The Boys of Biogenesis: Breakdowns of the players accepting 50-game bans
According to multiple reports, Major League Baseball has agreed to suspensions for 12 players connected to the Miami-area Biogenesis clinic, a group that does not include Alex Rodriguez. All 12 players were suspended for 50 games on Monday as first-time offenders under the Joint Drug Agreement, and all have accepted their suspensions rather than appeal. In doing so, the players on the 40-man roster will serve their suspensions by the end of the regular season, leaving them eligible to participate in the postseason and to enter free agency without further discipline hanging over their heads. Those not on 40-man rosters will continue serving their suspensions next season because their league’s seasons will end in early September.
Those 12 players follow the suspensions of Ryan Braun (who was banned for 65 games on July 23) and Cesar Carrillo (who was suspended for 100 games back in March). Not disciplined despite having previously reported as appearing in Biogenesis documents were Blue Jays outfielder Melky Cabrera, A’s starting pitcher Bartolo Colon, and Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal, all of whom were suspended in 2012 due to positive tests for PEDs, as well as Nationals starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez, who was not found to have obtained PEDs from the clinic.
What follows is an alphabetical rundown of the remaining players suspended besides Rodriguez, Braun and Carrillo, and where relevant, a quick look at how their respective teams will cope with their absences.
Players on 40-man rosters
Antonio Bastardo: A 27-year-old left-handed reliever, Bastardo has pitched for parts of five seasons with the Phillies and become the team’s top setup reliever in front of closer Jonathan Papelbon. After pitching in 64 games in 2011 and 65 in 2012, he has made a team-high 48 appearances this year, pitching to a 2.32 ERA and striking out 9.9 per nine in 42 2/3 innings. Prior to Monday, he had not been publicly linked with Biogenesis.
Evereth Cabrera: A Rule 5 pick plucked off the Rockies’ roster in December 2008, Cabrera served as the Padres’ regular shortstop in 2009, then bounced back and forth between the majors and minors before re-emerging last year. Though he hit just .246/.324/.324 in 115 games, he led the NL with 44 steals in 48 attempts. In February, he was among the third wave of players named by ESPN’s Outside the Lines, but played well enough to make the NL All-Star team and has hit .283/.355/.381 with a league-high 37 steals in 49 attempts thus far. Exactly what the Padres will do in his absence to cover shortstop remains to be seen. Pedro Ciriaco replaced Cabrera during the latter’s DL stint in June but is now in the Royals organization. Over the weekend San Diego signed free agent Ronny Cedeno, who hit .220/.260/.298 in 51 games for the Astros earlier this year before being released.
Francisco Cervelli: Cervelli saw considerable time for the Yankees from 2009 through 2011, making 80 starts during the middle year, but poor defense forced him to the minors last year, and he played in just three games with the Yankees. The sudden departure of Russell Martin via free agency re-opened the door for him to share starting duties despite being linked to Biogenesis back in early February along with Braun and the Orioles’ Danny Valencia (who was cleared of any violations); at the time, Cervelli said via statement, “Following my foot injury in March 2011, I consulted with a number of experts, including Biogenesis clinic, for legal ways to aid my rehab and recovery… I purchased supplements that I am certain were not prohibited by MLB.”
Cervelli began the year sharing catching duties with Chris Stewart and hit .269/.377/.500 in 61 PA while showing off improved form behind the plate. Alas, a foul tip fractured his right hand in late April and required surgery, and between a stress reaction in his elbow and ongoing pain in his right middle finger (the one most affected by the break), he has yet to return to action, to the point that his season was already in jeopardy. The Yankees have gotten no offense out of starter Stewart (.227/.297/.290 in 237 PA) or backup Austin Romine (.213/.247/.326 in 95 PA), but without either Cervelli or a trade pickup, they’ll hope that the adequate defense from that duo is enough to get by.
Nelson Cruz: A 32-year-old two-time All-Star (including this year), Cruz has been the Rangers’ regular rightfielder since 2009, hitting a combined .272/.332/.512 and averaging 27 homers per year, including this one. He missed considerable time in 2010-11 due to recurrent injuries to his left hamstring, but has proven durable since then, and is hitting .269/.330/.511 with 27 homers for a Rangers team that can ill-afford to lose him. His name was first connected to Biogenesis with the initial Miami New Times exposé in late January, but the Rangers don’t appear to have formulated much of a contingency plan in case he was suspended. Even with leftfielder David Murphy struggling and designated hitter Lance Berkman so banged up that he’s mulling retirement, Texas did not make a trade before the July 31 deadline to boost its ailing offense. While it was reported Cruz was mulling an appeal of his suspension, he is now expected to accept the 50-game ban, which would allow him to return to activity for the postseason, and to not have the suspension hanging over his head when he reaches free agency this winter.
Jesus Montero: Once considered among the game’s brightest prospects — he made Baseball America‘s list four times from 2009-12, ranking between third and sixth in the last three of those years — Montero has taken a sizable fall since being dealt by the Yankees to the Mariners in January 2012. He hit just .260/.298/.386 with 15 homers as a rookie last year, and was named as part of the second wave of players linked to Biogenesis back in February. Between his struggles behind the plate and his slow start this year (.208/.264/.327 in 29 games), he was demoted to Triple-A Tacoma in late May to begin a transition to first base.
