The Pirates announced on Tuesday afternoon that outfielder Starling Marte has been suspended 80 games by Major League Baseball after violating the league’s Joint Drug Agreement. Marte tested positive for Nandrolone, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
Team president Frank Coonelly released a statement:
Marte also released a statement in which he says he tested positive due to “neglect and lack of knowledge,” Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe reports. As Abraham points out, Nandrolone is an injection-only steroid.
Though Marte was off to a slow start, mustering just a .659 OPS in his first 13 games, he is arguably the Pirates’ best player. Losing Marte, an All-Star and two-time Gold Glove Award winner, for half the season puts a serious damper on the Pirates’ dream of contending in the NL Central. The club entered Tuesday 6-7, tied for third-place in the division with the Cubs. If the Pirates were to reach the postseason anyway, Marte would be ineligible.
Around this time last year, the ink was drying on Manny Machado‘s 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres and Bryce Harper was about to put the finishing touches on his 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies. We had gotten used to premier free agents hanging out in limbo until late February and even into March. This past offseason, however, was a return to normal. The top three free agents — Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, and Stephen Strasburg — all signed in December. Once the big names are off the board, the lesser free agents subsequently tend to find homes. There were a handful of noteworthy signings in January, but pretty much everyone was off the board when February began.
There are a handful of free agents remaining as I write this, with one name really sticking out: Yasiel Puig. Last season, between the Reds and Indians, Puig hit .267/.327/.458 with 24 home runs, 84 RBI, 76 runs scored, and 19 stolen bases in 611 plate appearances. He was one of only seven players in the league last year to hit at least 24 home runs and swipe at least 19 bases. While Puig has had some problems over the years, he still possesses a rare blend of power and speed that would seem useful.
The Marlins, White Sox, and Rockies have been linked to Puig this offseason. His market has been otherwise quiet since he became a free agent. The Athletic’s Jim Bowden suggests Puig will have to settle for a “pillow contract” — a one-year deal with which Puig reestablishes his market value, aiming to pursue a multi-year deal the following offseason. Along with the aforementioned three teams, Bowden suggests the Mariners, Indians, Pirates, Giants, Red Sox, and Cardinals as other teams that could potentially fit with Puig, which is not to be confused with teams having expressed interest in his services.