Skip to content

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

Jul 23, 2013, 2:02 PM EST

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. If Giants can’t bring back Pablo Sandoval, they’re expected to bid on Yasmany Tomas

    Nov 22, 2014, 6:15 PM EST

    yasmany tomas getty Getty Images

    The Giants have a Plan B if they can’t bring back Pablo Sandoval.

  2. Reds sign Josh Satin

    Nov 22, 2014, 1:13 PM EST

    Josh Satin Mets Getty Images

    Satin spent parts of the past four seasons in the majors with the Mets.

  3. Henry Blanco leaves Diamondbacks for Cubs coaching staff

    Nov 22, 2014, 12:12 PM EST

    Henry Blanco Getty Getty Images

    Blanco played for the Cubs from 2005-2008.

  4. Report: Twins win bidding for Korean pitcher Hyeon-jong Yang

    Nov 22, 2014, 11:14 AM EST

    hyeon-jong yang Getty Images

    Yang won the Korean equivalent of the Cy Young award this season and the 26-year-old tops out at 92-95 miles per hour.

  5. Angels acquire Daniel Robertson from Rangers

    Nov 22, 2014, 10:15 AM EST

    Daniel Robertson Rangers Getty Images

    He figures to get a look as a backup outfielder for the Angels.

  6. Report: Red Sox make $95 million offer to Pablo Sandoval

    Nov 22, 2014, 9:10 AM EST

    Pablo Sandoval AP

    Boston is competing with San Francisco and San Diego for Sandoval.

  7. Mariners gain another option year on Danny Hultzen

    Nov 21, 2014, 10:55 PM EST

    Danny Hultzen AP AP

    The Mariners get an extra year to do whatever they want with Danny Hultzen.

  8. Jason Grilli a potential option for the Yankees

    Nov 21, 2014, 9:45 PM EST

    jason grilli getty Getty Images

    If the Yankees can’t bring back David Robertson, Jason Grilli could be one option the club could look at.

  9. Orioles sign Paul Janish to a minor league deal

    Nov 21, 2014, 8:40 PM EST

    Paul Janish AP

    The Orioles bolstered their organizational depth by signing Paul Janish on Friday.

  10. White Sox sign Adam LaRoche to two-year, $25 million deal

    Nov 21, 2014, 7:35 PM EST

    adam laroche getty Getty Images

    The White Sox have signed first baseman Adam LaRoche to a two-year, $25 million deal.

  11. Torii Hunter a back-burner option for Orioles, Giants

    Nov 21, 2014, 7:05 PM EST

    Detroit Tigers v Cleveland Indians Getty Images

    The interest in free agent outfielder Torii Hunter has been lukewarm, but he represents a decent Plan B or C for a handful of teams.

  12. Andrew Miller already has multiple three-year offers

    Nov 21, 2014, 6:15 PM EST

    Andrew Miller Andrew Miller

    Andrew Miller is drawing significant interest in the free agent market, and he could even fetch a four-year deal.

  13. The Padres are making an offer to Pablo Sandoval today

    Nov 21, 2014, 3:45 PM EST

    sandoval getty Getty Images

    Can you see that happening? I have a hard time seeing that happen.

  14. Rays have made Matt Joyce “available” for trade

    Nov 21, 2014, 3:10 PM EST

    Matt Joyce AP

    Joyce has been a productive regular for the Rays since 2010.

  15. Wanna see the agreement between Major League Baseball and Anthony Bosch?

    Nov 21, 2014, 2:34 PM EST

    Anthony Bosch

    It was attached to a motion filed in court yesterday. Let us gawk at it, shall we?

  16. Red Sox promote Raquel Ferreira to vice president of baseball administration

    Nov 21, 2014, 12:30 PM EST

    red sox logo

    She’s just the third woman at the level of vice president or above in baseball operations in major league baseball.

  17. Cubs, Dodgers, White Sox in on Miguel Montero

    Nov 21, 2014, 11:32 AM EST

    miguel montero getty Getty Images

    Talks haven’t really heated up yet, but catching is scarce so someone will likely go in on Montero.

Featured video

Maddon has high hopes for Cubs
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. P. Sandoval (4446)
  2. G. Stanton (3676)
  3. J. Lester (3231)
  4. R. Martin (2989)
  5. Y. Tomas (2886)
  1. J. Heyward (2548)
  2. M. Scherzer (2461)
  3. T. Hunter (2250)
  4. A. LaRoche (2147)
  5. B. Butler (2015)