Alas, after just one week, he tore a meniscus in his left knee and underwent surgery, sidelining him until July 5. Hitting just .247/.317/.425 in 19 games at Tacoma, he didn’t appear near a return to the majors, particularly with Justin Smoak and Kendrys Morales covering first base and DH duties for Seattle. Add in the suspension and it’s an utterly lost year for the 23-year-old.
Jhonny Peralta: A 31-year-old, two-time All-Star, Peralta has been one of the game’s better offensive shortstops since 2005, and one of the most durable, averaging 149 games per year between 2005-12. In fact, what sets him apart from virtually everybody else in this group is that he’s never been on the disabled list as a major leaguer. Even so, he’s been wildly inconsistent from year to year; of his nine seasons, he’s had four (including this one) with an OPS+ of 113 or higher and three with 85 or lower, with five swings of at least 25 percent from year to year relative to the league.
This has been one of his best seasons. He’s batting .305/.360/.461 with 11 homers en route to 3.5 WAR, and along with Cruz and Rodriguez, he’s in the midst of a playoff race. Even so, the Tigers were the only one of those three players’ teams that made a proactive move before the July 31 trading deadline, acquiring slick-fielding Jose Iglesias to take over shortstop not only for the remainder of this season, but also if and when Peralta departs as a free agent, which he’s likely to do this winter.
Cesar Puello: Two years ago, Puello ranked 77th on Baseball America‘s Top 100 Prospects after stealing 45 bases as a 19-year-old in the Sally League. A slow start and a back strain in 2011 led the Mets to have him repeat High-A ball the following year, but he was added to the 40-man roster in November 2011, and still ranked fifth on Baseball America‘s team top 10 coming into 2012. Alas, when a chronic hamstring injury and broken hamate limited him to just 66 games, he slipped to 18th in the team’s rankings, with BA’s 2013 Prospect Handbook calling him a toolsy player who “hasn’t yet made the adjustments to get the most out of his plus raw power.”
Under a cloud after being named in February, he has found that power this year, hitting .328/.405/.550 with 16 homers as a 22-year-old at Double-A Binghamton. He’s the only player from among these 12 who has no major league experience; a suspension would probably mean the end of his consideration as a prospect. Though particularly in the impoverished Mets organization, he may still have a big league career as a stopgap.
Jordany Valdespin: A 26-year-old Dominican utilityman who has spent parts of the past two seasons with the Mets, Valdespin had not been connected to Biogenesis prior to Monday, but even so, he’s no stranger to controversy. He has been suspended for insubordination multiple times in the minors and in winter ball. Back in May, after showboating following a home run off the Pirates’ Jose Contreras in a blowout loss, he was promptly drilled by Pittsburgh’s Bryan Morris in a pinch-hitting appearance the next day. On July 14, he was sent to Triple-A Las Vegas, having hit just .188/.250/.316 in 144 plate appearances; upon receiving the news, he caused a commotion in the Mets’ clubhouse. Earlier this week, he was suspended three games for his part in a bench-clearing brawl triggered by another excessive home-run celebration and retaliatory plunking. The bet here is that he’s played his last game in the Mets organization.
Players not on 40-man rosters
Sergio Escalona: Escalona, a 29-year-old lefty reliever from Venezuela, made 15 appearances for the Phillies in 2009 and 49 for the Astros in 2011, the latter despite serving two stints on the disabled list for elbow and ankle injuries. After missing all of the 2012 season due to Tommy John surgery, he was outrighted off Houston’s 40-man roster. He had not been previously connected to Biogenesis before Monday, and had made 12 appearances for the Astros’ Double-A Corpus Christi affiliate.
Fautino De Los Santos: A 27-year-old reliever from the Dominican Republic, De Los Santos pitched in 40 games for the A’s in 2011-12, 34 of them in the former year. He was traded to the Brewers in July 2012 for George Kottaras, then claimed off of waivers by San Diego in early February, about two weeks before his name surfaced among the third wave of Biogenesis-linked players. He made just two early April appearances for the Padres’ Triple-A Tucson team before going on the disabled list, and in mid-May he was released.
Fernando Martinez: Ranked as high as 20th in four appearances on Baseball America‘s Top 100 Prospect list from 2007-10, when he was a promising young outfielder in the Mets chain, Martinez has seen his career fade due to a series of injuries, the most serious of them involving his right knee. In January 2012, after a season in which he hit just .260/.329/.417 in 63 games for the Mets’ Triple-A Buffalo team, he was lost on waivers to the Astros. He showed mild promise with a .237/.300/.466 line in 130 PA for Houston last year, but after his name surfaced in February, he lost favor, and after being outrighted off the 40-man roster in May, the now-24-year-old outfielder was traded to the Yankees in mid-June to provide organizational depth. Even in New York’s ongoing parade of outfielder injuries, he hasn’t been recalled, while the likes of Melky Mesa and Thomas Neal have.
Jordan Norberto: A 25-year-old lefty, Norberto has 78 major league appearances under his belt, including 39 last year with the A’s, though he spent 11 weeks on the DL for shoulder woes. After his name surfaced in February, he made just three appearances for Oakland’s Triple-A Sacramento team before straining his elbow in mid-April. He was released in early May, and underwent Tommy John surgery and bone chip removal on June 20. Thus his suspension will likely coincide with his rehab in a precedent previously set by the Reds’ Edinson Volquez.