Monday, July 22, 2013
Daniels, Dombrowski must prepare to act
By Jim Bowden
In the face of apparently overwhelming evidence, Ryan Braun has relented.
Major League Baseball suspended the Milwaukee Brewers left fielder on Monday for the remainder of the 2013 seasons, which amounts to 65 games. He avoided suspension in 2012 when it was revealed his urine sample that had tested positive was mishandled.
That sliver of doubt was enough for Braun to win his appeal, but Braun's quick compliance with Bud Selig's decision Monday and the seemingly contrite language in his official statement say a lot about the amount of evidence confronting Braun and more than 20 other players possibly involved with the Biogenesis scandal.
Also telling is the length of Braun's suspension. Had he appealed and dragged out the process, we have no idea how severe the suspension could have been. The leverage possessed by MLB must have convinced Braun to settle quickly, and it could compel the other players whose names have surfaced in connection with the Biogenesis scandal, such as Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz and Detroit Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta, to do the same.
But what of Cruz and Peralta's teams? Unlike Braun's Brewers, both Peralta's Tigers and Cruz's Rangers are legitimate World Series contenders. Should Cruz and Peralta follow Braun's lead, their absences will leave massive holes.
For general managers Jon Daniels (Rangers) and Dave Dombrowski (Tigers), what they do in the eight days remaining before MLB's July 31 trade deadline could make or break their teams' seasons.
The decision for Dombrowski will be whether to replace Peralta with a stopgap defensive player -- who would cost little in return -- or chase a shortstop with a decent bat. Some candidates include Stephen Drew, Danny Espinosa and Erick Aybar.
But the best fit might be Alexei Ramirez, who is an above-average defender with a good line-drive bat and decent power. However, if Dombrowski wanted to settle for an inexpensive defensive specialist, Brendan Ryan is the most likely scenario. Though Peralta would be a loss, the Tigers' offense should be strong and deep enough to withstand the loss of Peralta.
On the other hand, the Rangers' lineup needs Cruz, who is tied for the team lead with 22 homers. Texas is 13th in MLB in runs despite playing in a very hitter friendly park, and the loss of Cruz would severely compromise a shaky attack.
In an ideal world, the best fit might be Jose Bautista. He would cost Daniels a king's ransom, but as possible a long-term asset, Bautista might be worth it and finally fill the power void caused by Josh Hamilton's departure. And with Cruz all but assured to accept the suspension (so he can find a job in the offseason since he is an impending free agent), Bautista would fit well. If Daniels can't pry Bautista away from the Jays, the most likely scenario is Alex Rios, who will make $12.5 million in 2014 but has a team option and $1 million buyout, so the financial exposure would be limited for Texas. He doesn't have the same kind of pop as Cruz, but he's a better defender and baserunner.
Until today, Daniels and Dombrowski could treat potential Biogenesis suspensions as a hypothetical. But in the wake of Braun's suspension, losing key players for the stretch run is a real possibility. They have had months to orchestrate contingencies and prepare for the worst. Now they must take action.