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A-Rod opting out of contract

Boras notifies Yankees of client's free-agent wishes

Posted: Sunday October 28, 2007 10:14PM; Updated: Monday October 29, 2007 10:33AM
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Alex Rodriguez, this year's likely American League MVP, is reportedly seeking a long-term deal approaching $30 million annually.
Alex Rodriguez, this year's likely American League MVP, is reportedly seeking a long-term deal approaching $30 million annually.
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By Jon Heyman, SI.com

DENVER -- Superstar third baseman Alex Rodriguez notified the Yankees Sunday that he's opting out of his record $252 million contract, SI.com has learned.

Rodriguez's decision means he will become a free agent and be able to negotiate with all 30 clubs. Rodriguez's bombshell move will shake up the entire winter for the Yankees -- who had hoped to retain him with a big extension -- as well as other big-market clubs that will now pursue him.

Responding to the revelation, Rodriguez's agent, Scott Boras, confirmed he sent word of the opt-out decision in writing Sunday to the Yankees and expected the club to receive it by Monday. Boras also left phone and text messages with the same information for Yankees general manager Brian Cashman.

The Yankees have said that once A-Rod -- the certain 2007 American League MVP after a monster season, in which he hit 54 home runs and drove home 156 runs -- opts out, they will not pursue him, since they will lose the benefit of the Texas Rangers' $30-million subsidy. So unless they change their strategy, they will not bid on Rodriguez.

"Alex made the decision today,'' Boras said. "I thought we should notify the club.''

The Yankees said Sunday night they hadn't yet heard from Boras or Rodriguez and were unaware of Rodriguez's decision. "We'll have to see the letter,'' Yankees president Randy Levine said late Sunday night.

The Yankees had been preparing an extension to his current contract for either five or six years, believed to be close to $30 million annually. However, team officials said Boras has politely declined to meet with them in recent days, and they never presented the offer.

George Steinbrenner's oldest son, Hank, told the New York Times on Sunday night that the team is planning to cut ties with Rodriguez. "It's a shame," Hank Steinbrenner said. "But we are all in agreement: myself, my dad, my brother, all the baseball people. If you don't want to be a Yankee and paid what you're being paid, we don't want you, that's the bottom line. You'd be hard-pressed to argue that point. If you don't understand the magnitude of being a Yankee and understand what that means, and being the highest-paid player in baseball, I think it's pretty obvious"

"If we're going to make you rich and we're going to give you the privilege of being a Yankee," he added, "you've got to show us you want to be here."

Boras hasn't said how much he believes Rodriguez is worth on the open market, but he suggested in interviews that Rodriguez could be worth $500 million to the Yankees over the next 10 years. It's clear he's shooting for a deal well in excess of $300 million, perhaps even as much as $400 million. Rodriguez was to make $91 million over the final three years of his Rangers/Yankees deal.

Rodriguez technically had until 10 days after the World Series ended to exercise his opt-out rights, which were provided in his $252 million Texas deal. However, Boras said in an interview with SI.com Sunday that Rodriguez couldn't even consider any pre-opt-out deadline offers from the Yankees until they settled several situations, specifically mentioning the impending free agency of Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada and uncertainty surrounding Andy Pettitte. Boras specifically mentioned Yankees partner Hank Steinbrenner's comment the Yankees are in a "transitional'' phase as a concern.

"There really was no way he could make a decision (to stay) until much later in the month of November,'' Boras said. "There are no deadlines. We clearly needed more time to understand what 'transitional'' meant, what the new owners intend, and what's going to happen to Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte.''

Boras suggested he wasn't overly optimistic about what "transitional'' could mean. Hank Steinbrenner used that wording in discussing what should be expected from the new manager who replaces Joe Torre (it is believed Joe Girardi will receive an offer, as early as Monday.) "We didn't feel a lot of the players were going to sign,'' Boras said. Pettitte, in particular, has said he may retire. It's possible that none of the three players will be signed before Rodriguez had to decide whether to opt out, 10 days after the World Series.

The Yankees have said repeatedly that if Rodriguez opts out, they will not pursue him and he will become an ex-Yankee. However, the free-agent market isn't exactly filled with high-profile power hitters; and the only other star third baseman, 2007 World Series MVP Mike Lowell, could re-sign with the Red Sox. Lowell also becomes a major option for the Yankees now.

Boras said they would welcome the Yankees to pursue A-Rod, however. "We're here to make decisions based on our rights, and we'll certainly consider whatever clubs show interest,'' Boras said. "We'd be happy to talk to any club, including the Yankees.

"Certainly, Alex enjoyed his stay in New York, and he did well there. So it's a place that works well for Alex Rodriguez.''

The Yankees will now have to decide whether it still works for them, minus the aforementioned $30 million subsidy. Yankees people have been adamant about their intention to move on. However, at least two competing baseball executives said they believed the Yankees might change their strategy, especially if it appears the Red Sox or Mets may sign Rodriguez, but that was before Hank Steinbrenner's comments to the contrary on Sunday night.

The Angels, Dodgers, Giants, Cubs, Red Sox and Mets would appear to be the most logical pursuers of A-Rod. However, the Mets would have to move at least one star player to accommodate A-Rod, who wanted to go there back in 2000 before Texas blew him away with their bid.

Boras suggested the Yankees shouldn't be stunned by this development. "Once the Yankees acquired Alex's right from Texas, they acquired and gave to Alex the right to terminate his contract seven years into it. So we were merely following the right of the contracts provided for and negotiated.''