Biggest Winners and Losers of the MLB Biogenesis Scandal
The 2013 MLB season gave us plenty of memorable moments, but it also saw another chapter in the Steroid Era play out, as the Biogenesis scandal led to the suspension of 13 players.
While 12 of those players have already served their suspension and can now start working towards putting the controversy behind them, Alex Rodriguez played out the 2013 season while appealing what was initially a 211-game suspension.
On Jan. 11, an arbitrator upheld the suspension, ruling that Rodriguez would remain suspended through the end of the 2014 season. Due to his playing under appeal, the suspension actually wound up being reduced from 211 games to 162 games, but that was still far longer than any of the other bans that other players received.
Rodriguez plans to take his appeal to federal court in a lawsuit, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, but for the most part, the ramifications of the scandal are now clear.
So who are the biggest winners and losers now that the dust has settled on Biogenesis?
Loser: Jesus Montero's Future in Seattle
With two seasons at the Triple-A level under his belt and still just 22 years old, Jesus Montero entered the 2012 season as the No. 6 prospect in all of baseball, according to Baseball America.
Longtime Yankees catcher Jorge Posada had announced his retirement at the end of the 2011 season, and all the pieces seemed to be in place for Montero to step in as the team's everyday catcher. He had hit .328/.406/.590 in a 61-at-bat cup of coffee in 2011 and was one of the favorites for AL Rookie of the Year that season.
However, when the Yankees saw an opportunity to acquire Mariners' right-hander Michael Pineda, it was too good to pass up, and they dealt Montero to Seattle in a four-player trade.
Montero would hit just .260/.298/.386 with 15 home runs and 62 RBI over 515 at-bats as a rookie in 2012, but he still figured to be a significant part of the Mariners' rebuilding efforts.
He hit just .208/.264/.327 through 29 games last season, though, before being demoted to the minors, and he then saw his season end with a 50-game suspension. Mike Zunino has supplanted him as the future at catcher, and the acquisitions of Corey Hart and Logan Morrison clog up the DH spot as well, so Montero figures to start the season in the minors, where he'll have to play his way back to the majors.
He is a far cry from the sure-fire All-Star and franchise building block he was viewed as just a couple years ago.
Winner: San Diego Padres' Payroll
It's hard to say that losing Everth Cabrera, the San Diego Padres' lone All-Star representative, for the final 50 games of last season was a good thing for the team.
After leading the NL with 44 steals in 2012, but hitting just .246/.324/.324 in the process, the 26-year-old had taken a big step forward at the plate in 2013.
At the time of his suspension, he was hitting .283/.355/.381 with 37 steals in 95 games, as he was undoubtedly one of the most productive shortstops in the National League.
However, from a financial standpoint, the suspension may have benefited the Padres, provided he can return to his pre-suspension level of production in 2014.
After earning $1.275 million in his first year of arbitration last offseason, he recently agreed to terms on a raise to $2.45 million this coming season.
According to Steve Adams of MLBTradeRumors.com, the suspension figures to cost Cabrera roughly $1.083 million for 2013 and 2014, compared to what he was projected to make this year and the money he lost last year. On top of that, he was entering a point in his service time where he was a prime candidate to be extended, but the Padres will now play wait-and-see with him instead, according to GM Josh Byrnes in the article:
Well, a lot of players over time have been disciplined. I think we'll know a few more facts as we go. You know, we control him for a few more years through the arbitration process. I think we'll sort of evaluate as we go, but I wouldn't foresee a long-term deal until we know more.
Given that Cabrera relies on his speed more than anything, it stands to reason that his production would not be as effected by PEDs as would a power hitter. If he can get right back to the level he was at in 2013, the Padres came out on top from a payroll standpoint.
Loser: Nelson Cruz's Free Agent Stock
The combination of a 50-game PED suspension to close out the 2013 season and a declined qualifying offer to kick off the offseason has left Nelson Cruz still looking for a new home in free agency here a month from the start of spring training.
Cruz is limited defensively, but his power is some of the best in the business. At least it was prior to his suspension last season, as he had already launched 27 home runs through 413 at-bats. That put him well on his way to passing his career-high of 33, but instead his season came to an abrupt halt.
His absence led to the Texas Rangers acquisition of Alex Rios in August, and with Rios back for the upcoming season, the team made no real effort to retain Cruz outside of making him a $14.1 million qualifying offer.
That means whoever takes a chance on Cruz still being the player he was pre-suspension will have to cough up their first-round pick in the upcoming June draft to sign him. To this point, no one has decided to take that risk.
He'll find a home before the offseason is over, but he likely would have been in line for at least a contract similar to the four-year, $60 million deal that Curtis Granderson received from the New York Mets had it not been for the suspension.
Instead, he may wind up having to settle for a two-year deal as he looks to prove he can still be a force offensively in the middle of someone's lineup.
Winner: Jhonny Peralta's Free-Agent Stock
While Nelson Cruz still searches for a home, fellow free agent and 50-game suspension recipient Jhonny Peralta found a new home on the open market before the calendar turned over to December.
