This is bigger than your normal PED suspension:
The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball announced today that outfielder Marlon Byrd has received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for Tamoxifen, a performance-enhancing substance, in violation of Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
Byrd, a free agent, will be on the restricted list until August 20.
This is notable for more than the fact that Byrd is a bigger name than you usually see on the suspension list. Byrd has quite famously trained with former BALCO figure Victor Conte, who has claimed for years to have seen the light and to only work with legal and non-banned substances. It has led to much talk about Byrd being somewhat reckless in his choice of trainer and has caused many to speculate that Byrd was under closer scrutiny by the league due to his association with Conte.
Whether Byrd got the substance from Conte or whether it was an intentional thing or a situation of something being adulterated is not known. But it’s certainly going to lead to more than just this suspension. Someone — likely Conte — is gonna have some stuff to say pretty soon, I’d wager.
UPDATE: The drug Byrd tested positive for — Tamoxifen — is an estrogen blocker, not a PED itself. It’s on the banned list, however, because it’s used by people who take steroids to mitigate the side-effects.
Bob Nightengale reports that Byrd has issued a statement regarding his positive test, apologizing, but saying that the drug was used for “a reoccurrence of private surgery he had years ago.” This echoes the statements of others who have been caught using estrogen blockers, most of whom have said it was for medical issues.
The Cardinals have officially signed outfielder Dexter Fowler to a five-year, $82.5 million contract. Fowler will also get a full no-trade clause.
The Cardinals gave Fowler a bigger deal than many speculated he’d get, as some reports predicted he’d get something in the $52-72 million range. His skills, however — he’s a fantastic leadoff hitter who plays a premium defensive position — definitely earned him some major dough. Fowler hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 homers, 48 RBI and 13 steals over 125 games in 2016 for the World Series champion Cubs.
For the Cardinals, this will allow Matt Carpenter to move down to the middle of the batting order and will shift Randal Grichuk to left field. It also takes a prime piece from the Cardinals’ biggest rival. For their part, earlier this offseason the Cubs signed former Cardinal center fielder Jon Jay. So that’s fun.
The Cardinals have always emphasized building from within. In the 2016-17 offseason, however, they may end up being one of the bigger free agent buyers. At least according to some informed speculation.
St. Louis is already in agreement with Dexter Fowler. But Derrick Goold and Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch write today that the Cardinals “could become more aggressive than previously believed,” with Mark Trumbo and Edwin Encarnacion as “possible pursuits.” Worth noting that separate reports alleged some interest on the part of the Cards front office in free agent third baseman Justin Turner.
The Cardinals are already losing their first round pick due to the Fowler signing, so any other top free agent won’t cost them more than the money he’s owed. And as far as money goes, the Cardinals have a great deal of it, despite being a small market team. They have a billion dollar TV deal coming online and Matt Holliday and Jaime Garcia are off the payroll now. Spending big on a free agent or three would not cripple them or anything.
Encarnacion or Trumbo would be first baseman, which wold fly in the face of the Cards’ move of Matt Carpenter to first base (and, at least as far as Encarnacion goes, would fly in the face of good defense). Getting either of them would push Carpenter back to second, displacing Kolten Wong, or over to third, displacing Jhonny Peralta. If you’re going to do that, I’d say that Turner would make more sense, but what do I know?
Either way, the Cardinals may be entering a pretty interesting phase of their offseason now. And an unfamiliar one as, quite possibly, the top free agent buyer on the market.