Skip to content

Before you climb aboard the “we should void cheaters’ contracts!” express …

Jul 23, 2013, 2:02 PM EDT

Void

Though the sea change we’re experiencing in Major League Baseball’s drug testing regime is undeniable, the “we should get tougher!” crowd easily has the loudest voice in the grand shouting match that is our current baseball discourse. And easily the most fashionable get-tough argument in that crowd is the one which goes “players should have their contracts voided if they test positive!”

Let’s unpack that, shall we?

It’s pretty easy to see the logic when the player involved is named Ryan Braun or Alex Rodriguez and they are owed hundreds of millions of dollars that they may not be worth. The price is paid for a cheater’s ill-gotten gains! He’s out his deal! The team is out from under the specter of his unholy presence! Everything is right with the world!

But what if the player is Andrew McCutchen? Or Matt Moore? Or Jered Weaver or Sal Perez? Or some other star who is on a team-friendly deal? We still happy voiding that contract then? I’m guessing the team’s owner and GM aren’t. They know that no player is 100% a creation of PEDs and that even if one of those guys took something he shouldn’t have, he’d still be more than worth the money on his contract once he serves his 50 games. And he certainly doesn’t want to lose him because a bunch of sportswriters decided back in 2013 that everyone needed to “get tough.”

Question: Are we good with punishing the team even more than the player?

Let’s take that to the next step. Say you’re Matt Moore. You’re having a lights-out season just as guys like Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw are raking in gigantic bucks on contract extensions. And here you are, like a yutz, making an average of $2.5 million over the next four years because you went for the security of the pre-arbitration deal. If contracts are voided upon a positive test, might you not at least consider taking a shot of testosterone, taking a very small 50 game suspension, getting your contract voided and then peddling your wares to the highest bidder? Sure, you might take a haircut from what Justin Verlander got because you’d be seen as something of a bad seed, but you’d make orders of magnitude over what you’re making now. Especially if you play the apology-come-clean game as well as Andy Pettitte did.

Question: Do we want that incentive there? And what does that mean for the pre-arb players who didn’t sign Moore-type deals? If Bryce Harper or Mike Trout tested positive tomorrow, what does their void look like? Are they free agents too? Or do the teams violate the 13th amendment and not pay them at all?

Oh, and then there’s the matter of the incentives some owners may have to slip a mickey to an overpaid player in an effort to get out from under. Now, I’m not saying an honorable and honest businessman like Arte Moreno would do such a thing to a nice, upstanding man like Albert Pujols. But then again, George Steinbrenner is gonna be in the Hall of Fame some day and he literally paid spies to dig up dirt on one of his overpaid players once, and it’s not insane to think that can’t happen again.

One response I anticipate is that we make the contract voiding an optional thing. At the team’s discretion. In this case the team will clearly choose to void Alex Rodriguez’s deal but not Moore’s. But why should teams get a choice here? Why should what is supposed to be punishment for wrongdoing for which we are supposed to have zero tolerance suddenly be transformed into a cost-benefit analysis for a team? Or a windfall?  Wouldn’t we then be saying “cheating is bad, mmm-kay, and you’re going to be punished severely. At least as long as you don’t have a team-friendly contract. If you do, well, we’re willing to let it slide a bit.”

That’s not what the drug testing program is supposed to look like and those odd incentives are probably a large part of the reason why the league and the union have never suggested actually doing it. Separate and apart from the fact that the union is not interested in doing anything to undermine the concept of guaranteed contracts in any way.

Maybe that’s the real thing to watch here, actually. What the league and the union say, not sanctimonious worrywarts who are looking for new ways to get tough.  If and when league or union sources start to chatter about contract voiding being on the table I’ll start to take it seriously.  For now it’s just bluster from people who don’t feel guys like Ryan Braun have suffered enough.

Latest Posts
  1. Jose Fernandez ready to face hitters for first time since Tommy John surgery

    Apr 25, 2015, 5:01 PM EDT

    Jose+Fernandez+Miami+Marlins+v+San+Diego+Padres+x1Pnh0XpK7ol Getty Images

    The Marlins have stumbled out of the gate with a disappointing 6-11 record, but they entered play today on a three-game win streak and here’s some good news about their rehabbing ace.

  2. Former Cubs catcher, Expos manager Jim Fanning dies at 87

    Apr 25, 2015, 4:27 PM EDT

    jim fanning

    Fanning was involved in baseball for more than 60 years.

