The Biogenesis scandal is ultimately good for baseball. Sure, it makes the league look bad by reminding everyone of MLB’s past failures, and the rumored players certainly come out with a black eye, but the silent majority is now able to speak up and lead the charge against PEDs. This is a good thing, and long overdue, by most accounts.
Of course, while the scandal continues to unfold, there are all kinds of unfortunate side-effects for teams, players and fans of impacted teams. Of chief concern are the impending suspensions and penalties to be handed out to the implicated players. The names that have been leaked and have garnered the most media attention are those players with name recognition -- and a lot of HR’s to their name. Much ink has been spilled on the topic from nearly every angle imaginable. Including, but not limited to:
- The potential list of players and the suspensions that could be handed down to those implicated.
- How a team’s trade deadline activity serves as a signal toward the intent of the implicated player’s likelihood of appealing a suspension or taking a deal.
- A comparison between baseball’s war on PEDs and the United States government’s war on drugs.
- Lastly, I present to you, a critique on the arguments used by some in the debate surrounding PEDs.
Yes, opinions on PEDs, as they relate to baseball, are out there. Of particular note is the decision for Ryan Braun to accept the suspension in order to save himself a little money and forego the remainder of the Brewers lost season.
I will leave the discussion of the strategy of the appeals and deals to other teams. We are interested in what the on-field impact will look like. First we need to get the best possible list of names to be handed a suspension and the look at their recent performance.
Courtesy of ESPN’s "Outside the Lines" trio of T.J. Quinn, Pedro Gomez and Mike Fish:
|Gio Gonzalez *||Nationals|
|Melky Cabrera||Blue Jays|
|Jordan Norberto||Free agent|
|Fautino de los Santos||Free agent|
[ * - Sources told ESPN that Gonzalez received only legal substances.]
This list is by no means all-encompassing, and there are likely some other Major League players that will be implicated. We will be looking at their FanGraphs WAR (fWAR) on a 50-game (or 50 IP, which would equate to ~8-9 starts for SP) basis to try and best capture what the team would be missing out during a possible 50-game suspension.
The numbers below represent the fWAR/50 over the past two years. The "Weighted Average/50" column takes 2/3 of the 2013 performance and 1/3 of the 2012 performance to project what the next 50 games have in store:
|Player||Team||2012 fWAR/50||2013 fWAR/50||Total 2012-13 fWAR||Weighted Average/50|
|Melky Cabrera||Blue Jays||2.0||-0.4||3.8||0.4|
|Jordan Norberto||Free agent||0.4||N/A||0.4||0.1|
|Fautino de los Santos||Free agent||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
We next want to cull the list down to those players who are actually, you know, playing baseball in the Major Leagues:
Grandal is on the 60-day DL, so we can throw him out. Norberto, de los Santos and Puello are minor leaguers and not really on the big league radar, so they can be excluded too. Martinez and Montero have been bad when they have played in the major leagues, and aren’t really sticking at the MLB-level, so we can toss them too. Additionally, we can throw out Colon and Cabrera because they have already served their suspensions and aren’t likely to receive further punishment. Finally, we can toss out Gonzalez because all reports indicate that he didn’t receive banned substances, and won’t face a suspension.
We come to our distilled list of:
|Player||Team||2012 fWAR/50||2013 fWAR/50||Total 2012-13 fWAR||Weighted Average/50|
These names are, for the most part, the ones getting all the attention. With Ryan Braun taking the early deal, he has been cleared from the board and the media can now focus on others. In particular, Nelson Cruz’s name has been bandied about a lot and, guilty or not, his potential situation is one worth noting. He is likely the individual player most financially impacted by this because he is:
a) having a good season (especially in money-making stats like dingers! and ribbys!)
b) having a good season in a contract year
c) having a good season in a contract year where his team is in contention
Presumably he has two options: take a deal and be ready for next season (a la Ryan Braun) or wait for the suspension to be announced and see how many games it entails. Then, if it is too many games, or curtails postseason play, you pursue an appeal hoping to play out the rest of this season and deal with the consequences at a later time. If Cruz is guilty in this whole mess, and a suspension of some form is coming tomorrow or next year, his team will undoubtedly want him to fight it like crazy and play out the rest of the season.
Let’s assume that Cruz doesn’t (or can’t) go the appeal route and he is prevented from playing. Just how much would this hurt the Rangers? How much would each of the respective teams be hurt? To determine the net impact, I have looked at the immediate replacement for each of the potentially suspended players that a team has in-house and projected their 50-game fWAR along with the "paired" player that faces suspension:
|Player||Team||2012 fWAR/50||2013 fWAR/50||Total 2012-13 fWAR||Weighted Average/50||Net|
[Update: With the Tigers’ trade for Jose Iglesias, I am including him, along with Santiago to illustrate the in-house, versus acquired replacement projection.]
As we can see, the Brewers can expect to lose a little more than a full win thanks to the departure of Ryan Braun. Their season is long-gone and they are just riding out the summer to make another go at it in 2014 with Jean Segura, Carlos Gomez and Ryan Braun plus some other pieces -- and absolutely no pitching outside of the enigmatic Yovani Gallardo. Good luck, Brew Crew.
