Unless a federal judge intervenes in his 162-game suspension, Alex Rodriguez will not be around the New York Yankees in 2014. Simple, right?
Of course, this is A-Rod. So nothing is simple.
Rodriguez and the Yankees might be headed for another battle about whether the suspended slugger will be allowed to attend major-league spring training beginning Feb. 19, when position players are required to report.
“He plans on being at spring training,” Rodriguez’s spokesman, Ron Berkowitz, wrote in an email Sunday.
Rodriguez plans to attend spring training even though he will be suspended for the entire season for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal, as determined by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz in a decision released Saturday.
However, the Yankees may prevent Rodriguez from training with the major-league players in Tampa, Fla., as long as he remains a suspended player.
Though no final decision has been reached, a person familiar with the Yankees’ thinking said the club is considering all of its options to keep A-Rod away from Derek Jeter and the rest of the big-leaguers — 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 the person, the Yankees’ contention is that Rodriguez — as a suspended player — will not be on the team’s 40-man roster. As such, the Yankees are under no obligation to allow him to participate in major-league spring training or let him play in exhibition games.
Rodriguez’s suspension includes the 162-game regular season and the postseason, should the Yankees make it. But it does not include spring training, which could be a bit of a gray area in the collective-bargaining agreement.
Suspended players have appeared in spring training games before. In 2012, Manny Ramirez played for the A’s in spring training before beginning a 50-game suspension for performance-enhancing drug use on Opening Day.
Rodriguez could argue that he must be permitted to attend spring training because he still has three years and $61 million left on his contract beginning in 2015, and needs to work on his skills. Plus, his federal court lawsuit attempting to overturn his suspension might still be going on next month.
But the Yankees could argue that Rodriguez will get no long-term benefit from working out in February and March, when his next appearance in a game wouldn’t be until a year later.
If Rodriguez decides to appear at spring training despite their wishes, the Yankees could play contract-language hardball for the whole year. They could order Rodriguez to work out with the minor-
leaguers, and then “spend the summer in Tampa,” according to a person familiar with their thinking.
The theory is that while Rodriguez is suspended, he still is an employee of the Yankees and must go where they tell him.
“He’s still an employee,” the person said. “A suspended employee. And he has to live up to all the stipulations of his contract.”