No, A-Rod’s Contract Won’t (and Can’t) be Voided

Like it or not, he’s not going anywhere.

As the fallout of Biogenesis trickles out, Yankees fans may wonder if the implications regarding Alex Rodriguez may provide an opportunity for the club to pursue the nullification of his contract. A-Rod was one of the names mentioned in this morning’s Miami New Times report, which even featured a separate exposé noting every location within Tony Bosch’s records in which Rodriguez was mentioned. Bosch, of course, was the man in charge of Biogenesis.

I’m not going to re-hash in detail what the article and records say, but if you don’t feel like perusing through the details, here’s the quick nuts and bolts: Rodriguez’ name is mentioned in client lists dating from 2009-2012 along with instructions for using the drugs. His cousin, Yuri Sucart, banned by Major League Baseball in 2011, also surfaces in the documents. Interestingly, the entirety of these records furnished within the Miami New Times articles are handwritten in notebooks.

At first glance, this seems like damning evidence, which begs a couple of questions: (1) Will A-Rod receive a PED suspension? (2) What rights do the Yankees have against Rodriguez?

To answer the first question: possibly, but it won’t be easy. Without a positive drug test on hand, it will be difficult for MLB to verify that Rodriguez took an illegal substance, and thereby suspend him 50 games. However, the Joint Drug Program indicates that a player can be suspended if there is “just cause”. So, I suppose if enough physical or corroborating evidence is uncovered, Rodriguez could face a suspension. Again, though, it will be extremely difficult, especially considering that A-Rod has hired renowned lawyer Roy Black.

As for the Yankees’ rights, there virtually are none. From the Joint Drug Program, Section 7M:

All authority to discipline Players for violations of the Program shall repose with the Commissioner’s Office. No Club may take any disciplinary or adverse action against a Player (including, but not limited to, a fine, suspension, or any adverse action pursuant to a Uniform Player’s Contract) because of a Player’s violation of the Program.

From this, it’s clear the $114M over the next 5 years isn’t going anywhere. Sure, a good chunk of Rodriguez’ contract insured, but they still have to commit his contract’s AAV ($27.5M) to the competitive balance tax threshold of $189M. All in all, the worst case scenario for Rodriguez is a 50 game suspension.

Rodriguez has denied the new allegations, which is sure to lead to a long and ugly public investigation. If you aren’t already sick of PED talk, buckle up, because it’s just getting started once again. No matter what happens, though, A-Rod is here to stay.

UPDATE, 5:35 PM:

I somehow didn’t catch the following potential exception initially when reading the Joint Drug Program. ESPN New York did, however:

Nothing in this Section 7.M is intended to address whether: (i) a Club may take adverse action in response to a Player’s failure to render his services due to a disability resulting directly from a physical injury or mental condition arising from his violation of the Program

Seems like a plausible option for the Yanks, except for the fact that A-Rod’s hip surgeon Dr. Bryan Kelly claimed his most recent injury was not related to PED use (as the ESPN NY article refers to as well). So, the Yankees are still out of luck from this angle.

Realistically, there really is no direction the Yankees can take to void the contract. Unless there was a written special covenant within the contract regarding PED use (which obviously there wasn’t, and I’m not sure the MLBPA would allow this anyway), it’s going to be impossible for the Yankees to get out from under its contractual obligation.

By Keith Allison from Baltimore, USA (Alex Rodriguez) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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