By Frank McGurty
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York Yankees will release Alex Rodriguez, one of the greatest players of his generation and one of baseball's most polarizing figures, with his final game with the club set for Friday.
Rodriguez has numbers that rank among the best in history, but has also seen his reputation tarnished by performance-enhancing drugs. He missed the entire 2014 season due to a doping suspension, the second doping offence in his 22-year Major League Baseball career.
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The Yankees signed Rodriguez, known as A-Rod, to a 10-year, $275 million contract that runs through 2017. At the time, it was the sport's largest ever deal. Now 41, he has been mired in one of the worst seasons of his career, hitting just nine home runs with a batting average of .204.
He has 696 home runs in his MLB career, which began with the Seattle Mariners in 1994. He ranks only behind Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth on the league's all-time home run list. His 3,114 career hits rank 20th.
"This is a tough day. I love this game and I love this team," an emotional Rodriguez told a Yankee Stadium news conference on Sunday. "Saying goodbye may be the hardest part of the job."
He will be unconditionally released by the club from his player contract in order to sign a contract to serve as a special adviser and instructor with the Yankees through Dec. 31, 2017, the Yankees said in a statement on Sunday.
Neither the team nor Rodriguez disclosed any financial considerations related to the move. His contract for this season and next put the American League's three-times most valuable player and 14-times all-star at $21 million annually.
This season, Rodriguez has largely been relegated to the bench on a Yankees team looking to rebuild with younger players. On Friday, first baseman Mark Teixeira, 36, announced he would retire at the end of the season primarily due to injuries.
When asked by a reporter what made him decide to step down nearly two months before the end of the season, Rodriguez said: "That was the Yankees' decision and I am at peace with it."
"It has been very painful and embarrassing to sit on the bench," he added.
Rodriguez brought a combination of speed, power and defensive mastery to the shortstop position when be broke into baseball with the Mariners, who selected him as the first overall pick of the 1993 draft.
He switched to third base after signing with the Yankees, who already had their now-retired captain Derek Jeter at shortstop. Rodriguez was limited to playing designated hitter during his last two seasons.
He signed what was then the richest contract in baseball when he joined the Texas Rangers in 2001 and was traded to the Yankees, joining the team in 2004 and playing on its 2009 World Series Championship team.
(Additional reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Writing by Jon Herskovitz in New York; Editing by Howard Goller and Alan Crosby)