A-Rod, Yankees close to $275 million deal

Say this for Alex Rodriguez: In a take-no-prisoners winter in which he dared walk away from the New York Yankees and $81 million, in which he sought to obliterate the game's previous record salary (his own), into which his swashbuckling agent entered with a knife between his teeth, and into which he went armed with one of the great offensive seasons in baseball history, he lasted 18 days.

That's almost three weeks. A lesser man might not have gotten to Veterans Day.

And by Wednesday night, not only were Rodriguez and the Yankees back on speaking terms, but sources said they were close to a deal that would pay Rodriguez a base salary of $275 million over 10 years. The deal will include performance incentives that could increase the value.

Unless talks break down, Rodriguez will have his Yankees and his record-breaking contract, and he won't have to go into the Hall of Fame as a Toledo Mud Hen – as one of the Steinbrenner boys wise-cracked two weeks ago – and Yankees fans can recommence sorting their feelings for A-Rod.

Meantime, what has been portrayed as an end-around on agent Scott Boras – Rodriguez contacted the Steinbrenners through a third party, believed to be Mitch Modell of "Gotta go to Mo's" sporting goods fame, and initiated Round 2 of negotiations – might actually have been strategic and not a breaking of ranks.

According to those close to the situation, the Yankees did not attempt to bar Boras from future negotiations and, despite appearances, Boras maintains a civil and professional relationship with his client. Indeed, witnesses said Boras was in Miami meeting with Rodriguez for the past several days and was to dine with Rodriguez on Wednesday night.

All of which concluded another fun little day for Rodriguez, Boras, the Yankees and anyone hoping to keep up with the goings-ons.

And, would suggest the Yankees aren't really restructuring at all. They have re-upped catcher Jorge Posada, seem close to the same with closer Mariano Rivera, and have at least re-opened talks with Rodriguez. They are waiting on starter Andy Pettitte, but reasonably optimistic he'll be back, meaning the old gang is together again, with the notable exceptions of Roger Clemens (for the moment) and manager Joe Torre.

For a few hours Wednesday, it certainly appeared Rodriguez had blinked.

First the New York Daily News reported Rodriguez had slipped around Boras and contacted the Steinbrenner II about, you know, maybe, uh, comin' back, please?

Then Rodriguez confirmed it on his official Web site. There was no comment from Boras. The Yankees seemed overjoyed.

All of which left the impression that Rodriguez went around Boras to salvage a deteriorating relationship with the Yankees (and their fans), and the Yankees granted a return to the negotiating table as long as there wasn't a seat there for Boras.

In the past, Boras would have set the place afire. He would have filed a grievance before dusk had settled over Tampa. He'd have howled about unfair labor practices.

Instead, you wondered if Boras was still Rodriguez's agent.

The client looked to have set off on his own, and in fact, it appears that Rodriguez did much of the legwork on the new deal. How much of it was calculated by agent and client is worth pondering.

"After spending time with (wife) Cynthia and my family over these last few weeks, it became clear to me that I needed to make an attempt to engage the Yankees regarding my future with the organization," Rodriguez wrote on his website.

"Prior to entertaining any serious negotiations with other clubs, I wanted the opportunity to share my thoughts directly with Yankees' ownership. We know there are other opportunities for us, but Cynthia and I have a foundation with the club that has brought us comfort, stability and happiness.

"As a result, I reached out to the Yankees through mutual friends and conveyed that message."

Now, typically, Boras would be doing all the reaching out. But, Boras is not above the gamesmanship. He needed the Yankees involved at almost any cost, because they have the most money and because Rodriguez, it appears, really wants to play for them. Boras pretty much acknowledged as much the day after his client opted out when he expressed disappointment that the Yankees – upset that they had lost a $21 million A-Rod contract subsidy from the Texas Rangers – indicated they would not negotiate.

From then until now, interest from others has been tepid, the landscape for $300 million increasingly sparse, which might have sobered even the unflinchingly optimistic Boras. Officials from two teams who have the need for a power-hitting third baseman and the financial resources to sign Rodriguez said there has been little or no conversation with Boras or Rodriguez for several days. Mike Lowell will sign with one of the few teams capable of pursuing Rodriguez. Miguel Cabrera might be traded to another.

Leaving Rodriguez and the Yankees, at the end of the day.