Major League Baseball reportedly has evidence that proves Alex Rodriguez used banned performance-enhancing substances and has offered the New York Yankees third baseman a deal that could salvage the final $61 million of his contract while effectively ending his career.
Baseball officials have told Rodriguez they are preparing to suspend him, without pay, for the remainder of the 2013 season and all of 2014, the New York Daily News was first to report.
If he accepts the suspension without appeal, he would be eligible to return in 2015.
But if he fights the penalty, the Daily News said, baseball would seek a lifetime ban.
An answer from Rodriguez, who had earlier promised to fight any suspension, is expected soon.
Rodriguez is one of about 20 major league players who are being investigated for their involvement with Biogenesis, a now-shuttered anti-aging clinic in South Florida.
Tony Bosch, the former director of the clinic, is participating in the probe and has reportedly provided MLB investigators with logs, notes, receipts, phone records and other information that persuaded the Milwaukee Brewers’ Ryan Braun to accept a 65-game ban without appeal last week.
Rodriguez hasn’t played for the Yankees this year after undergoing offseason hip surgery, and for him and the Yankees the threat of a suspension is now all about money.
If Rodriguez decides to fight MLB, he would continue to receive the rest of the $28 million he is owed this season.
And if prevails in his appeal, he would lose nothing.
But if he is hit with a lifetime ban, he would not only lose the $25 million he is to be paid next season but also the $61 million due him in the final three years of the 10-year contract he signed with the Yankees in 2007.
Given Rodriguez’s age and recent health problems — he is 38 and has played more than 124 games only once since 2008 — even a ban that ends after the 2014 season would likely mean Rodriguez would never play again.
Rodriguez could also be put on baseball’s permanently-unable-to-perform list, at which point there would be negotiations among his legal team, the Yankees and insurance companies over a settlement that would pay him the balance of his contract.
The Associated Press, meanwhile, reported baseball may try to suspend Rodriguez under its collective bargaining agreement instead of its drug rules, which would eliminate any chance of delaying a penalty until after the case goes to an arbitrator.
Rodriguez has never been disciplined for a drug offense, and a first offender under baseball’s Joint Drug Agreement is entitled to an automatic stay if the players’ association files a grievance — meaning the penalty is put on hold until after an arbitrator rules.
While use of banned performance-enhancing substances falls under the drug agreement, MLB may argue other alleged violations are punishable under the labor contract, a person familiar with management’s deliberations told the AP, speaking on condition of anonymity because no statements were authorized.
Taking that action would prevent Rodriguez from returning to the field, even if he recovers from a quadriceps injury cited by the team as the reason for keeping him on the disabled list.
And merely threatening to use that provision might give MLB leverage to force a deal.
However, the attorney for Rodriguez said Monday that no deal has been discussed with Major League Baseball and that he’s focused on preparing a successful appeal if Rodriguez is suspended in the Biogenesis probe.
“I don’t expect to be standing anywhere other than in a conference room arguing on behalf of Alex and fighting for no discipline,” Atlanta-based lawyer David Cornwell told ESPN New York Radio.
“We believe that we have good, valid and strong defenses for Alex and we intend to present them when the time comes.”
Cornwell said he has not been approached by MLB officials to discuss a plea arrangement. “No, we’re focused on an appeal,” Cornwell said.
The Yankees expect Rodriguez to be accused of recruiting other athletes for the clinic, of attempting to obstruct MLB’s investigation, and of not being truthful with MLB in the past when he discussed his relationship with Dr. Anthony Galea, who pleaded guilty two years ago to a federal charge of bringing unapproved drugs into the United States from Canada.