DETROIT -- What began as a casual, joking conversation between New York Yankees president Randy Levine and Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria about the possibility of Alex Rodriguez playing for the Marlins may develop into serious trade talks this offseason, according to a source with knowledge of the conversation.
According to the source, Levine and Loria discussed the possibility of A-Rod playing in Miami, his hometown, but characterized it as a joke between old friends.
The conversation between the Yankees and Marlins initially was reported by Keith Olbermann on his MLB.com "Nerd Blog." Variety also reported the news.
However, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said he has had no trade talks regarding Rodriguez with anyone and described the first report as "false."
"I have had no discussions whatsoever with the (Miami) Marlins," Cashman said. "Certainly would never have any trade discussions under the circumstances. I certainly have not had any discussions with any GMs other than the pregame meetings with Dan Duquette with the Orioles, with the umpires and then with Dave Dombrowski (of the Tigers). But I've had no trade discussions, so false. One hundred percent false."
According to the source, Loria said in his conversation about A-Rod with Levine, "Alex is Mr. Miami; it would be great if he played here for us."
To which Levine is said to have replied, "You can have him."
A second source with knowledge of Rodriguez' thinking said the likely only place Rodriguez eventually would accept a trade to is Miami. Rodriguez has five years and $114 million remaining on his contract, not including milestone home run bonuses.
"I love the Yankees. I love this organization," Rodriguez said before Game 4 of the AL Championship Series on Wednesday night, in which he was not in the starting lineup. "My focus right now is to help this team come together and win a game. Do not allow all this negativity and questions and gossip stuff or this crap or that crap, let's just focus on winning a game and go from there ... What I will tell you is I hope nothing is going on like that at this point because our only focus, from top to bottom, is to win a baseball game right now."
Levine refused to directly comment on the conversation with Loria or what it would take to trade Rodriguez.
Appearing Sunday on Ian O'Connor's show on ESPN New York 98.7 FM, Levine told O'Connor the following regarding A-Rod's future as a Yankee:
"That's like one of those questions: Where's the stock market going to be in 2017? Who's going to be president on Nov. 15?. If I had a crystal ball to predict all of that stuff, I'd be a lot smarter than I am. I'm not going to go there."
With Alex Rodriguez on the bench again with the Yanks facing elimination Wednesday night against the Tigers, David Schoenfield asks the question: Is this it for A-Rod in pinstripes? Blog
Rodriguez has been marginalized in the Yankees' lineup this postseason. He entered Wednesday night 3 for 23, including 0 for 18 with 12 strikeouts against right-handers, and repeatedly has been benched and pinch hit for in the playoffs.
"For all our fan base: Let's root for Alex, the contract is what it is, and he's there, and we hope he gets hot," Levine told O'Connor. "It's part of what we deal with all the time, just like any other contract."
It isn't unprecedented for Levine, along with ownership, to lead a deal. Two winters ago, the Yankees signed Rafael Soriano after Cashman had ruled out the possibility. Levine, with the backing of owner Hal Steinbrenner, brokered a deal for the right-hander.
The question that still needs to be answered is how much of the contract the Yankees would be willing to eat. The Marlins may want the Yankees to take reliever Heath Bell, who is owed $18 million over the next two years, plus has a team option for $9 million for 2015. He could have some use for the Yankees because Soriano may opt out of his contract after this season.
Bell could provide insurance for Mariano Rivera's return as the team's closer. If Rivera is fine, Bell could team with David Robertson to set up Rivera.