Could Jhonny Peralta’s four-year, $53 million deal spur harsher PED penalties?

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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports makes the case that the four-year, $53 million deal shortstop Jhonny Peralta just signed with the Cardinals could be a potential driving force behind harsher penalties for performance-enhancing drug use. Peralta was suspended for 50 games last year by Major League Baseball for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal.

Peralta will take home an average annual salary of $13.25 million with his new deal with the Cardinals, which is more than double his highest single-season earning — $6 million in 2013. Brad Ziegler, reliever and union representative for the Diamondbacks, tweeted, “It pays to cheat…Thanks, owners, for encouraging PED use.”

Looking at the system from a purely objective way, leaving my own personal opinion out of it, if the penalty is to be tougher, it needs to take players out of action long enough for teams to call into question their ability. Here is the current system:

  • Use PED’s, they work, but get caught: Potentially have a great season, miss 50 games (and salary), chance to sign big free agent contract
  • Use PED’s they work, but don’t get caught: Potentially have a great season, miss 0 games, chance to sign big free agent contract
  • Don’t use PED’s: nothing, probably not getting a big free agent contract

Increasing the punishment from, say, 50 games for a first-time offense to 100 games is not enough of a deterrent from a game theory perspective, since teams clearly buy that a player’s skills won’t deteriorate from the missed playing time and from going off the use of PEDs. Major League Baseball would need to increase the frequency of drug testing and/or improve the ability to detect drug use, or increase the suspension length to a long enough time that teams don’t feel as comfortable putting stock in that player until he proves himself on the field again, which reduces the “payoff” of using PEDs. At the very least, to reach equilibrium, the punishment for a first-time offense likely needs to be increased to at least a full season or calendar year, including the playoffs.

Tigers sign Edwin Espinal to minor league deal

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Free agent first baseman Edwin Espinal has signed a minor league deal with the Tigers, the infielder announced Saturday. The move has yet to be confirmed by the team.

Espinal, 23, capped a seven-year run with the Pirates’ minor league affiliates in 2017. He split his season between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis, batting a cumulative .294/.327/.447 with 15 home runs and 31 doubles in 532 plate appearances. While he’s raked at nearly every level so far, he also profiles well on defense, and rounded off his 2017 performance with a perfect fielding percentage, 208 putouts and a Gold Glove award.

Espinal is untested at the major league level and it’s not yet clear if he’ll make the jump in 2018. He showed some positional versatility during his time in the minors, however, and could take reps at third base or DH if necessary. The Tigers are reportedly on the lookout for pitching depth and left-handed bats — two bills the right-handed Espinal doesn’t fit — and presumably have a lot of moves left to make this winter.