Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What's Next For A-Rod?

So reality finally has hit Alex Rodriguez, who on Friday dropped all the lawsuits, said he will not attend Yankees spring training, and ended this long running farce.

Alex Rodriguez has accepted ruling of an independent, impartial arbitrator and will miss the entire 2014 season for violating the Major League Baseball Joint Drug Agreement and obstructing baseball's investigation into Biogenesis.

It's the first smart decision A-Rod has made since, since ... well, let's just say a long, long time.

Finally, everyone can move on. The Yankees, Major League Baseball, the players union, the players, and even Rodriguez himself.

The Biogenesis sage is over, even if the PED era clearly isn't.

So what's next for A-Rod?

Rodriguez's legacy had been destroyed. He will forever be known as a player who built his career on PED's and nothing A-Rod does going forward will remove that stain.

But once this suspension is over, Rodriguez still will be an active player with three years and $61 million guaranteed remaining on his contract, which also has $5 million incentive payments for passing Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron on the all-time home run list, as well as reaching 700 and 800 homers. 

It's a fairly safe bet that A-Rod will want to collect on the remainder of his contract, and unless he suddenly wakes up one morning with a Ricky Williams-like epiphany, Rodriguez likely will want to continue playing.

Unfortunately for Rodriguez, the Yankees also have a say about whether the embattled third baseman will ever play for them again.

The Yankees are committed to paying the remainder of the contract unless A-Rod retires or they trade him to another sucker ... er, team ... but that doesn't mean they can't cut Rodriguez and eat the contract. However, the Yanks likely will hold off on making that decision until the end of the season at the earliest.

A-Rod's suspension leaves the Yankees with a major hole at third this season. With the farm system unable to produce anyone to help, Kelly Johnson appears to be the likely candidate to take over. That puts Brian Cashman in a wait-and-see mode as far as A-Rod goes.

If Johnson is productive or if a minor leaguer such as Eric Jagielo can develop enough to the point of being ready for the majors in 2015, then Cashman might be willing to send Rodriguez packing.

But if third base is a disaster and the minors remain barren, Cashman may have not choice but to see what A-Rod can do.

And that will be a big question.

In 2013, Rodriguez missed most of the season as he recovered from a second major hip surgery, playing in only 44 games and looking mortal, hitting .244 with seven  homers and a .771 OPS. He'll miss 2014 and will turn 40 in 2015.

There's a good chance A-Rod will be done.

And that's the risk for Rodriguez. If the Yankees cut him at any time for any reason, what are the odds that another major league team will pick him up?

Remember, in Barry Bonds' final season, he hit 28 homers with a 1.045 OPS in 126 games. He didn't retire, rather his contract expired and no one signed him as a free agent because of the BALCO scandal.

A-Rod has not been that productive in a long time.

Of course, Rodriguez could take a buyout, but that might be the riskiest option of all. The Yankees probably would jump at the chance to reduce the amount they owe shedding this onerous contract, but for A-Rod, it doesn't make sense.

Major League Baseball's suspension prevents him from playing in Japan or Korea this season, but does not prevent from playing in the independent leagues, such as the Atlantic League.

Playing for a team such as the Long Island Ducks would allow A-Rod to remain in baseball shape and give him the opportunity to show his hip is healthy. However, if Rodriguez were to be injured, or worse, fail to light up the league, it's unlikely a major league team would take a chance on him, meaning he would have taken the buyout for nothing.

An uncertain future is facing Rodriguez. His only hope is this year away from the game helps his body fully heal and allows his mind to refocus.

Otherwise, he'll be joining Bonds on the outside of the game.

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