Part of that is the fact that, aside from Stephen Drew, he was the only everyday shortstop option on the market this offseason. He also did not receive a qualifying offer from his former team, the Detroit Tigers, while Drew did receive one from the Boston Red Sox and remains on the free-agent market at this point as a result.
The other big chip in Peralta's favor was the fact that he was able to return for the Tigers' postseason run last October, and he proved he could still produce offensively.
He played in a total of 10 games between shortstop and left field in the playoffs, going 11-for-33 with four doubles, one home run and six RBI. That was after he hit .303/.358/.457 with 11 home runs and 55 RBI through 409 at-bats prior to his suspension.
All of that was enough for the St. Louis Cardinals to sign him to a four-year, $53 million deal on Nov. 24, as he represents a major offensive upgrade over last year's shortstop, Pete Kozma.
Peralta not only received a nice payday, but he goes to the reigning NL champions and a team that is expected to contend for a title once again this season.
Loser: Ryan Braun's Image
There is no question that Ryan Braun entered the 2013 season as one of the best players in the game, and it seemed as though fans league-wide were finally ready to put the controversy surrounding his 2011 test in the rearview mirror.
For those of you who don't know, Braun tested positive for an elevated level of testosterone following his 2011 MVP season and was handed a 50-game suspension.
However, questions about how the test collector had handled his sample were enough for Braun to be the first player to win a PED-suspension appeal. Tyler Kepner of The New York Times wrote a piece on the whole ordeal after his suspension was overturned and said, "he won on a technicality; there’s no other way to say it."
His image no doubt took a hit from that, but by the end of a 2012 season that saw him hit .319/.391/.595 with 30 steals and an NL-high 41 home runs, he was again regarded as one of the best in the business and had reclaimed much of his fan base.
Now, after actually having been suspended, it looks like he did in fact get off on a technicality the first time, and he'll have an uphill battle to reclaim his place as one of the faces of the MLB.
A Google image search of "Braun Fraud" shows how many Brewers fans feel about their former hero. However, as B/R Lead Writer Dan Levy wrote in August, Brewers fans could very well forgive Braun if he starts hitting like he did in the past.
Winner: New York Yankees' Payroll
The Yankees were happy to welcome back Alex Rodriguez while he was appealing his suspension last season, as the likes of Jayson Nix, David Adams and Chris Nelson had provided virtually nothing offensively with Rodriguez sidelined by injury.
While they still don't have an impact bat at third base, they should get a bit more production out of the position this year after signing Kelly Johnson to a one-year, $3 million deal this offseason. He posted a .715 OPS with 16 home runs and 52 RBI last season in a utility role with the Tampa Bay Rays.
The real benefit for the Yankees comes on the financial side of things. As noted by Charlie Wilmoth of MLBTradeRumors.com, the suspension saves the Yankees $24.3 million against the 2014 luxury tax threshold and $25 million in salary.
Given their signings of Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann, among others, this offseason, saving that figure against the tax threshold helps the Yankees a lot from a financial standpoint.
The biggest plus of all, though, may very well be not having to deal with the media circus and constant distraction that Rodriguez would have brought to the team. All that makes the Yankees a clear winner in how the Biogenesis story played out.
Loser: Alex Rodriguez
Even before the Biogenesis scandal, Alex Rodriguez did not have much of an image left to tarnish, and he was undoubtedly among the most polarizing figures in sports.
However, the media circus that has followed his appeal of the suspension and the fact that he's the reason Major League Baseball still can't put Biogenesis behind them has made him one of the most universally disliked athletes of our time.
After playing the end of the 2013 season under appeal, Rodriguez had his suspension upheld this offseason, as he will miss the entire 2014 season and postseason before being reinstated for 2015.
Still unable to accept the ruling, Rodriguez now plans to take his case to federal court, as he will sue Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association, according to Ronald Blum of the Associated Press.
As Jon Morosi of Fox Sports wrote, keeping this story in the news is bad for the sport, as it tends to overshadow every other story. Now, at a time when fans should be excited and gearing up for the start of spring training, we are instead still talking about a suspension that was originally handed down last August.
Finally, Joel Sherman of The New York Post pointed out that there's a chance suspension could mean the end of A-Rod's career. If the Yankees decide to simply cut ties with him once he is reinstated, he could have a hard time finding anyone willing to sign him and the baggage that comes along with him.
How Could Biogenesis Affect the MLB in the Future?
MLB commissioner Bud Selig will call it a career at the end of the season, and the MLBPA has a new executive director this coming season in former big-league first baseman Tony Clark, so the landscape of the MLB front office is certainly changing.
The current Collective Bargaining Agreement was struck prior to the 2012 season and runs through 2016, at which time it would not be at all surprising to see harsher bans for PED users implemented.
For everything he has done during his time as commissioner, Bud Selig will forever be linked to the Steroid Era. Whoever emerges as his successor could look to do everything in his power to make sure PEDs don't define his time in office as well.
A lot will change between now and the end of the 2016 season, and how the A-Rod appeal plays out in federal court will certainly influence things moving forward. If his suspension is upheld, though, that could be the precedent needed to push for harsher suspensions in the next CBA.