I feel like this poll was inevitable. There has been so much talk — speculation more than anything — about the possibility of the Yankees voiding Alex Rodriguez‘s contract in the wake of the latest PED scandal that I want to see how many people actually believe it will happen.
Yesterday I wrote about the process the Yankees will have to wade through to make voiding A-Rod‘s deal possible, which begins with waiting for MLB to finish their investigation. That is going to take a while. Jeff Passan reported last night that the league will soon interview the players mentioned in the report and has a contingent traveling to Florida today to speak to the people at the Miami New Times, which broke the story. Those are steps one and two of many.
Regardless of whether you think it will actually happen — or if the Yankees will even seriously attempt it — voiding A-Rod’s contract will be extremely difficult. Remember, there was talk about voiding Jason Giambi‘s contract following his PED revelations a few years ago, and that proved to be so difficult the team didn’t even take a real shot at it. Granted, Giambi was owned much less at the time than A-Rod is now, which changes things.
No matter what happens, A-Rod will not return to the team for quite some time thanks to his latest hip surgery. There’s a non-zero chance he will never play for the Yankees again, either because the injury is so debilitating that he can’t play anymore (highly unlikely given the way the team and doctor spoke following the procedure) or because the contract is voided.
By OPS+, Curtis Granderson had the seventh-worst 40+ homer season in baseball history last year. That’s kind of a silly thing to say because a 116 OPS+ is still really good, but it was well-below the 142 OPS+ he managed one season ago. The performance drop was most notable in the second half, when Granderson hit .212/.278/.480 (98 wRC+) with a 31.8% strikeout after managing a 130 wRC+ (25.9 K%) in the first half. His postseason performance, as you know, was abysmal (-9 wRC+ and 48.5 K%).
Granderson will turn 32 in March and he’s right on the prime years bubble — you would expect his performance to start to slip naturally due to age, but you wouldn’t expect it to completely crater yet either. I know he’s done it two years in row now, but I have a hard time expecting Granderson to hit 40+ homers against this coming season. He certainly has the ballpark going for him and it’s not like his power (.260 ISO) was a concern last year, but hitting 40+ homers in a season is a very tough thing to do. Doing it three times in a row, regardless of age, is damn near impossible. He seems like a lock for 30+ if he stays healthy, however.
Despite his age and the unlikelihood of another 40+ dinger season, there are some reasons to expect Granderson’s overall performance to rebound a bit next season. The big one is his .260 BABIP, which was a career-worst and well-below his career .305 mark despite a career-high line drive rate and his lowest fly ball rate in five years. Batted ball data is fickle and one man’s line drive is another’s fly ball, but the important thing is that he was not hitting the ball in the air more than he had previously in 2012. Balls hit in the air turn into outs relatively easily, yet Granderson had no significant change in his batted ball profile.
Now, it’s worth nothing that the career .305 BABIP number probably isn’t a great frame of reference. Granderson, as you know, overhauled his swing mechanics with Kevin Long in August 2010 and from that point through the end of the 2011 season, he managed a .292 BABIP. It’s not a huge difference but it’s a difference nonetheless. I’m more comfortable using the .292 as his baseline BABIP rather than the .305. Either way, there will hopefully be a little correction coming in 2013. It won’t be a ton, but getting the BABIP back up to .290 or so should be enough to get his average out of the .230s and back into the .250s and .260s. Add in his typically high walk rate (11.0% in 2012) and that should get his OBP back into the .350-ish range.
Another thing worth noting is that Granderson was behind in the count more than usual last season as pitchers threw him a first pitch strike 55.7% of the time, his highest mark as a Yankee. The difference in expected outcomes between falling behind 0-1 and jumping ahead 1-0 is enormous for all players, Curtis included. Granderson always works deep counts — his 4.27 pitches per plate appearance rate was the fifth highest in baseball last year — and he tends to take the first pitch, so it might be worth it to get a little aggressive this year and jump on a few first pitch fastballs in 2013. That obviously isn’t something that will just happen on its own like BABIP magic, Granderson (with some help from Long) will have to work on it.
