Jul 23, 2013, 2:02 PM EST
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.
Dec 9, 2013, 7:35 PM EST
This is Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval as he appeared last season. This is Pablo Sandoval now, courtesy of a pic he posted on twitter this afternoon. Now, the shirt is a kinda baggy. There’s probably still some flab hiding under there. But at the rate he’s going, there might not be for much longer.…
Dec 9, 2013, 7:17 PM EST
With Robinson Cano and Jacoby Ellsbury off the board, Shin-Soo Choo is the biggest name remaining in the free agent market. And it sounds like he could find a new home during this week’s Winter Meetings in Orlando, Florida: Sources: Choo talks appear to be reaching critical stage. #Rangers, at least one other club in.—…
Dec 9, 2013, 6:59 PM EST
ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that free agent right-hander Jason Hammel is looking for a three- or four-year deal in free agency. This is an excellent market for starting pitching, with Phil Hughes and Scott Feldman both recently receiving three-year deals, but it’s not that good. While Hammel was one of the Orioles’ best starters in…
Dec 9, 2013, 6:43 PM EST
Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto has routinely downplayed a potential trade of Mark Trumbo so far this offseason, but things are heating up at the Winter Meetings in Orlando. Sources: Chances of Trumbo trade increasing. #Angels more open. #Dbacks pushing. Other teams in, all with improving offers.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 09, 2013 The Diamondbacks…
Dec 9, 2013, 6:29 PM EST
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Dec 9, 2013, 6:15 PM EST
Danny Espinosa lost his starting second base job to Anthony Rendon this past season and now he could be on the move. According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, the Nationals are listening to offers on the 26-year-old infielder. Espinosa attempted to play through wrist and shoulder injuries in 2013 while batting just .158/.193/.272 with…
Dec 9, 2013, 5:49 PM EST
According to FOXSports.com’s Jon Morosi, the Blue Jays and Rangers were involved in a three-team deal last month that would have sent reliever Sergio Santos to Texas, but that the deal fell apart because another player failed his physical. Santos would have helped make up for the loss of Joe Nathan to Detroit. He missed…
Dec 9, 2013, 5:30 PM EST
A’s starter Brett Anderson is the subject of a lot of rumors lately. Brett Anderson is also a pretty heavy Twitter user. That leads to things like this: .@Joelsherman1 so I’m like the morning-after pill? — Brett Anderson (@BrettAnderson49) December 9, 2013 Pretty slick, Brett. I also feel like if I were the subject…
Dec 9, 2013, 5:15 PM EST
After two seasons as a below average starter, Wade Davis broke through as a reliever for the Rays in 2012, amassing a 2.43 ERA and striking out 87 in 70 1/3 innings. The Royals plan after picking him up in the James Shields-Wil Myers trade? Move him back to the rotation. Luke Hochevar was a…
Dec 9, 2013, 5:03 PM EST
The guy works for George Steinbrenner’s son and, I assume, he also happens to believe it. But know that Yankees president Randy Levine says that The Boss should be in Cooperstown. From Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York: “I think it was a mistake,” Levine told ESPN New York by telephone. “I congratulate Joe Torre, Bobby…
Dec 9, 2013, 4:50 PM EST
Eric Thames was once a decent prospect for the Blue Jays, but he’s bounced around with four different teams in the past two seasons and now the Astros have released the 27-year-old outfielder so he can go play in Korea. Thames hit .262 with 12 homers and a .769 OPS in 95 games for the…
Dec 9, 2013, 4:33 PM EST
First the good news: Three managers, all deserving and perhaps even overqualified, were elected into the Hall of Fame on Monday. If you are going to have managers in the Baseball Hall of Fame — and you are — then Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre are all obviously deserving Hall of Famers.…
Dec 9, 2013, 4:21 PM EST
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports that the Orioles met with Nelson Cruz‘s agent today. It’s been all quiet on the Nelson Cruz front for a week or two, with the last rumors about him involving the Rangers and the Mariners. It’s possible that the cool interest is a function of his reported $75 million asking…
Dec 9, 2013, 4:06 PM EST
Felipe Paulino, who missed most of 2012 and all of 2013 following Tommy John elbow surgery and also underwent shoulder surgery two months ago, has agreed to a one-year deal with the White Sox. Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com reports that Paulino will get $1.75 million and the White Sox have a $4 million option or…
Dec 9, 2013, 3:50 PM EST
Now that the Marlins have gotten older and worse by signing Garrett Jones, the smarter teams are coming out of the woodwork in pursuit of Logan Morrison. FOXSports.com’s Jon Morosi says both the Pirates and Rays have had conversations regarding the first baseman. John Perotto of the Beaver County Times reports that the Pirates and…
Dec 9, 2013, 3:40 PM EST
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com says the market for Bartolo Colon‘s services is heating up, with the Orioles, Mets and others involved. WFAN’s Sweeny Murti reported earlier in the day that the Mets met with Colon’s agent. Seattle and Atlanta would also seem to be possibilities for the 40-year-old right-hander, who did not receive a qualifying…
Dec 9, 2013, 3:25 PM EST
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, his wife and his three daughters just came into the media room here at the Winter Meetings to be introduced as the Marlins’ new catcher. It was a touching ceremony: It put me in mind of the Winter Meetings two short years ago, when we last saw the Marlins introduce a big free…
Dec 9, 2013, 3:15 PM EST
Minnesota has been linked to Bronson Arroyo all offseason and today the free agent right-hander told Mark Sheldon of MLB.com that the Twins, Phillies, and Angels were among the teams he’s had talks with. And now Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the Twins are “making a push” for Arroyo with “talks gaining momentum.” Arroyo…
Dec 9, 2013, 3:01 PM EST
After having his career derailed by back problems, first baseman David Cooper is on the way back with Cleveland, signing a one-year, major league deal on Monday. Cooper, Toronto’s first-round pick in 2008, was last seen hitting .300/.324/.464 in 140 at-bats with the Blue Jays in 2012. He hurt his back that August diving back…
Dec 9, 2013, 2:55 PM EST
About that report from this morning that teams are shooting offers to the White Sox for Chris Sale? Eh, don’t think too hard about it: I asked a GM who is in the market for pitching about Chris Sale. “He’s not out there,” the GM said. #whitesox — Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) December 9, 2013…
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