While high-priced lawyers negotiate on Alex Rodriguez's behalf for
the best outcome to the slugger's impending suspension by MLB, there is another
scene due to play out Friday.
At a minor league park in Trenton, A-Rod could be playing in his final professional game.
If MLB gets its way, Rodriguez will gather his bats and never step his cleats on another playing field again following Friday's scheduled minor-league rehab at the Yankees' Class AA affiliate (he's scheduled to play again Saturday).
This is supposed to be A-Rod's first big step back toward a contentious left quad issue that has kept him sidelined since July 21, and led to more public battling between the Yankees and their third baseman - the remaining central figure of MLB's investigation into the Biogenesis steroids scandal.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi have expressed their desire to have Rodriguez boost a flagging offense and help lead a late charge toward October.
But for the Yankees' economic bottom line, there's no better scenario than recouping most or all of the nearly $100 million on his contract by having commissioner Bud Selig hand down a suspension that would keep him out of pinstripes for keeps.
"I hope he does it," ex-baseball commissioner Fay Vincent told USA Today. "It's right for baseball. The harder he comes down, the better it is for baseball."
Whether or not that's better for the 2013 Yankees' pennant chances is another argument.
"If Alex comes back, he's coming back to help us out," Lyle Overbay said after getting the go-ahead, ninth-inning single in the Yankees' 3-0 win at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday night.
As an individual, Overbay said he's eager for resolution of the Biogenesis scandal, which has already seen MLB suspend Brewers outfielder and 2011 MVP Ryan Braun for the remainder of the season.
But there's been nothing but speculation surrounding the A-Rod saga. "There's all these rumors out and nothing's happened," Overbay said late Wednesday.
That's why the Yankees can still picture him at his old position down the stretch.
The Yankees have used seven different starting third basemen this year with paltry production. Kevin Youkilis, signed to fill in for Rodriguez, underwent back surgery in June that could keep him sidelined all year - though Cashman recently offered hope of a September return.
Though the Yankees were rebuffed in their effort to acquire veteran Phillies third baseman Michael Young at Wednesday's non-waiver trade deadline, Cashman insisted he wasn't operating blindly due to the prospect of A-Rod's potential suspension.
"Ultimately it was a thin market," said Cashman, who added outfielder and cleanup hitter Alfonso Soriano last week from the Cubs for a minor league pitcher. "That's as far as we were able to go."
The Yankees fished for catching upgrades, too, though they couldn't complete any one-stop shopping with the Phillies, who also had an attractive receiver in Carlos Ruiz, a potential free agent at year's end.
But there's always 2015 for the Yankees to make a huge catching upgrade, right Buck Showalter?
In speaking about the financial relief the Yankees could achieve through a Rodriguez suspension, the Orioles manager also mentioned the ramifications of setting the Yankees loose again in the free agent market.
"If Bud lets them get away with that, they're under the luxury tax," Showalter told USA Today. "If they can reset, they can spend again and I guarantee you in two years (Baltimore catcher) Matt Wieters is in New York."
Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner repeatedly has stated his desire of getting his 2014 payroll under the $189 million luxury tax threshold, a penalty that has cost the Yankees millions in the last decade. A suspended player's salary would not figure into the luxury tax math.
Back on the field, Rodriguez went through a simulated game Thursday at Tampa, Fla.
Cashman wouldn't say how many rehab games A-Rod would need before he's ready to be in the Yankees' lineup.
However, Selig has as much influence on that decision as anyone.
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