damn near impossible. Plus the team obviously wants nothing to do with him. They’d like him to just go away. It’s not my money, but it seems inevitable that the Yankees will release A-Rod, eat the remainder of his contract, and walk away from the distraction at some point. I’ll be surprised if he ever plays another game, especially in pinstripes.
During a television interview this morning (video above), Alex Rodriguez‘s lawyer Joe Tacopina confirmed they are filing suit today “requesting federal court intervention to undo what’s been done in this labor arbitration.” A-Rod said he would seek an injunction in his statement following the announcement of his record 162-game suspension on Saturday.
“I don’t know [the suspension is] inevitable. I mean 162 games is inexplicable,” added Tacopina. “It’s not based on the law, it’s not based on the Collective Bargaining Agreement that’s laid out between the union and Major League Baseball. There’s no basis for it. Everyone else got 50 games, who if you accept the fact that there was a finding of liability, that 50 games — somehow 162 is what was levied to Alex for no reason. Ryan Braun, who actually tested positive, unlike Alex, and went on a campaign to besmirch the test collector and called him an anti-Semite wound up with 65 games. That in and of itself is a basis to get us into federal court.”
From what I understand, a federal judge is unlikely to look at a case following an arbitrator’s ruling in a collectively bargained matter. As Wendy Thurm explained a few weeks ago, “Rodriguez will have to show that [arbitrator Fredric Horowitz] was so in cahoots with MLB that it led to a fraudulent or biased proceeding” in order to get the case looked at it. I don’t know what will happen next, but A-Rod’s camp is going to keep fighting.
2013 Season: 85-77 (637 RS, 671 RA, 77-85 pythag. record), didn’t qualify for playoffs
Top stories from last week:
- After months of waiting, the ruling in Alex Rodriguez‘s appeal hearing was handed down. Arbitrator Fredric Horowitz upheld the suspension but reduced the length from 211 to 162 games. A-Rod said he will pursue an injunction and further legal action.
- Masahiro Tanaka traveled to the United States to meet with teams last week, including the Yankees. Negotiations have been tight-lipped in general, but the Dodgers “won’t spend wildly” to sign him. The $20M release fee will be paid out across two years. The Yankees are monitoring Johan Santana’s rehab and if they fail to sign Tanaka, they could fill out their pitching staff with low cost options rather than another big name.
- Despite the A-Rod ruling, the Yankees are not expected to add another infielder on a guaranteed Major League contract. They offered Mark Reynolds a minor league contract but a reunion is said to be “unlikely.”
- The Yankees signed right-handers Bruce Billings, Yoshinori Tateyama, and Robert Coello as well as utility man Yangervis Solarte and infielder Scott Sizemore to minor league contracts. They also had interest in reunion with Chris Dickerson before he signed with the Pirates.
- Vernon Wells was designated for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot for Matt Thornton, whose two-year contract is official.
- The Yankees backed out of a deal to move their High Class-A affiliate from Tampa to Ocala after receiving resistance from the local community.
Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.
Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
The Yankees have signed right-handed reliever Robert Coello to a minor league contract, reports Matt Eddy. Coello is a local guy from Bayonne. I assume he receives an invitation to Spring Training as well. That’s pretty standard.
Coello, 29, has a 5.90 ERA (3.58 FIP) in 29 career big league innings with the Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Angels. He managed a 3.71 ERA (2.52 FIP) with an excellent strikeout rate (12.18 K/9 and 31.5 K%) in 17 innings for the Halos last year, spending some time as their primary setup man. Shoulder inflammation sidelined him for more than three months.
If nothing else, Coello is fun to watch because he throws what amounts to a knuckle-forkball, alternatively titled a forkleball or WTForkball. I prefer to the latter. You can see it in the video above. Eno Sarris spoke to Coello about the pitch back in September, if you’re interested. The change of pace allows his 90-ish mph fastball to play up quite a bit.
The Yankees really need bullpen help and they’ve been stockpiling arms — Coello, Yoshinori Tateyama, Brian Gordon, Matt Daley, and David Herndon, specifically — on minor league deals in recent weeks. They figure to compete against youngsters like Preston Claiborne and Dellin Betances in camp. I hope they add a legit late-inning arm (Grant Balfour?) or two at some point before the season, but they’ve certainly addressing the bullpen depth in general.
Via Ken Rosenthal: The Yankees have signed utility man Yangervis Solarte to a minor league contract. I assume he received an invitation to Spring Training since Rosenthal says he will compete against Eduardo Nunez, Dean Anna, Corban Joseph, and Scott Sizemore for a bench job in camp.
Solarte, 26, has hit .282/.323/.404 (~91 wRC+) with 23 homers in 1,145 plate appearances for the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate these last two years. He’s been a super-sub thoughout his career and he played at least 20 games at second, third, short, and left field over the last two seasons. Solarte has never played in the big leagues and he’s likely at the very bottom of the infield depth chart. · (10) ·
Via Ken Rosenthal: The Yankees are unlikely to sign another infielder to a guaranteed Major League contract at this point. They’ve already added Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson on big league deals but still need a third baseman in the wake of Alex Rodriguez’s suspension.
Brian Cashman has said the team will not sign Stephen Drew, but Rosenthal’s report also eliminates Mark Reynolds, Michael Young, and others from the mix. Guys like Eduardo Nunez, Dean Anna, Corban Joseph, and Scott Sizemore will compete for a bench job in camp with Roberts, Johnson, and Brendan Ryan locks for the Opening Day roster. I don’t love the idea of going into the season with question marks at both second and third, but outside of signing Drew, that’s pretty much unavoidable at this point. · (78) ·
I spend a fair amount of my summer at Yankee Stadium and get to meet a lot of personalities. From the folks over at Yankee Bar and Grill, to the Twitter folks who come hang out in 420a and of course the Bleacher Creatures.
A few years back I struck up a relationship with (Bald) Vinny Milano after some back and forth on Twitter. Eventually he welcomed myself and my wife into the “Creature Family” and introduced us to a lot of the regulars. One of those regulars was Udi Latarre, a creature of the highest regard.
Udi was a smile, a funny joke, a photobomb and a stiff drink every time. Udi was a man who wanted to work hard in the IT industry and watch the Yankees play. Udi was a sweetheart who always was happy to see a familiar face. I only spent a few years getting to know him, but he was genuine and great. Vinny sent along notice last night that Udi Latarre passed away earlier this week at home suddenly.
Yankee Stadium has lost some real personality since the move from the old place to the new. People have critized that the common fan has been priced out, that it’s too quiet and just not the same. But losing real people like Udi furthers that great people make up a venue as much as the fancy video screens, expensive food and high priced beers. A house needs a family to be a home, and Udi was a member of a family.
Please take a moment in your day to remember that sometimes it’s more than just watching a baseball game. It’s about the relationships that come from sitting next to the person next to you and making a snide remark about the other team. The guy who starts the funny chant. The guy who might have on a funny shirt about “the wave.” Remember people like Udi, they just wanted to enjoy the game, like you.
Thanks for being my friend for a little while. Take care Udi.