Friday, July 5, 2013
Biogenesis could hurt free agents
By Buster Olney
Nelson Cruz may be limited in free agency by a delayed Biogenesis decision.
Much has been made of the possibility that Major League Baseball could announce suspensions for players tied to the Biogenesis case, and how it could greatly affect pennant races. But as the calendar drags on, the chances that the whole issue will spill over into the offseason grows.
Because regardless of when MLB announces the discipline it wants to impose on players, appeals will be heard. And the appeals will take a long time to play out, especially if the Major League Baseball Players Association is suddenly faced with the task of preparing many appeals, all at once.
For some individual players, such as Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez, the timing of fighting a suspension won’t necessarily affect their personal contract situations. Braun still has at least seven years to go on his deal with the Brewers, and Rodriguez is currently in year six of the 10-year, $275 million contract he signed with the Yankees following last season.
But for Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz, the delay in any decision about him could wreck his free agency.
Nelson, 33, is hitting .273 with 20 homers and will be eligible for free agency, and in a vacuum -- separate of any PED questions -- those numbers would undoubtedly earn him a lot of interest, at a time when the sport is generally starved for right-handed power.
If Nelson is cleared between now and the end of the season, then he’ll be OK and go into market without questions hovering over him.
But if Nelson is suspended, or if his case carries over into the offseason, then would-be bidders will probably shy away altogether, or provide very limited offers -- much like the two-year deal that Melky Cabrera got from the Blue Jays.
If Cruz is suspended and has his appeal drag on into the offseason, then two major questions will hamper his market value:
1) When will he be available to play again?
2) Could he demonstrate, after a suspension, that he can be a good player?
All of this would increase the likelihood that the Rangers could get him back on a one-year tender offer. If Cruz was suspended or had his case drag on, and Texas made the one-year offer -- for something around $14 million -- teams may be even more reluctant to give a multiyear deal to Cruz, knowing they’d have to surrender a draft pick in order to sign him.
Keep in mind, too, that all free agents would have to make their decisions on whether to accept a tender offer early in the offseason, perhaps before an arbitrator was prepared to rule on the appeals.
For Texas, it would be an easy choice to give a tender offer, for three reasons:
1) If he got an offer elsewhere, the Rangers would get a draft pick.
2) If the uncertainty of his situation chased away other would-be suitors, they could get a good veteran player on a one-year deal.
3) If he was suspended, they wouldn’t have to pay him until he started playing again, limiting their obligation to around $9.5 million.
Jhonny Peralta, the Tigers’ 31-year-old shortstop, could be caught in the same box; he’s eligible for free agency this fall.
Following Bartolo Colon’s suspension last summer, the best he could do in the free-agent market was a one-year, $3 million deal with the Oakland Athletics. He is having an All-Star caliber season, but because his name surfaced in the Biogenesis case, doubts remain about his status -- whether this is old information, or new information that could lead to a second suspension.
Time is passing, and it may be that the Biogenesis case has no impact on pennant races. But it may have deep impact on some of the players who have been linked to the case, regardless of whether they’re suspended.
There was a report earlier this week that one of the former Biogenesis employees is set to meet with Major League Baseball officials, at a time when MLB has been looking for information that would corroborate details of players’ use of PEDs.
Around the league
• If the Phillies decide to weigh offers for Chase Utley, then one of the teams involved in those discussions will be the Blue Jays, who are said to be considering possible upgrades at second base and with their starting pitching.
In 13 games since returning from the disabled list, the second baseman has 17 hits, 10 for extra bases, including four home runs, in 55 plate appearances. With scouts following his every move leading up to the trade deadline, Utley is setting the Phillies up for an eventful July, when they could look to unload the free-agent-to-be to one of the number of contenders looking for an infield upgrade.
But Utley is one of the few players on the team hitting for power. Of the 39 hits the Phillies have in their last four games, only seven have gone for extra bases.
And, for the first time, Ruben Amaro has acknowledged the Phillies could be sellers.
From his radio interview on 94 WIP:
"If we continue to play the way we play sporadically, then I'm going to have to consider being a seller," Amaro admitted. "If we think that we're going to be playing a little bit better baseball, [a] better brand of baseball, and this is going to be a very important next eight or 10 games for us because we're playing our toughest opponents in the division, we're playing the Pirates who are an outstanding club. So this will be a very good gauge for us as to where we're going to be and where we are come the All-Star break and as we get closer and closer to July 31."(
• Brian Wilson has been working out in Hawaii and making progress, and it figures that if he’s going to pitch this year, he’ll work out for scouts later this month or in early August. He’d be a natural fit for the Dodgers, the Giants or the Angels, depending on the level of interest and the role involved.
• The Chicago Cubs are making progress in their discussions about right-hander Matt Garza, and are actively talking with Texas, Boston, Toronto, Cleveland, the Dodgers and maybe Baltimore and a couple of more teams in the NL West. Right now, Garza is the belle of the ball in the trade market.
• Watched a lot of Justin Verlander’s start against the Blue Jays, and while he didn’t have overpowering stuff, the sum of the parts of all that he had -- a sharp curveball, a good fastball -- was pretty good, and he shut down Toronto.
As Buck Martinez noted on the Jays’ broadcast, there were moments when Verlander seemed to be pulling his fastball too much down and away from right-handed hitters. He has been working on his mechanics.
Verlander said after the game that it wasn’t the right time for retaliation for Colby Rasmus’s slide the other day. Early in the game, no situations popped up in which Rasmus batted with two outs and nobody on base, which is the ideal time for stuff like that.
How Verlander won -- his fastball
• He threw 25 fastballs at 95-plus MPH (his 2nd-most in a start this season)
• 75 percent of the fastballs he threw with 2 strikes (12 of 16) were 95-plus
• His fastball averaged 93.9 mph, maxed out at 98.1, and 40 percent of them were 95-plus (all his 4th-best marks this season)
• So he stuck with it: He threw 62 percent fastballs, his second-most in a start this season (fourth-highest in the past two seasons).
In Hosmer’s last 19 games, he’s got eight homers and 15 RBI. Since the start of June, he’s batting .311, with nine walks.
• Managing a rebuilding team wouldn’t scare Robin Ventura, writes Marc Gonzales.
• The Reds’ season finale against the Giants was washed out. This could wind up being an issue at the end of the regular season, because the Giants and Reds have only one mutual off day between now and then, on Aug. 29, and for both teams, playing that day would present a major headache.
1. Jake Peavy’s got a big test today. His trade value is complicated by his contract: Peavy is signed for $14.5 million for this year, $14.5 million for next season, and he’s got a player option for 2015 which is rooted in innings.
Just when you thought the Yankees were in serious trouble, when their offense was something of a mess -- they broke out for a four-game sweep in Minnesota.
Allen Webster got his first big-league win, and the Red Sox continue to roll. From ESPN Stats and Information, some numbers in their recent stretch of games:
A) Jacoby Ellsbury: 25-for-59 (.424 BA) during a 14-game hit streak (5th-longest of career) -- his third hit streak of 10 games or more this season.
B) David Ortiz: reached base safely in 15 straight games; 21-for-54 (.389 BA) during that stretch.
C) Dustin Pedroia: reached base safely in 10 straight games; 18-for-37 (.486 BA) during that stretch.
D) Jose Iglesias: is batting .411 on the season. He’s had an at-bat in 41 games this season -- and at the end of each of those games, his batting average has been over .400. That's the third longest such streak in MLB since 1925 -- and the only players with longer streaks are Paul O'Neill and Hank Aaron.