The end is near for Alex Rodriguez, even if he’s not ready to completely walk away from baseball.
In a Sunday morning press conference at Yankee Stadium, A-Rod and the Yankees jointly announced he will play one final game for New York on Friday, at home, against the Tampa Bay Rays. Following the game, Rodriguez will officially be released and will then immediately transition into a new role with the team as a special instructor and advisor.
The news comes just days after Rodriguez stated that he’d be “at peace” if the Yankees decided to release him during the season. With his playing time significantly diminished since the All-Star break — he’d only started one game since July 22 — the writing was clearly on the wall and he had taken notice.
According to Fox sports Ken Rosenthal, who spoke exclusively to A-Rod, the Yankees did approach him about a release this week, which morphed into planning his farewell appearance on Friday.
What’s interesting is that Rodriguez, who spoke before the gathered media and his current Yankees teammates, whose attendance was reportedly mandatory, said he hasn’t completely closed the door on playing for another team down the road. General manager Brian Cashman added that A-Rod would be free to do so as of Friday night.
Assuming he doesn’t sign elsewhere, his new role with the Yankees will run through Dec. 31, 2017, effectively serving out his Yankees contract.
Call it forcing A-Rod’s hand or call it a gift on his way out the door. Both are probably true in some way, as being released will allow Rodriguez to collect the roughly 5.8M still owed to him this season and the $21M owed to him next season.
Here’s the official statement from Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner:
“After spending several days discussing this plan with Alex, I am pleased that he will remain a part of our organization moving forward and transition into a role in which I know he can flourish. We have an exciting group of talented young players at every level of our system. Our job as an organization is to utilize every resource possible to allow them to reach their potential, and I expect Alex to directly contribute to their growth and success. Baseball runs through his blood. He’s a tireless worker and an astute student of the game. Alex has already proven to be a willing and effective mentor to many players who have come through our clubhouse, and I am confident that this next phase of his baseball life will bring out the best in Alex and the next generation of Yankees.”
Coming off a remarkable return season in 2015, Rodriguez, who turned 41 on July 27, looked every bit like a player who had overstayed his welcome this season. He’s hit .204/.252/.356 this season in 234 plate appearances this year, which came entirely as a designated hitter or pinch hitter. It was easy for the now retooling Yankees to move on. Rodriguez is now accommodating that effort while looking to remain a part of the team’s future.
Of course, the greater focus in the days, weeks, months and even years ahead will be on A-Rod’s career numbers. He currently ranks fourth all-time with 696 career home runs, third all-time with 2,084 RBIs and 19th with 3,114 hits. He’ll have one more chance to add to those gaudy numbers. Then the Hall of Fame debate will begin, because love him or hate him, A-Rod will never stay too far from our minds.
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