  3. Blue Jays release left-hander Ricky Romero

    Apr 25, 2015, 3:48 PM EDT

    ricky romero jays getty Getty Images

    It looked like the Blue Jays had one of the best young left-handed pitchers in the game after Romero compiled a 3.60 (119 ERA+) across his first three seasons in the majors, but his career veered off track after 2011 due to control problems and knee issues.

  4. Matt Albers headed to DL with finger injury suffered in benches-clearing brawl

    Apr 25, 2015, 3:05 PM EDT

    Chicago White Sox v Detroit Tigers Getty Images

    Albers suffered a compression fracture of a finger on his throwing hand during Thursday’s brawl.

  5. Report: Rangers will pay Josh Hamilton less than $7 million; deal includes opt-out after two years

    Apr 25, 2015, 2:16 PM EDT

    josh hamilton angels getty Getty Images

    The Rangers will reportedly only be responsible for less than $7 million of Hamilton’s remaining contract.

  6. Anthony Rendon begins minor league rehab assignment

    Apr 25, 2015, 1:58 PM EDT

    anthony rendon getty Getty Images

    Anthony Rendon suffered a sprained MCL in his left knee in early March, but he’s finally close to joining the Nationals.

  7. Trevor Bauer scratched from start due to illness

    Apr 25, 2015, 1:05 PM EDT

    Trevor Bauer AP

    TJ House will start in his place against Detroit.

  8. Suspensions announced for Thursday’s brawl between the White Sox and Royals

    Apr 25, 2015, 12:24 PM EDT

    Kansas City Royals v Chicago White Sox Getty Images

    Six players were suspended for Thursday’s benches-clearing brawl between the White Sox and Royals. Yordano Ventura got the longest suspension with seven games.

  9. Video: Nelson Cruz hits 459-foot blast for MLB-leading ninth home run

    Apr 25, 2015, 12:01 PM EDT

    Minnesota Twins v Seattle Mariners Getty Images

    Nelson Cruz just keeps on mashing for the Mariners.

  10. Chris Sale tried to go into the Royals’ clubhouse after Thursday’s benches-clearing brawl

    Apr 25, 2015, 11:15 AM EDT

    Kansas City Royals v Chicago White Sox Getty Images

    Five players were ejected after Thursday’s benches-clearing brawl between the White Sox and Royals, but there was also some drama behind the scenes.

  11. Yasiel Puig leaves game after aggravating hamstring injury

    Apr 25, 2015, 10:20 AM EDT

    Los Angeles Dodgers v San Francisco Giants Getty Images

    Could a trip to the disabled list be in Yasiel Puig’s future?

  12. Video: Nolan Arenado doing Nolan Arenado things

    Apr 25, 2015, 9:38 AM EDT

    Nolan Arenado AP

    Check out a double-dose of defensive excellence from Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado.

  13. Settling the Score: Friday’s results

    Apr 25, 2015, 8:49 AM EDT

    Carlos Martinez AP

    A quick recap of a busy Friday night around MLB, including another promising outing from Carlos Martinez.

  14. Dodgers promote Sergio Santos, DFA Xavier Cedeno

    Apr 24, 2015, 11:35 PM EDT

    Sergio Santos Sergio Santos

    The Dodgers made a couple of moves to make room for reliever Sergio Santos, called up on Friday.

  15. Mariners place Hisashi Iwakuma on the disabled list

    Apr 24, 2015, 11:00 PM EDT

    Hisashi+Iwakuma+Samurai+Japan+v+MLB+Stars+eDKaXCk7Myql Getty Images

    Hisashi Iwakuma is dealing with a strained right lat muscle.

  16. Mets lose to Yankees, winning streak halted at 11 games

    Apr 24, 2015, 10:05 PM EDT

    Jacob deGrom Jacob deGrom

    The Mets have lost for the first time since April 11.

  17. Blue Jays expected to activate Michael Saunders on Saturday

    Apr 24, 2015, 9:10 PM EDT

    michael saunders getty Getty Images

    Michael Saunders should be activated from the disabled list by the Blue Jays on Saturday.

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. J. Hamilton (4306)
  2. D. Travis (4130)
  3. A. Russell (3787)
  4. D. Smyly (3694)
  5. B. Zobrist (3422)
  1. D. Mesoraco (3394)
  2. T. d'Arnaud (3322)
  3. C. Rodon (3167)
  4. M. Wieters (3157)
  5. K. Bryant (3124)