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.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.