Milwaukee Brewers v St Louis Cardinals - Game Five

What happens next in the Biogenesis scandal?


The news is out. Major League Baseball, ESPN reports, has enlisted the cooperation of the former head of the Biogenesis clinic, Anthony Bosch, who is expected to implicate multiple players as performance enhancing drugs users. Baseball will then seem to suspend these players for anywhere from 50 to 100 games.

The question: how, exactly, will they do this and how long might it take before we actually see players suspended?

It could take a while.  According to the ESPN report, Major League Baseball has yet to interview Anthony Bosch. Further, according to a statement issued by the Major League Baseball Players’ Association, Major League Baseball is “in process of interviewing players ” and the league “has assured us no decisions regarding discipline have been made.”  This means that the league is still in fact-finding mode. It is still building its case against the players and has yet to even talk to the man who is expected to do most of the heavy lifting in that building: Bosch. It’s unclear how long that building may take, but it’s not unreasonable to think it could be weeks or even months.

Once Major League Baseball has decided to discipline players there is more waiting involved. That’s because the players, pursuant to the Joint Drug Agreement, have a right to appeal any suspension to an arbitration panel. Discipline is stayed until the arbitration panel has issued its ruling, determining whether or not the league’s discipline is justified.

Normally such appeals entail a relatively short procedure because normally suspensions are issued as the result of a positive drug test. Players have a limited avenue upon which they can appeal such tests, with few exceptions or defenses available to them. One notable example came in 2012 when Ryan Braun’s positive drug test and suspension were overturned based on a broken chain of custody of his urine sample. That appeal took several weeks.

Any Biogenesis-related suspensions are likely to lead to the most complex and lengthy appeals baseball has ever seen. Partially because of the sheer number of players involved. Mostly, however, because the evidence that would be used against the players is not something as simple and generally unassailable as a failed drug test. It is the testimony of Bosch, a man with serious credibility problems. A man who has very recently denied that any players he dealt with took performance enhancing drugs but who would now, presumably, be flip-flopping on those statements. A man who has been accused by many as a drug dealer, a criminal and a fraud. It is safe to say that the players, their lawyers and the union would spend considerable time attacking the evidence against them before the arbitration panel. And fairness would dictate that they be granted considerable time before any arbitration commenced to prepare their case.

And that’s before we even get to the punishment. The ESPN report from Tuesday night suggested that Major League Baseball is seeking to suspend some players, including Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun, for 100 games, alleging that they actually committed two violations: taking PEDs and lying about it.  This would be a bold and controversial position for the league to take given that the Joint Drug Agreement does not specifically provide for double discipline arising out of what the players would argue is a first offense (neither Braun nor Rodriguez have ever been suspended before).  Expect those players’ lawyers to mount a vigorous defense to any such discipline. Indeed, given the stakes involved — tens of millions of dollars in salaries and possibly the effective end of their careers — it’s not inconceivable that they would try to take their fight beyond the arbitration setting and attempt to mount litigation of their own against Major League Baseball.

That’s a pretty complicated set of circumstances. As a result, it is quite possible that no players are actually suspended for months, even if the league were to complete its investigation in relatively short order.  Also as a result: it means that we’re going to be hearing about the Biogenesis case for a long, long time.

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.