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 Dodgers have pulled off their first blockbuster trade of the offseason, sending Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Charlie Culberson, Adrian Gonzalez and cash considerations to the Braves for Matt Kemp, per announcements from both teams. The Braves are set to designate Gonzalez for assignment on Monday, making him a free agent.
Kemp, 33, had a down year with the Braves in 2017, hitting a career-low -0.5 fWAR in 115 games with the club. At the plate, he slashed a modest .276/.318/.463 with 19 home runs and a .781 OPS through 467 plate appearances, but was hampered by a nagging left hamstring strain through most of the season. This will be his 10th campaign with the Dodgers.
Whether or not Kemp can rebound during his second stint in Los Angeles is almost beside the point, however. The deal is effectively a salary dump to end all salary dumps. Offloading multiple one-year contracts for McCarthy, Kazmir and Gonzalez should bring the Dodgers back under the $197 million luxury tax threshold and position them to make a run at some of the big fish in next year’s free agent pool. It’s also worth noting that they may not keep Kemp around for long — per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, the club appears as likely to flip the veteran outfielder as they are to use him. As for the Braves, they not only rid themselves of the $43 million due Kemp through 2020, but added some rotation and infield depth with McCarthy and Culberson and can now give top prospect Ronald Acuna a legitimate tryout in left field.