"We have the right but not the obligation to do something, and that's it," said Yankees general manager Brian Cashman before Saturday's Yankees-Red Sox game at Fenway Park. "We're going to follow the contract as we follow all contracts, so there is no dispute, from our perspective."
In other words, in the Yankees' interpretation of the contract, they are under no obligation to pay off on a deal they feel is no longer valid due to Rodriguez's 162-game suspension for drug violations last year.
According to multiple reports, the deal was drawn up as an addendum to the 10-year, $275 million contract Rodriguez signed with the Yankees after opting out of his previous contract in 2007. It is said to call for five payments of $6 million for reaching the following home run milestones: 660 (Willie Mays' total), 714 (Babe Ruth), 755 (Hank Aaron), 762 (Barry Bonds) and 763, which would break Bonds' all-time record.
Rodriguez reached the first milestone with his pinch-hit home run in the eighth inning of Friday night's 3-2 Yankees win over the Red Sox.
A source who was involved in the drafting of the agreement told ESPNNewYork.com that the numbers are explicitly spelled out in the contract; the Yankees contend that the bonuses are contingent upon the club's ability to market the accomplishment, which they contend is impossible now due to Rodriguez's admissions of, and punishment for, illegal PED usage.
"The Union is prepared to intervene on Alex's behalf,'' Major League Baseball Players Association spokesman Greg Bouris told ESPN.com via text.
Cashman's statements are a representation of the Yankees' view that the contract has been violated by Rodriguez and is no longer valid.
"We're going to honor our responsibilities of the contract," Cashman said. "(But) how it's been reported . . . and what the contract actually says are two different things. It's not 'you do this, you get that.' It's completely different. It's not all of a sudden, we're choosing not to do something. If we choose to pursue something we'll choose to pursue it. If we choose not to, it's our right not to. In both cases, we're honoring the contract."
Rodriguez has refused to address the issue publicly, saying his focus is on playing baseball, a stance he reiterated before Sunday's Yankees-Red Sox game at Fenway Park.
"That's family business," he said. "I'm just happy to be playing baseball. That's nowhere near where my energy is these days. My energy is playing the game tonight. Just baseball."
According to baseball's collective bargaining agreement, Rodriguez has 14 days from the Yankees' refusal to pay out on the contract to file an appeal, which would likely be heard by Fredric Horowitz, the arbiter who ruled against him in the appeal of his suspension last year.
"The great thing about contracts is if there's any disputes there's mechanisms for anybody who has a misunderstanding or a misinterpretation," Cashman said. "There's procedures in place to have people determine if there is some misunderstanding. But we don't believe there's any misunderstanding. We always honor our contracts. We're not going to do anything different in this case either."
Cashman said he congratulated Rodriguez in the clubhouse after the historic home run and said there were "no issues going forward'' between the player and the team; Rodriguez had sued the Yankees team physician, Christopher Ahmad, and through his lawyers accused the club of forcing him to play while injured and setting him up to fail in the 2012 playoffs. He later withdrew all the lawsuits.
"He came in and apologized this winter, we accepted it, we've turned the page and moved forward," Cashman said. "I thought that stuff was dead and buried. He's been great in the clubhouse, he's been saying all the right things with the press. And we've got a nice thing going on with the club. Obviously we want him to perform at the highest level."
Cashman said he had not discussed the contract issue with Rodriguez.
"We don't have to," he said. "Again, we'll honor the contract and follow the contract. There's nothing to address. He's got a copy, too."
A-Rod: 'I'm very happy'
Alex Rodriguez talks to Pedro Gomez after hitting his 660th home run to tie Willie Mays on the all-time list.