Ryan Braun AP

Ryan Braun is “MLB’s Public Enemy No.1”

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Bob Nightengale reports in USA Today about Major League Baseball’s efforts to investigate players named in the Biogenesis documents. Of somewhat surprising note: Nightengale says some 90 players appear in the records. Of less surprising note: it’s the big fish that MLB is clearly focusing on: Alex Rodriguez and, even more so, Ryan Braun:

There might be plenty of minor leaguers to go down before this is over, maybe a few major league players, too, but there are really two players who captivate MLB’s interest. New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez and Braun. And Braun happens to be MLB’s Public Enemy No.1.

His successful appeal of a positive testosterone test led to major revisions in baseball’s sample collection process last year. Baseball officials, from the top executives in New York to their field investigators, refuse to let it go. They want Braun — badly. They have been relentless in their pursuit, trying to make life as miserable as possible for him.

Nightengale describes MLB investigators “talking to his friends … talking to his peers … talking to his associates. They are scouring through paperwork. They keep digging.”

Which, hey, that’s what you do when you investigate. And with all due respect to Braun and the players under the microscope, kudos to Major League Baseball if it is, in fact, trying to actually build cases against these guys rather than do the instantaneous judge/jury/executioner thing that so many in the media decided to do a day after the Miami New Times story came out.

But there is a troubling element to it. The biggest mistake of the Mitchell Report was how it was hellbent to get a list of names and make examples/token victims out of some while failing, almost entirely, to grasp what was really going on with PEDs in baseball in such a way as to actually combat their proliferation and use.  If, in this case, baseball has a monomaniacal focus on carrying out some vendetta against Braun and, because of it, fails to undertake a systematic investigation of the Biogenesis matter, it is once again going down the road of the Mitchell Report.

If Nightengale is right and there are 90 players named, there should be interviews and investigations of 90 players. Or, at the very least, investigations of enough of them to get a full picture of what’s going on down in Miami. The point should not be to settle some score with Ryan Braun. He should be meted out justice, if justice is so justified, in the same manner and measure as any other player involved.

Gerrit Cole set to begin throwing program

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 24:  Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates sits in the dugout in the second inning during the game against the Houston Astros at PNC Park on August 24, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
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During the Pirates’ FanFest on Saturday, right-hander Gerrit Cole announced that he is back up to full health after being shut down with elbow inflammation in September. Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Cole said he’ll start a throwing program on Monday as he works on regaining his form for the 2017 season.

The 26-year-old pitched through 116 innings for the Pirates in 2016, delivering a 3.88 ERA and 2.5 WARP before landing on the disabled list in June with a triceps strain and again in August with elbow inflammation. It was a steep drop for the right-hander, who saw a considerable spike in his ERA and BB/9 rate and struggled to strike out batters at the 8.7 mark he managed in 2015.

The upside? Inflammation was the worst of Cole’s issues in 2016, and while the newfound health issues didn’t help his case for an extension, a more serious injury doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.

The White Sox wanted Astros’ top prospects for Jose Quintana

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 27:  Jose Quintana #62 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Seattle Mariners during the first inning at U.S. Cellular Field on August 27, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
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The Astros, Braves and Nationals came sniffing around White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana during the Winter Meetings, but each appeared to find the Sox’ asking price well beyond what they were willing to give up for the starter. On Saturday, Peter Gammons revealed that the White Sox had floated Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and Joe Musgrove as a possible return for Quintana.

It’s a strategy that worked well for Chicago in the past, most recently when they dealt Chris Sale to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others, and flipped Adam Eaton to the Nationals for a trio of pitching prospects. Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow didn’t appear eager to sacrifice some of his core talent to net a high-end starter, however, and told the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan as much on Wednesday:

We’re prepared to trade players to improve our club right now. […] We’re just not prepared to trade away players that are core to our production in 2017, and those are sometimes the players that are required to get these deals done.

While Lunhow was speaking specifically to the inclusion of third baseman Alex Bregman in future deals, it’s not unrealistic to think that top prospects Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker would also be considered instrumental to the Astros’ plans for the next few seasons.

Martes, 21, currently sits atop the team’s top prospect list on MLB.com. The right-hander blazed through his first full season in Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 3.30 ERA and career-best 9.4 K/9 over 125 1/3 innings in 2016. Tucker, meanwhile, profiles as the Astros’ second-best prospect and made a successful jump to High-A Lancaster last season, slashing .339/.435/.661 in 69 PA. Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove is the only player left off the top prospect list, but he got off to a decent start with the club in 2016 as well, going 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA and 3.44 K/BB rate in 62 innings during his first major league season.