It may be decision time for Alex Rodriguez. With Major League Baseball having already hit 2011 NL MVP Ryan Braun with a suspension, the Yankees' third baseman is reportedly facing a potentially career-defining choice: Deal or no deal?
As MLB deliberates potential suspensions following its investigation into performance-enhancing drug use connected to the Biogenesis clinic, the New York Daily News reported on Sunday that Rodriguez is being offered a deal that would force him to sit out the remainder of the 2013 season as well as the entire 2014 campaign. Citing an unnamed source described as "familiar with the discussions between MLB officials and A-Rod’s representatives," the New York Daily News reported that a historic lifetime ban could be sought if such a deal were not agreed upon.
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The News report came nearly a week after Braun was suspended without pay for the remainder of the 2013 season for unspecified violations of MLB's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. At the time of Braun's suspension, Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York reported that "sources familiar with the investigation" said the evidence connecting A-Rod to Biogenesis is "far beyond" what the league had against the Brewers' slugger. Even before Braun was sidelined, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that Rodriguez was expected to be suspended for at least 50 games.
“I don’t think he’s going to beat the suspension back to the field,” one unnamed person told CBSSports.com as Rodriguez entered into a dispute with the Yankees over his injured quadriceps.
Given the reported options being offered to Rodriguez and the Yankees' lack of urgency to bring him to the Bronx, it remains unclear if the 20-year veteran will ever make it back to the field. Having just celebrated his 38th birthday, Rodriguez may not be capable of regaining a spot in the Yankees' lineup in 2015 if he misses consecutive seasons. Of course, even the slim chance of such a return may be worth taking if it means that MLB won't pursue a lifetime ban from the game. If Rodriguez were to accept MLB's ban through 2014 without an appeal then he would be able to earn the money on his contract for the 2015, 2016 and 2017 seasons, according to the News.
Days before the News reported the choice potentially looming, Bob Nightengale of USA Today learned that a deal was not being sought by A-Rod's camp. Perhaps contradicting the News report, T.J. Quinn of ESPN reported on Monday that Rodriguez's attorney claimed that no deal had ever been offered. Citing two unnamed people close to Rodriguez last week, Nightengale reported that Rodriguez was not planning to make a deal, whether or not one was offered. On Monday, Rodriguez lawyer David Cornwell seemed to back up the idea that an appeal would be made of any suspension.
"We're still involved in the process of preparing for an eventual appeal in this matter," Cornwell said Monday on ESPN New York Radio, via The Associated Press. "My understanding is that the next step that is going to be taken is that the players' association and baseball will meet to discuss the investigation and baseball's focus on particular players. So we'll see how that process plays out. But at this point my understanding or my expectation is that we're going to be working through the process towards an appeal."
In order to avoid having to hear an appeal, MLB is considering suspending Rodriguez under its Collective Bargaining Agreement as opposed to its Joint Drug Agreement, according to The Associated Press. By meting out punishment based on the CBA as opposed to the drug program, MLB could ensure that Rodriguez would not be able to remain eligible to play until his appeal was heard by an arbitrator.