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.

Rangers, Padres, White Sox to continue paying minor leaguers

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In March, Major League Baseball agreed to pay minor league players $400 per week while the sport is shut down amid the coronavirus pandemic. That provision is set to expire at the end of May. As Craig noted earlier, the Athletics will not be paying their minor leaguers starting on June 1.

Several teams are doing the right thing, continuing to pay their minor leaguers $400 per week through at least the end of June. Per The Athletic’s Levi Weaver and James Fegan, the Rangers and White Sox will each tack on another month of pay. The Athletic’s Dennis Lin reported earlier that the Padres will pay their players through the end of August. Craig also cited a Baseball America report from this morning, which mentioned that the Marlins will also pay their players through the end of August.

Frankly, if the Marlins can find a way to continue paying their minor league players, then every team should be able to do the same. The Marlins are widely believed to be the least profitable among the 30 major league clubs. Here’s hoping the rest of the league follows the Rangers’, White Sox’s, Padres’, and Marlins’ lead as opposed to the Athletics’.