The Yankees aren't likely to find a way out of Alex Rodriguez's mega-contract. But maybe future big spenders will have a way to void contracts of suspended players.
Tuesday on MLB Network, Peter Gammons said this:
I had heard this winter ... that general managers and owners were beginning to say, "Wait a minute, we want to be able to get clauses into contracts that would give us outs, if players test positive. Because we feel it may be that they signed the contracts under false [pretenses]... I think it's going to be very interesting, with five years left on Alex Rodriguez's contract, what kind of battle this becomes between Alex and ... how much they try to get out of that contract.
... I think it's very clear that the Players Association has been more and more leaning in the direction of where the Commissioner's Office wants to go.
First off, there's probably not a damned thing the Yankees can do about A-Rod's contract. It was always a foolish deal, unless they had an unlimited budget and were willing to cut him when he stopped hitting. It seems that neither of those conditions apply. Not yet, anyway. Fortunately, the contract is good for Baseball, as it's ridiculous profligacy like this that keeps the haves from completely dominating the have-nots. So thank you, Steinbrothers, for paying your dreary third baseman a king's ransom. Now live with it. I mean, sure: Go ahead and tell your fans that you're trying to undo your mistake. Especially if you're going to release him in a year or two anyway. But don't waste a bunch of your time and money on something that ...
Wait. Strike that. Reverse it. Yes, Yankees: Please do waste time and money on this quest. That might be good for Baseball, too. Or good for the rest of the American League East, anyway. And maybe the Mets.
Now, about inserting clauses into contracts ... On its face, this makes an incredible amount of sense. It also makes sense that if you sign a player and he's been lying about his age, you could void his contract. Alas, I don't believe that's happened yet (although the Indians were able to restructure
Fausto Carmona's Roberto Hernandez's contract and save some money).
The principle's essentially the same, I think. In both cases, a player arguably has improved his bargaining position by misrepresenting his fundamental abilities. Yes, the club should perform its due diligence. But if due diligence isn't enough, shouldn't the club have some recourse if the player's been less than truthful?
On its face, yes.
There are pitfalls, though. In some cases, we're talking about a lot of money. Suppose, for a moment, that Team Y signs Slugger A to a 10-year, $275 million contract. I mean, just as a hypothetical. Now, let's say that just two years into that contract, Slugger A suffers a debilitating shoulder injury. Thing is, though, he can still play; he just can't play well. Suddenly, his employers have 240 million reasons to get him busted for steroids. Assuming, that is, that a failed drug test can void his contract.
I'm not saying they could get him busted. Such a thing would be difficult, even if he were using steroids. I don't believe it would be impossible, though. On the one hand, Team Y could subtly encourage Slugger A to use drugs, if only to recover from his injury ... while the other hand is tipping off the authorities. One well-placed "random" drug test, and BOOM! We just saved $240 million.
Again, I'm not saying that would happen. But even the remote possibility that it might happen would set off some serious alarm bells in the Players Association and in agents' offices.
Another thing. Even if you could insert such a clause into the contracts, it wouldn't mean much to any but the veterans with long-term deals. The great majority of players in the majors are working on one- or two-year contracts, and so this clause wouldn't serve as much of a deterrent because most of such players are cheap enough that the teams wouldn't want to void those contracts.
None of which is to suggest this isn't a good idea, or couldn't be made workable. But it's no panacea, and it probably won't be easy to get all the parties to buy in.