The San Diego Padres
The Padres, as of July 31st, are 8.5 games out of the NL West and nine games out of the Wild Card. The drop from Everth Cabrera to Logan Forsythe is a full win. But that really just moves the needle from 65 wins to 64 wins ... or maybe anywhere from 60-70. Either way, they aren’t sniffing the postseason and it likely won’t matter.
The Detroit Tigers
The Tigers are leading the AL Central by 2.5 games and were looking at nearly two lost wins thanks to Peralta’s looming suspension. However, as of Wednesday morning, they brought that down to less than a single projected-win with the trade for Jose Iglesias. It was a proactive move by a front-office that wants to win now, but has an eye on the future, considering that Jhonny Peralta is a free-agent after the 2013 season and Iglesias is young and under team control through 2018.
The Tigers gave up a decent prospect in Avisail Garcia, but considering that Iglesias potentially covers two problems -- SS in 2013 and SS in 2014 and beyond -- it is a fairly savvy move in this author’s opinion. It will be interesting to see the careers of Garcia and Iglesias play out in the AL Central. We could be singing a very different tune if Iglesias turns out to be a switch-hitting Alcides Escobar and Garcia performs like a fraction of the man whom he serves as a doppelganger for.
The New York Yankees
The Yankees are 8.5 games out in the AL East, but only 3.5 out of the second AL Wild Card. They still have a puncher’s chance of making the post-season. Unfortunately, the absences of Rodriguez and Cervelli will be hard to deal with. There are zero internal options for the Yankees at 3B, as they currently have Brent Lillibridge
in a platoon situation with the 1,000th fan at each game manning the hot corner and representing nearly two full wins below what Rodriguez projects to produce. In addition to this, Chris Stewart represents nearly a full-win drop from Cervelli’s projected performance. Though, Cervelli’s return from an injured finger is up in the air, so let’s call it a half-win.
The Yankees are facing an up-hill battle already in a difficult division and an aging roster that, despite the return of Captain Derek Jeter, isn’t likely to improve during the dog days of August. Still, they could find a very low-hanging fruit in the form of a full-win if they go and get a league-average 3B from anyone. Chase Headley could be the long-term play, especially if the Yankees believe that Rodriguez is gone for good. Though he would cost a lot from a thin Yankees farm system. Potentially appealing rental options include: Luis Valbuena, Miguel Tejada and Michael Young -- each of which could be had for very little beyond their salaries and probably a minor-league reliever to make it look less like a salary dump. The press release from the Cubs, Royals and Phillies will say "projectable" and/or "upside" in relation to the theoretical prospect acquired.
The Texas Rangers
The Rangers, meanwhile, sit five games back in the AL West, but just a single game back in the AL Wild Card. However, they have been under-performing and undergone some bad luck in the trainer’s room -- half of their pitching staff is on the DL. Despite some struggles, they are in full win-now mode and the loss of Nelson Cruz drastically affects their offense.
However, his loss may not be as bad as first though. According to fWAR -- and Baseball-Reference’s rWAR was not significantly different -- Nelson Cruz is a less valuable player than Craig Gentry. This is due entirely to the fact that Nelson Cruz is a below average fielder (-4.9 Fld, -2 DRS) and base-runner (-2.5 BsR), while Craig Gentry is a fantastic center fielder (7.2 Fld, 5 DRS) and above-average base-runner (2.2) . The Rangers would likely move Leonys Martin over to LF, and that immediately saves a few runs over Cruz and allows Gentry to do what he does best in CF. Basically, the numbers are telling us that Gentry is so good at everything outside hitting the baseball that it doesn’t matter that he is a below-average hitter (.233/.324/.341).
This being said, the Rangers front-office wants the big bat in the lineup (and their team has been sorely lacking in the offensive department recently). Adrian Beltre (134 wRC+) has been the only intimidating presence in 2013, while guys like Ian Kinsler (111 wRC+), Mitch Moreland (95 wRC+) and Elvis Andrus (64 wRC+) have been okay, average, or downright dreadful at the plate. The Rangers, will likely go search for a bat-only guy to be used as DH, part-time OF and general replacement for Nelson Cruz. Picking up a guy that can be worth one win with his bat alone in 50 games is typically expensive, thus the Rangers will be forced to pay a hefty price.
2013 Conslusion: Little Overall Impact
All of the above teams and players have "big" decisions in front of them and some of those will get addressed by today’s deadline or during the August trading period. The end result is that on-field results will hardly be impacted by these suspensions. The teams with the biggest impacts are likely already fated to watch the postseason and losing an extra couple games has no real affect. The teams that are in contention have capable replacements and/or have already addressed the problems via trade.
2014 and Beyond Conclusion: To Be Determined
The only sure-fire end result of the Biogenesis will be on the wallets of a few players. Whether it is a shortened contract for Cruz and Peralta in 2014 -- a la Melky Cabrera this year -- or a few million dollars of foregone salary, like Ryan Braun, the impact is chiefly financial and limited to a few individuals already making large salaries who now have to forego future large salaries.
I was sick of all the talk about the scandal and how it is going to change the game. One thing I'm certain of is that the change certainly isn’t going to easily be detected in the 2013 standings. Despite "20 players implicated" being trumpeted left and right, the actual impact on the pennant race is limited to about two teams and they already have moved on to the next guy. Why can’t we?
. . .
You can follow him on twitter @charlie_adams13