The Yankees probably cannot void Alex Rodriguez’s contract, and they might not even need to try.
A-Rod might be voided by his own body.
Specifically, a doctor might determine that Rodriguez is suffering from a career-ending injury. In that event, A-Rod still would collect the $114 million remaining on his contract, even though he would never play again.
The scenario would not be the same as retirement — if Rodriguez retired, he would forfeit all of his money.
The Yankees, though, would be almost entirely free of their obligation — they would collect from insurance up to 85 percent of the money that Rodriguez is guaranteed, but only after he missed a full season, according to major-league sources.
I’m not suggesting insurance fraud, as some who read the initial version of this column believed. The Orioles collected insurance on Albert Belle when he was unable to play again due to a degenerative hip condition in 2001. Not an exact parallel, but certainly something of a precedent.
Rodriguez, 37, might be in better position to come back than Belle was; A-Rod’s orthopedist, Dr. Bryan Kelly, essentially said as much. But at Rodriguez’s age, with his injury history, who’s to say that he isn’t finished? And if he’s finished, he’s not committing fraud.
Harold Reynolds, an analyst on MLB Network, first suggested that Rodriguez’s career might end in such fashion after the Yankees announced in December that A-Rod would undergo his second hip surgery in four years.
On Tuesday, in the wake of an explosive Miami New Times report indicating that A-Rod used performance-enhancing drugs from 2009 to ’12, a high-ranking major league executive outlined the same plan.
A public relations firm for the New York Yankees third baseman issued a statement denying the allegations, but the matter remains under investigation by baseball and government agencies, according to sources and reports.
Rodriguez is not expected to return from surgery on his left hip until at least July. He underwent surgery on his right hip in March 2009. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman already has said that there is no guarantee that the third baseman will return this season.
The party line is that A-Rod will work his hardest to make a full recovery, just as he did after his previous surgery. But the landscape is different now — much different if Rodriguez indeed was using three substances banned by baseball, as shown by records obtained by the Miami New Times from Anthony Bosch’s anti-aging clinic.
The three substances are human growth hormone (HGH), synthetic testosterone and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). Baseball recently announced it will institute in-season testing for HGH and enhance its efforts to detect testosterone.
Now back to A-Rod’s escape hatch.
If Rodriguez used PEDs from ’09 to ’12 — after admitting that he used them from ’01 to ’03 — it would stand to reason that he is uncertain of his ability to perform without “assistance.”
Expanded testing, at least in theory, would make using PEDs a greater risk. Rodriguez also would face greater scrutiny, even ridicule, from fans and media. How eager would he be to return to such an environment, particularly if he had a fully paid out?
A-Rod certainly will attempt to go through his rehabilitation, but he may be physically unable to perform. A doctor surely could make such a diagnosis quite plausible, given the weakened condition of Rodriguez’s two hips.
A legal fight could ensue, with the insurance companies contending that either A) Rodriguez could still play or B) that his use of PEDs contributed to his physical deterioration. But good luck trying to win either case.
For the Yankees, there would be no better way out.
The team can’t even discuss voiding A-Rod’s contract until after baseball completes its investigation of his link to Bosch. If discipline is warranted, it will be administered by baseball in the form of a suspension, not by the Yankees.
At that point, the Yankees could explore whether Rodriguez violated his contract, perhaps by lying to team doctors, perhaps by seeking outside medical care, perhaps by buying illegal substances. But they still would face an uphill fight in trying to void the deal, receiving significant pushback from the players union.
Better A-Rod should void himself.
Better for the Yankees, and maybe better for A-Rod, too.