The Ryan Braun Rules are in effect! MLB, MLBPA Announce modifications to joint drug agreement

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In the recently-completed Collective Bargaining Agreement, the league and the union agreed to make several modifications to the Joint Drug Agreement which governs drug testing, suspensions and whatnot in baseball.  They just announced that they have reached agreement on the modifications.

They’re all listed below. The ones that seem notable or major to me in bold. Many of them are designed to specifically address the Ryan Braun fiasco from this spring:

  • Adding hGH blood testing during Spring Training, during the off-season, and for reasonable cause.  The parties also agreed to study expanding hGH testing to the regular season.
  • Increasing the number of random tests during the season and off-season.
  • Modifying the Collection Procedures of the Program to clarify when collectors must deliver specimens to the courier, and how specimens should be stored prior to delivery to the courier.
  • Modifying the Appeals procedures of the Program, including the circumstances under which procedural deviations will result in the invalidation of test results.
  • Creating an Expert Panel of recognized ADD/ADHD experts to advise the Independent Program Administrator (“IPA”) on Therapeutic Use Exemption (“TUE”) applications for ADD/ADHD medications, and another expert panel of medical professionals to advise the IPA on TUE applications for other medications.
  • Strengthening the protocols for addressing use by players of drugs of abuse.
  • Permitting public announcement of the specific substance that resulted in a player’s positive test result or discipline.
  • Making players who are suspended for violating the Program prior to the All-Star Break (including during Spring Training and the preceding off-season) ineligible to be elected or selected for the All-Star Game.
  • Establishing a protocol for evaluating and treating players who may suffer from an alcohol use problem or who have engaged in off-field violent conduct.
  • Clarifying the rules for violations for use or possession of prohibited substances based on evidence other than positive test results (“non-analytical positives.”)
  • Increasing the penalties for criminal convictions for possession or use of drugs of abuse (including stimulants).

Some of these, such as the no-All-Star Game for those who test positive thing have been long sought-after. I’ll also note, building on yesterday’s post, that while there is now something for evaluating people with alcohol problems, and something about increasing discipline for drug convictions, there is nothing about DUI incidents or convictions. So close, guys!

Noah Syndergaard: ‘I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency’

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Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.

While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.

Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.

Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”

Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.

If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.