Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez stated he plans to attend Spring Training next month despite facing a 162-game suspension for PED use, and the team is "considering all of its options ... perhaps even ordering him to work out with the minor-leaguers across the street from the club's spring training home at Steinbrenner Field," according to a source cited by Anthony Rieber of NEWSDAY. The source said that the Yankees' "contention is that Rodriguez -- as a suspended player -- will not be on the team's 40-man roster." The Yankees would be "under no obligation to allow him to participate in major-league spring training or in exhibition games" (NEWSDAY, 1/13). In N.Y., Joel Sherman reports officials from the Yankees, Commissioner's Office and MLBPA will "negotiate behind the scenes in the coming weeks to dissuade" Rodriguez from "attending spring training," as he has vowed to do. But each entity "will tread lightly." None "wants to give the Rodriguez gang reasons to sue further." The "lone group that can stop the distraction and circus ... is the one that would be most affected by that distraction and circus -- the Yankees players." If Yankees players "really don’t want to endure the unwanted tension and attention from having A-Rod in their midst, then it is going to be up to them to make a stand" (N.Y. POST, 1/13). ESPN N.Y.'s Andrew Marchand noted the Yankees will "not make any final decisions about their course of action until speaking with the commissioner's office about the loophole in the suspension rules" (ESPNNY.com, 1/12).
SPRING TRAINING A LONG SHOT: On Long Island, David Lennon wrote Rodriguez' "intention to show up at Steinbrenner Field comes off as a rather obvious attempt to further antagonize the Yankees and thumb his nose" at MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. He is "fully entitled to participate in spring training while suspended." But given the "contentious nature of Rodriguez's situation ... it's really a pointless exercise" (NEWSDAY, 1/12). The Boston Globe's Bob Ryan said, "They don't want him. He's the ultimate example of the unwanted guest who will not leave the party" ("The Sports Reporters," ESPN, 1/12). ESPN.com's Jayson Stark wrote, "I'd bet there's as good a chance of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig suiting up at Steinbrenner Field this spring as there is of A-Rod setting foot on that field" (ESPN.com, 1/12). In Baltimore, Peter Schmuck wrote Rodriguez "certainly seems committed to taking this to the limit, and why not?" He "really has nothing to lose, since a one-year suspension might be the death knell for his career." His reputation has been "sullied so much that there’s probably no real benefit in making some kind of high-road proclamation of regret and accepting his punishment" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 1/11).
YANKS COULD STILL AVOID LUXURY TAX: In N.Y., David Waldstein wrote Rodriguez' suspension will save the Yankees "millions of dollars and perhaps enhance their chances of remaining under" the $189M payroll luxury tax threshold, depending on "whether they are able to sign" P Masahiro Tanaka. Publicly, the Yankees "demonstrated no glee" over arbitrator Fredric Horowitz' decision to suspend Rodriguez, but "numerous executives and team officials over the past several months have revealed that they were hoping for a large penalty that would lessen the burden" of his contract. The Yankees have "spent lavishly this off-season after missing the playoffs last season, but they have been trying to keep their payroll" below $189M in '14 to reap "huge savings under the luxury-tax rules." Rodriguez’ suspension "makes that possible." The Yankees’ payroll was slightly more than $175M "before the arbitrator’s ruling nullified Rodriguez’s contract." That "knocked the payroll down" to about $150M with "more modest contracts still to be arranged" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/12). In Boston, Scott Lauber wrote the suspension is the Yankees’ "first big win" of '14. The Yankees will "get a season-long respite from the A-Rod circus and everything that accompanies it" (BOSTON HERALD, 1/12).
SHOULD TEAM CONSIDER A BUYOUT? In N.Y., Ken Davidoff noted the Yankees still owe Rodriguez $61M from '15-17, and the team "could try to negotiate a buyout, void what’s left in the contract, simply release Rodriguez, or welcome him back" in '15. However, voiding the deal is "as much of a legal long shot as Rodriguez’s injunction" (N.Y. POST, 1/12). Also in N.Y., Juliet Macur wrote the Yankees "should buy out the remainder of Rodriguez’s contract and say goodbye." It would give their fans "a break from the drama, allow them to focus on the players on the field for once and serve as a deterrent for potential dopers who hope to join the team." Macur: "Send the message that doping, in fact, does not pay" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/12). CBSSPORTS.com's Mike Axisa wrote, "Would a team, even one as wealthy as the Yankees, simply eat $61 million to make a distraction go away? Again, the easy answer is yes. And again, it's not really that easy" (CBSSPORTS.com, 1/11). In Newark, Dave D'Alessandro: "Let the buyout negotiation commence" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 1/12).