One thing many of the Biogenesis players have in common is their representation: Nelson Cruz, Jordany Valdespin, Antonio Bastardo, Sergio Escalona and Melky Cabrera, are all represented by ACES, the agency headed by Seth and Sam Levinson. You probably first heard of ACES’ connection to PEDs last year when it was named in stories arising out of Cabrera’s efforts to set up a fake website to explain away his positive drug test.
A more significant name which spun out of that website story, however, is one Juan Carlos Nunez, a “paid consultant” of ACES who is said to have been the one who set up Melky’s website. As the New York Daily News reported last winter, MLB banned Nunez from associating with any of the 30 MLB clubs, and from all team facilities. The Players Association censured the Levinsons for not adequately supervising Nunez, but the agency maintained certification.
Despite multiple clients appearing in the Biogenesis records, a source tells NBCSports.com that Nunez was freelancing, essentially, and that “there is absolutely no evidence” that ACES knew of Juan Nunez’s activities. This would jibe with the Daily News’ report that Nunez was a frequent visitor to Bosch’s clinic.
The source says that MLB and the union are looking at ACES once again now that the investigation of Biogenesis players is nearing an end, but there is no indication that the agency will face any discipline or further censure.
Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.
Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.
Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.
Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):
We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.
Confirming a report from Tuesday, the Diamondbacks officially signed right-hander Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $2.75 million contract on Friday. The 39-year-old stands to receive up to $4 million in incentives, per Jack MacGruder of FanRag Sports, with $250,000 kicking in when the veteran reaches 40, 50 and 60 appearances and $500,000 if he reaches 70.
Rodney came three games shy of the 70-appearance mark in 2016 during back-to-back stints with the Padres and Marlins. He put up a cumulative 3.44 ERA on the year, which effectively disguised the extreme split during his performances in San Diego and Miami. The Diamondbacks aren’t anywhere close to contending in 2017, but Rodney should stabilize the back end of their bullpen while providing Arizona GM Mike Hazen with a potential trade chip during next year’s deadline.
Hazen issued a statement following the signing:
With Fernando, we’re getting an established Major League closer and a veteran presence in the bullpen. It is helpful to have someone with his experience on the back end to slow the game down and get the final three outs.