REPORT: Baseball’s updated drug program to include better testing, 80-game suspensions for first offenses

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It used to be that when baseball did things with its drug program, the league was accused of merely being reactive in an effort to calm down P.R. problems. If baseball had merely jacked up penalties for drug offenses — which they are reportedly doing — one might arguably say that’s what MLB was doing here, as a reaction to Biogenesis stuff. But, according to this Bob Nightengale report — from an unnamed source, so the specifics could still change — that’s not all they’re doing:

The new agreement will not only increase the drug penalties, but also implement widespread carbon isotope testing, the official said, hoping to dramatically increase the detection of a synthetic testosterone.

That’s a big deal, because the biggest problem with the Biogenesis thing wasn’t that it was somehow different or more insidious than your usual run-of-the-mill cheating, it’s that MLB didn’t catch the guys without help of an alternative newspaper in Miami. If MLB catches A-Rod on a drug test in 2012, it’s a totally different situation. Other players involved in Biogenesis may stop using. A protracted dispute about the length of penalties is not had and that arbitration from last year doesn’t exist. Toughening the testing and not letting players who use PEDs feel like they can get away with it is essential to cutting down on PED use.

But of course, increased penalties are part of the system too:

The official said first-time offenses will be 80 games, an increase from 50, and a second offense will be for an entire 162-game season instead of 100 games. There will be a lifetime suspension for a third offense.

I have no problem with this. It’s what the players want, and that’s the most important thing. It isn’t terribly draconian yet it does raise the stakes. Most importantly, there have been reports that there will be safeguards in place for players who can show that they inadvertently took a PED, so the situation that is most worrisome — a guy’s career being put at risk for an honest mistake — is off the table.

Interesting times for what many consider to be U.S. sports’ strongest drug program.

The Orioles seem pretty serious about moving Manny Machado

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Orioles third baseman Manny Machado will become a free agent after the 2018 season and there has been no suggestion that the O’s and their young star have worked on a contract extension, strongly suggesting that Machado will test the open market next offseason.

While the Orioles have not said much about keeping him or trading him, yesterday considerable chatter filtered out here at the Winter Meetings suggests that they are serious about trading him now in order to get more than a draft pick in return when he eventually leaves Baltimore.

Jon Heyman reported yesterday that the Cardinals were a possible landing spot, and others have speculated that, at the moment, they’re the frontrunners for his services. Buster Olney, in a development that would make people go insane, I suspect, that the Yankees have expressed interest. It seems highly unlikely, though, that the Orioles would trade Machado within the division. Even if they did, they’d likely expect a premium from the Yankees that they would be unwilling to pay, especially given that they could easily wait Machado out until he was a free agent next year and give up nothing but cash for him. A couple of days ago we noted that the Phillies had expressed interest and the Orioles were doing their due diligence with respect to their farm system.

As far as the possible parameters of a deal, Ken Rosenthal reported that the O’s hope to acquire at least two controllable young starters in return. That’s a high price for a one-year Machado rental, but it makes sense for the Orioles to ask it. For Machado’s part, he reportedly wants to return to his original position, shortstop. He does not have no-trade protection, of course, so that may be a wish that is not fulfilled.

Machado had a down 2017, hitting .259/.310/.471, but still hit 33 homers and drove in 95 runs. In the two years prior, however, he posted OPSs of .876 and .861, and he’s still just 25. All of which is to say that the price for a team to acquire him will be high, even if he’s entering his walk year.