Alex Rodriguez hearing delays Yankees' off-season plans
Suspended 3rd baseman may not return in 2014
The New York Yankees will make alternative plans for third base if Alex Rodriguez's grievance hearing isn't decided soon.
The players' association is trying to overturn a 211-game suspension given to the third baseman by Major League Baseball on Aug. 5 for alleged violations of baseball's drug program and labour contract. Arbitrator Fredric Horowitz has presided over eight days of hearings, which are scheduled to resume Nov. 18.
It's unclear whether the hearings will finish that week. Once testimony is complete, lawyers for both sides will need time to file briefs, and Horowitz is expected to take several weeks to make his decision.
"It's important that we know, because if we're not going to have him we need to fill that void," Girardi said Thursday. "It causes us to think a lot about: Do we need a third baseman or do we not need a third baseman? So, hopefully, we'll know sooner than later."
The 38-year-old Rodriguez, a three-time American League MVP, missed most of last season following his second major hip operation. He returned the day his suspension was announced and hit .244, his lowest average since 1995, with seven homers and 19 RBIs in 156 at-bats.
Kevin Youkilis, signed to replace Rodriguez at third after the hip injury was diagnosed, had his own health problems. A bad back limited Youkilis to 105 at-bats, and he didn't play at all after June 13. He is among the 13 Yankees who became free agents last week.
New York has to fill holes in its pitching staff following the retirements of Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte. The Yankees also must figure out how much to offer second baseman Robinson Cano, a free agent who has been seeking a 10-year deal in excess of $300 million US.
Girardi plans on speaking with the five-time all-star.
"I don't think I need to sell him on the Yankees. I think he knows what it is," Girardi said. "I think he sees the impact that players have had on this community and the organization, where it's a Mo or a Pettitte or a [Jorge] Posada, and the legacy that they leave."
All of New York's decisions will be made in the context of baseball's luxury tax. The Yankees would like to get under the $189 million threshold next year and already have committed $97.71 million to seven players. That leaves them about $80 million to spend, since payrolls for the tax include about $11 million for benefits.
If Rodriguez is suspended for the entire season, his impact on the payroll would be reduced by $25 million to $2.5 million.
Girardi said captain Derek Jeter has started his off-season workouts but won't begin baseball activities until January, as usual. Jeter, who turns 40 in June, was limited to 17 games this year after breaking his left ankle in the 2012 AL Championship Series opener. Still, Girardi expects Jeter to be his starting shortstop next season.
"We're hoping that he'll be back to where he was in 2012 before the injury took place," Girardi said. "We'll go through the off-season, allow him to do the things he needs to do, and then keep our fingers crossed in spring training that it's all good."
Girardi wouldn't address whether the Yankees have interest in Masahiro Tanaka, a 25-year-old right-hander who went a 24-0 with a 1.27 earned-run average during the regular season for the Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan's Pacific League. He also said the decision has yet to be made on Rivera's replacement.
"I know we haven't anointed anyone as a closer," he said. "David Robertson has had a number of very good years here, but we've got to see what we can put together as a team as a whole before we do anything."
Girardi was at Yankee Stadium along with retired pitcher David Cone helping the United Service Organizations prepare about 5,000 "Comfort Packs" to be send to U.S. military who will be away from home during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.