Since he’s due to become a free agent next offseason, it would behoove Curtis to have a really strong season in 2013. His power will get him paid regardless, but getting those batting average and on-base numbers back to their pre-2012 levels could be the difference between a Cody Ross contract (three years, $26M) and a Nick Swisher contract (four years, $56M), for example. I do think that if Granderson had been with another club last year or the last two years or whatever, we’d be talking about him as a bounceback candidate the Yankees should look to acquire in a trade. The Yankees are going to need the power production this summer after losing Nick Swisher and Russell Martin, but if I could get greedy for a moment, it would be really awesome if Curtis put together a huge walk year overall as well.
Via Tyler Kepner: The fake-to-third, throw-to-first move is now officially a balk. That was one of three rule changes — along with coaches being allowed to bring an interpreter to the mound and teams being allowed to have a seventh coach in uniform in the dugout — approved by the owners earlier this month that had to be run by the players’ union. I’m guessing the other two rule changes were given the okay as well, but I haven’t seen any confirmation of that. Minor stuff, but at least the rules will be implemented correctly. The fake-to-third, throw-to-first move was always a balk because it was attempting to deceive, it was just never enforced by umpires. · (33) ·
Happy hump day everyone. Here is your open thread for the evening, though the only local sports team in action is the Knicks. Feel free to talk about that game or anything else you want right here. Go nuts.
MLB.com published their always entertaining top 100 prospects list yesterday, which was predictably topped by Rangers SS Jurickson Profar. Orioles RHP Dylan Bundy and Cardinals OF Oscar Taveras round out the top three, Rays OF Wil Myers and Mariners RHP Taijuan Walker the top five.
The Yankees placed three prospects on the list, led by C Gary Sanchez at #36. OF Mason Williams wasn’t far behind him at #41 while OF Tyler Austin lagged at #75. MLB.com’s lists are always eyebrow-raising, and this is likely the only time this spring you’ll see Sanchez ranked ahead of Williams — in fairness, that isn’t completely insane, just a minority opinion — and no OF Slade Heathcott on a top 100 list. Giants OF Gary Brown made the list and Heathcott didn’t. Can’t explain it, but such is life. · (41) ·
I suppose there’s something slightly poetic about discussing the possibility of the Yankees voiding Alex Rodriguez‘s contract. After all, it was a voided contract that helped bring Alex to the Bronx in the first place. Aaron Boone blew out his knee playing basketball — something that is strictly prohibited in standard MLB contracts — in January 2004, an injury that would cause him to miss the entire season. The Yankees voided his one-year contract and a few weeks later, A-Rod was in pinstripes.
Following yesterday’s South Florida-based performance-enchancing drug revelations, reports surfaced that the Yankees are “looking at about 20 different things” in hopes of finding a way out of five years and $114M left on A-Rod’s contract. They’re looking to see if he breached his contract by getting medical attention without the team’s permission, if he broke the law by purchasing controlled substances, all sorts of stuff. The team is desperate to get out of the noose they tied around their own necks, so of course they’re doing to try to weasel their way out of it.
Fans, of course, are out for blood. A-Rod has disgraced the pinstripes and he must pay! Void the contract without cause and deal with the lawsuits afterwards! Release him and eat the money! Pressure him into retiring! Do whatever it takes to get rid of him! Darren Rovell and Ken Rosenthal even had the genius idea of committing insurance fraud, which might possibly be more stupid than anything irrationally said by any Yankees fan. That’s really saying something.
In reality, this is what will happen: nothing. At least not immediately. There is no hard evidence A-Rod purchased, used, possessed, anythinged a banned substance from 2009-2012. There’s a report from a non-major, tabloid newspaper on par with amNY. That’s all. Nothing can happen until Major League Baseball completes its investigation and finds actual evidence, evidence that is solid enough to act on. That could take a few days, a week, a month, a year … who the hell knows. There’s also the possibility the league will find nothing. It’s not until the investigation is complete that this whole process can go forward.
