On Friday night, Alex Rodriguez helped the Yankees to a series opening win over the Red Sox with a pinch-hit homer, the 660th of his career. That tied Willie Mays for fourth place on the all-time list and triggered the first of five $6M milestone bonuses in A-Rod’s contract. It’s actually not his player contract — it’s a separate marketing agreement.
We’ve heard the Yankees are “confident” they can get out paying the $6M bonus because A-Rod’s performance-enhancing drug issues have rendered the milestones unmarketable. Prior to Saturday’s game, GM Brian Cashman became the first team executive to go on the record and say the Yankees do not intend to pay the bonus. From Dan Martin:
“We’re going to follow the contract, as we follow all contracts, so there is no dispute, from our perspective,” Cashman said before the Yankees beat the Red Sox, 4-2, at Fenway Park, a day after Rodriguez’s landmark home run. “We’re going to honor our responsibility of the contract. We have the right, but not the obligation, to do something.”
“It’s not, ‘You do this, you get that,’ ” said Cashman, referring to specific numbers automatically triggering bonuses. “It’s completely different. It’s not all of a sudden we’re choosing not to do something.”
A portion of the marketing agreement was broadcasted on YES on Saturday. Here’s what it says:
“It is the sole discretion of the New York Yankees to determine whether each of these milestones is commercially marketable as the home run chase. … The Yankees have the right, but not the obligation, to determine whether it’s a commercially marketable milestone.”
I’m no lawyer, I have no idea how likely it is the Yankees will be able to get out of paying the bonus. A-Rod will inevitably file a grievance and the union will back him — “The union would challenge any breach of contract with the union. A player can’t be punished again for something he’s already been punished for,” said an MLBPA source to Martin — because they don’t want to set a precedent by letting a team void an agreement with a player.
The marketing agreement between A-Rod and the Yankees calls for $6M bonuses when Rodriguez ties Mays (660), ties Babe Ruth (714), ties Hank Aaron (755), then ties (762) and passes Barry Bonds (763) on the all-time homer list. As good as he’s looked so far this year, I don’t think we can safely assume Alex will reach the second milestone bonus before the end of his contract.
I can understand why the Yankees want to save the $6M — it’s actually $9M since the bonus would be subject to the luxury tax — but as an outsider it looks sorta petty. (Obviously $9M is a ton of money though, even to the Yankees.) Last I looked, the Yankees are still selling A-Rod shirts and merchandise in the team stores at Yankee Stadium, which indicates they think he is at least somewhat marketable.
I dunno, things seem to be going well between the Yankees and A-Rod right now. This feels like an unnecessary battle, like the Yankees are holding a grudge.