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Yankees Look For Ways To Unload Alex Rodriguez

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Everything about this next story is awkward. It's a story of Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees star suspended for allegedly using performance-enhancing drugs.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

That is awkward.

INSKEEP: Rodriguez publicly denies the charges. But The Miami Herald reports he admitted it to federal authorities.

MONTAGNE: Oh, extremely awkward.

INSKEEP: And what's even more awkward is that A-Rod has a contract to return to the Yankees next season. The franchise that doesn't even like players with facial hair would have to tolerate a player with a stained reputation. Sportswriter Pablo Torre of ESPN says the Yankees would rather not.

PABLO TORRE, BYLINE: They want to get rid of him as soon as possible. The problem is he is owed $61 million on that massive contract. And the Yankees, they already suspected and knew what Alex Rodriguez has admitted to. So they're basically hoping that he is too injured to play. If he is too injured to play, then they recoup 80 percent of that salary through insurance. So the Yankees are suddenly in the position of hoping for the worst medical outcome possible for A-Rod, which will make things very awkward in his final year as a New York Yankee.

INSKEEP: Well, help me understand that. From the Yankees' perspective, do they want him off the field because he's an embarrassment?

TORRE: They want him nowhere near the field. But the problem is they can't simply cut him because they're still going to pay that $61 million. So he's not going to play third base. Everybody in baseball thinks that. His preferred position will be gone. Best case scenario is that he is a DH or first baseman used very sparingly, if at all, off the bench. The optimal world, though, would be him not being on the field ever, at all.

INSKEEP: And is that purely because of the alleged drug use but also because, honestly, his performance had deteriorated in recent years, and nobody knows whether he'd be very valuable anyway?

TORRE: That's right. He hasn't played a full season since 2007. And his performance since then has been spotty at best. And it's - the drug testing is certainly the huge element of it. But it's also just the fact that A-Rod as a character is officially the most villainous man in Major League Baseball. Nobody very much likes A-Rod - certainly not the fans, certainly not the front office. And so he's off on an island by himself.

INSKEEP: So A-Rod, maybe, is a symptom of broader problems with the New York Yankees. Here you have this star player who was brought in, who never really quite lived up to the expectations that he was brought to New York to fulfill. You've got a team that's aging anyway. You've got a team that's lost Derek Jeter. What's in store for the Yankees in the coming season whether A-Rod is on the field or not?

TORRE: The Yankees - let's keep in mind, the Yankees finished 12 games behind the Baltimore Orioles last year despite having this massive payroll. They are rapidly aging. Derek Jeter's departure, as symbolic and as defining as it was for the Yankees' previous season, basically was the turning of the page. We are going to meet a New York Yankees team that a lot of us, quite frankly, don't really know. And we don't really know what to expect. They don't have the prospects on the horizon that you'd expect of a flourishing minor league system.

INSKEEP: I'm wondering if we're heading into another one of these periods, of which there have been a few in Yankees history, where they're just a very, very bad team for all the money.

TORRE: Absolutely. I think this is one of those in-between dynasty periods. If you're a Yankee optimist, that's what you're thinking. You're thinking that this is the transition period. We're getting rid of everybody who we knew and loved, and including those who we loved less, like A-Rod. And we're trying to turn the page. But if you look at this roster and you go position by position - Brendan Ryan at shortstop. That is who's starting for the New York Yankees. That alone is a very jarring experience to so many baseball fans out there.

INSKEEP: Yeah, like, you've got to say who? Who?

TORRE: Yeah.

INSKEEP: Pablo Torre of ESPN, thanks very much.

TORRE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.