The vast majority of players implicated in the Biogenesis investigation plan on accepting suspensions of at least 50 games, major league sources told Yahoo! Sports, with a notable exception: New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez continues to hold out in spite of threats from Major League Baseball to ban him from the game.
Faced with a litany of evidence including text messages to Biogenesis clinic founder Tony Bosch promising to send money in exchange for performance-enhancing drugs, upward of a dozen players are expected to agree to suspensions offered by the league within the next 72 hours, sources said.
In anticipation of a suspension for shortstop Jhonny Peralta, the Detroit Tigers recently acquired Jose Iglesias from Boston in a three-way trade. Similarly, the Texas Rangers have spent weeks looking for a replacement for outfielder Nelson Cruz, whom they expect to accept a suspension.
Rodriguez, meanwhile, is obstinate in his plans to appeal any suspension despite what one source deemed “overwhelming” evidence tying him to extensive performance-enhancing drug use as well as interfering with the league’s investigation into Biogenesis, the south Florida wellness clinic at the center of the latest PED controversy.
By threatening to suspend Rodriguez under a best-interests-of-baseball clause in the collective-bargaining agreement rather than the agreed-upon discipline of the league’s joint drug agreement, commissioner Bud Selig amped up the game of chicken between MLB and Rodriguez. The fear inside baseball is that if Rodriguez appeals a suspension, he could be playing games within the next week while the rest of the players in the Biogenesis case, including the already-suspended Ryan Braun, who accepted a 65-game suspension, are sidelined.
Because baseball is disciplining players under the non-analytical-positive section of the drug agreement – none of those expected to accept suspensions had positive tests and thus are subject to different discipline – the open-ended penalty structure allowed the league leeway to pursue suspensions of more than the typical 50 games for a first offense. With the possibility of the league imposing longer suspensions on those who did not cooperate, players are finalizing agreements that will allow them to play toward the end of September and into the playoffs, sources said.
MLB set 50 games as a baseline for players involved with Biogenesis, sources said, and those who did not cooperate during the investigation agreed to receive additional penalties of double-digit games.
With the players who already have been suspended for positive tests attributed to Biogenesis products (Bartolo Colon, Yasmani Grandal and Melky Cabrera) likely avoiding suspension, nine known players and more whose names have not been reported are almost certain to take plea deals, sources said.
Beyond Rodriguez, the biggest names are Peralta and Cruz, both of whom are free agents this offseason. The incentive to take deals is great for each in spite of how it may affect their teams during the playoff hunt. The possibility of a longer suspension for not cooperating would greatly affect their market value as a free agent – especially with a potential 100-game suspension hanging over their heads. A large group of players agreeing to similar suspensions could be seen around baseball more as a necessary penalty for a mistake than selfish team abandonment.
Other players who could take the pleas include: San Diego shortstop Everth Cabrera, New York Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli, three minor leaguers (Jesus Montero, Cesar Puello and Fernando Martinez) and two free agents (Jordan Norberto and Fautino De Los Santos).
MLB’s hardline stance on Rodriguez has not produced similar results. His refusal to agree to a significant suspension – at least 100 games, far longer than Braun’s or any of the other players’ – prompted Selig to pull out the nuclear option of a workaround to prevent him from playing.
Selig potentially resorting to such tactics, even if they are a bluff, miffed a number of players on the MLB Players Association’s executive board, sources said. The union’s cooperation throughout the Biogenesis investigation has been paramount to the pursuit of suspensions, and Selig could run the risk of starting a massive fight with the union if Rodriguez continues to refuse to negotiate.
By circumventing the drug agreement, MLB could prevent Rodriguez from playing immediately rather than allowing him to play as an arbitrator hears his appeal on the Biogenesis-related suspension.
Rodriguez’s lawyer, David Cornwell, has said that he plans on appealing any suspension.
Jeff Passan is an award-winning columnist who has covered baseball since 2004. He can be reached at email@example.com. This article is reprinted here with the written permission of Yahoo!