The word Wednesday was that Nelson Cruz might appeal the anticipated 50-game ban handed coming down in the Biogenesis scandal, but Jon Heyman reports that Cruz has decided to serve his time now in anticipation of becoming a free agent this winter.
It was also disclosed that Cruz is leaving the ACES agency, which represented several players expected to get Biogenesis suspensions. Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan says he’s signing on with Adam Katz.
By serving the suspension now, Cruz, who is hitting .269/.330/.511 with 27 homers and 76 RBI, will certainly be a more attractive free agent this winter. Of course, teams will still be wondering how much of his bounce-back season this year was due to PED usage, even though his acquisition of Biogenesis drugs took place last year, when his rate numbers were the worst they’ve been since 2007. Or perhaps he’s simply been cheating all along.
Cruz is also bailing on the Rangers when they dearly need his bat in the middle of the order. Speculation last week was that they felt a less urgent need to trade for an outfielder because they thought he was going to appeal the suspension. The Rangers may welcome Cruz back for the postseason anyway, should they get there, but they probably will opt to go in a different direction this winter.
As for the agent switch, well, it’s no wonder than Cruz wanted to get away from ACES, which formerly represented Melky Cabrera when he was suspended and also handles Biogenesis-connected players Jhonny Peralta, Gio Gonzalez, Jesus Montero. Fautino De Los Santos and Cesar Puello, according to MLBTR’s agency database. The Brooklyn-based agency, run by brothers Seth and Sam Levinson, is or at least was being investigated by MLB for links to Biogenesis.
Update: The new names revealed in the Biogenesis scandal today — Antonio Bastardo, Sergio Escalona and Jordany Valdespin — are all ACES clients as well.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.