If MLB manages to find some real evidence, then the Yankees would have to figure out how to actually use it. The Joint Drug Agreement — a collectively bargained document that both Yankees ownership and A-Rod (via the players’ union) agreed to — says punishment is in the hands of the commissioner’s office and no one else. They might suspend him and he would probably be allowed to serve it while on the DL for his hip injury. There’s plenty of precedent for that. A-Rod would face the same penalties as Nelson Cruz and Melky Cabrera. He’s not special because he’s a Yankee and you don’t like him.
Unless there is language in A-Rod’s contract pertaining specifically to PED stuff — we have zero reason to believe there is — it’s going to be extremely difficult for the Yankees to shed themselves of that $114M. Maybe they could talk A-Rod into a Jason Bay-esque buyout just to get rid of him, but that won’t improve their financial situation. Alex has no reason to take any kind of discount from the team. Zero. Having banked over $300M in his career to date is irrelevant. The club is obligated to pay him that money and he won’t walk away from nine figures in an effort to repair an image that is already beyond repair.
Now, with all that said, of course the Yankees should try to find something that would allow them to cut ties with A-Rod. They should have been doing that long before yesterday’s reports were even published. We’ve known the contract was an albatross for years now, we didn’t need anything that happened yesterday to remind us. Yesterday’s report just made it seem slightly more possible, which might not even be the case. The team’s lawyers should be combing through every standard and silly little clause in that contract to find what amounts to a loophole.
If the Yankees do somehow defy the odds and manage to void even a portion of A-Rod’s contract down the line, it will be because they fought the union tooth and nail through ugly legal proceedings and won. Not because A-Rod will retire out of the kindness of his heart and certainly not because the union will throw one of its members under the bus. In that respect, trying to void the contract will be much more painful than just sitting around and waiting for the deal to expire in five years.
The court of public opinion needs no hard evidence. Yesterday’s report was more than enough to forever tarnish whatever was left of A-Rod’s legacy, regardless of its accuracy. Real life requires hard evidence though, especially when someone wants to void a nine-figure contract. We’re not even one step away from that potentially happening, we’re about thirty steps away.
Middle of the road, here they come. John Sickels at Minor League Ball released his farm system rankings earlier this week, and he has the Yankees pretty much right in the middle at 14th overall. He says their strength is the collection of potential impact bats on the brink of Double-A, specifically catcher Gary Sanchez and outfielders Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, and Tyler Austin. The lack of impact arms is their weakness.
Baseball America recently placed the Yankees 11th overall in their preliminary farm system rankings, and there really isn’t a ton of difference between 11th and 14th. The 11-15 range certainly passes the sniff test though, neither ranking seems unrealistic. · (80) ·
Michael Kay will continue to be the primary play-by-play voice of the Yankees after signing a new multi-year agreement with the YES Network, according to a release. Kay has been with YES since the network launched in 2002 and he’s not leaving anytime soon. No word on the other announcers, if you’re wondering. · (87) ·
Today hasn’t been crummy enough, so I’m going to top it all off with a Sidney Ponson video. He actually started the last game I ever attended at the Old Stadium, but that’s on me. I remember it was the middle of September and Ponson got squashed by the Rays. No excuses, I had chances to catch another game before the end of the season but I didn’t.
Anyway, here is your open thread for the night. The Rangers, Islanders, and Devils are all playing, so talk about those games or anything else here. Have at it.
Via Ken Rosenthal: Andy Pettitte will not pitch for former manager Joe Torre and Team USA in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. He had until February 20th to make his final decision.
As I’ve said before, I’m glad Pettitte will remain with the Yankees in Spring Training even though it would have been neat to see him pitch in the WBC. Rosenthal says there’s a chance Justin Verlander will join the squad — Kris Medlen recently withdrew from the event as well — which would be a pretty huge for Team USA. Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, and Frankie Cervelli as the only Yankees who will participate in the tournament. · (31) ·