Hal Steinbrenner on A-Rod: ‘When he’s on and when he’s healthy, he’s obviously an asset.’

Aside from a very brief statement on Saturday, the New York Yankees have been quiet following arbitrator Frederic Horowitz's decision to ban Alex Rodriguez for the entire 162-game regular season and postseason in 2014.

That was, until Wednesday, when Yankees' owner Hal Steinbrenner opened up on the topic for the first time and offered a few noteworthy comments on A-Rod's future with the Yankees while attending MLB's quarterly owners meetings in Arizona. Here's a look at what he had to say, courtesy of the New York Post's Ken Davidoff.

“He’s a great player,” Steinbrenner said of Rodriguez. “I have not thought about 2015, nor am I going to right now. My focus has to be right now. But when he’s on and when he’s healthy, he’s obviously an asset. We’ll see what happens.”

"When he's on" could be taken a couple different ways, but Steinbrenner obviously meant when A-Rod is locked in and healthy.

He continued:

“Those of you that know me, I’m pretty objective in my thinking. This is business. I’m just focusing on the team, a player. Is the player an asset to the club or not? That’s about as far as I look. I don’t get personal.”

“When Alex Rodriguez is healthy and himself, I think most objective baseball people would say he could be an asset to a club.”

Well, it's not exactly a ringing endorsement, but the door on a return wasn't closed either. In fact, Steinbrenner seemed content to leave it wide open, but also made sure to reiterate it hasn't been a real topic of discussion yet among Yankees officials.

“We haven’t even talked about it,” Steinbrenner said. “Cross that bridge when we come to it kind of thing. We’re going to reach out to MLB, get their advice obviously, but haven’t even addressed it.”

We knew the Yankees would be happy to put this distraction behind them, even if it's only a temporary reprieve, but one would have to think multiple discussions have taken place on some level regarding A-Rod's future. Especially when it's known A-Rod is planning to attend spring training and will bring the circus tents along with him. Of course, there's also no real motivation for Steinbrenner to indicate what the team's plans are at this point or in that setting, so it's possible he was playing it close to the vest.

Either way, using the words 'A-Rod' and 'asset' in the same sentence is enough to make it seem like nothing is a foregone conclusion.

As it stands now, when A-Rod's suspension ends following the 2014 season the Yankees will still owe him $61 million over the following three seasons. A trade will never be an option, so the Yankees only real options will be to release him and eat the money or put him back on the field. Smart money still says it will be the first choice — and that A-Rod has ultimately played his final game in MLB — but given the unpredictable nature of the entities involved, nothing should be considered a safe bet.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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