Nelson Cruz likely to accept suspension, leaves Biogenesis-tainted agents

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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.

Marcus Stroman named World Baseball Classic MVP

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United States starter Marcus Stroman was named Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic after helping lead the U.S. to its first ever WBC title on Wednesday night in an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico. Stroman flirted with a no-hitter through six innings, but gave up a double to lead off the seventh before being relieved by Sam Dyson.

Stroman also pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dominican Republic in Pool C play on March 11. He struggled in Pool F play against Puerto Rico last Friday, surrendering four runs in 4 2/3 innings.

The WBC MVP award understandably goes to a player of the winning team. However, Wladimir Balentien of the Netherlands deserves special mention. In 26 at-bats during the WBC, he hit a double and had a WBC-high four home runs, 12 RBI, and 12 runs scored while putting up a .615/.677/.1.115 batting line. That’s MVP-esque as far as this tournament is concerned.

U.S. blanks Puerto Rico 8-0 to win first World Baseball Classic title

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The United States handed Puerto Rico its first loss in the World Baseball Classic, winning 8-0 for its first title in the fourth iteration of the tournament.

Puerto Rico starter Seth Lugo was matching Marcus Stroman zero-for-zero through the first two innings, but the U.S. broke out for a pair of runs when Ian Kinsler deposited a two-run home run just beyond the fence in left-center at Dodger Stadium. The U.S. tacked on two more in the fifth on RBI singles from Christian Yelich and Andrew McCutchen, pushing the lead to 4-0.

Meanwhile, Stroman was dealing. The right-hander, normally seen in a Blue Jays uniform, held Puerto Rico hitless through his first six innings, giving up just a lone walk. The U.S. put together a long rally in the top of the seventh, scoring three runs on three hits, two walks, and a hit batter. Stroman came back out for the seventh but immediately served up a double down the left field line to Angel Pagan. U.S. manager Jim Leyland immediately lifted Stroman from the game, bringing in Sam Dyson who escaped the inning without any further damage.

Pat Neshek allowed a leadoff single to Yadier Molina to begin the eighth, but induced a double-play, then worked around a two-out walk by striking out Kenny Vargas to end the frame.

In the ninth, David Robertson took over. He induced an infield pop-up from Enrique Hernandez. After Pagan singled up the middle, Francisco Lindor sharply grounded out to Eric Hosmer at first base for the second out. Finally, Robertson closed it out, inducing Carlos Correa to ground out to third base, making the U.S. 8-0 victors over Puerto Rico to win the World Baseball Classic.

Puerto Rico had an admirable run, defeating Venezuela, Mexico, and Italy to get out of Pool D undefeated. Then, in Pool F, it beat Venezuela again as well as the U.S. and the Dominican Republic to move to the semifinals. It narrowly edged Netherlands 4-3 in the semifinals to get into the finals.

The U.S. lost to the D.R. but beat Canada and Colombia to get out of Pool C. In Pool F, the U.S. lost to Puerto Rico and defeated the D.R again as well as Venezuela. The U.S. took down Japan in the semifinals to advance to the finals to play Puerto Rico.

The U.S. joins Japan (twice, 2006 and ’09) and the Dominican Republic (2013) as countries to win the World Baseball Classic. The 2017 tournament was a rousing success, setting attendance records, drawing over one million fans to ballparks to take in the games. It will hopefully encourage commissioner Rob Manfred and others to make a concerted effort to make the 2021 tournament bigger and better.