Nelson Cruz has been named in a story in the Miami New Times today, linking him with Biogenesis, a company in Miami being investigated for supposedly providing performance enhancing drugs to MLB players.
This leads to a series of questions about Cruz, and how this could impact the Rangers' on-the-field performance in 2013.
Let's consider some questions:
Nelson Cruz is getting suspended, right?
Not necessarily. There's no positive test that we know of. Gio Gonzalez has issued a statement denying even knowing the main guy at Biogenesis. Other writers have questioned the credibility of the ledgers that are being used as the basis of the story.
I think it is very premature, at this point, to assume that Cruz is going to be suspended.
There's no positive test, so Cruz can't be suspended, right?
I believe that is incorrect. Craig Calcaterra points to 7(G)(2) of the MLB Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program which says:
A Player may be subjected to disciplinary action for just cause by the Commissioner for any Player violation of Section 2 above not referenced in Section 7.A through 7.F above.
Section 2 lists prohibited substances. Thus, the Commissioner appears to have the power to discipline players involved in the Biogenesis case if he can show "just cause."
So if the Commissioner finds "just cause," Cruz is suspended for 50 games?
As I read this agreement, not necessarily. Section 7.A says that "A Player who tests positive for a Performance Enhancing Substance, or otherwise violates the Program through the use or possession of a Performance Enhancing Substance, will be subject to the discipline set forth below."
It then outlines the 50 game suspension for a first time offender.
MLB could decide, after investigating the Biogenesis situation, that they have sufficient proof that Cruz violated the program "through the use or possession of a Performance Enhancing Substance," which would mean an automatic 50 game suspension. However, such a sanction would be subject to being challenged, appealed, etc. MLB may not be able to meet their burden of proving Cruz (or others named in connection with Biogenesis) used.
However, MLB could decide that there is sufficient "just cause" for a violation of Section 2 to warrant other disciplinary action, short of a 50 game suspension. It wouldn't shock me if, for example, a deal was cut so that players who there's smoke around, but which MLB might be at risk at not making a full case against, ended up getting (or agreeing to) lesser suspensions.
So there's a good chance Nelson Cruz has a suspension to start the season?
I don't think so. First, MLB has to investigate the Biogenesis situation. That takes time. Then MLB will have to make decisions and levy suspension. Then there will be appeals. There will have to be hearings. That also takes time.
Is it possible that all this could be resolved in two months, when the season starts? Its possible. I think it is more likely, however, that the logistics behind the levying of suspensions and the appeals process would mean that, if there are any suspensions, those suspensions won't kick in until the middle of the 2013 season.
This means the Rangers have to go sign Michael Bourn, right?
Not really. Cruz might be suspended for 50 games. Or he might be suspended for a lesser time. Or he might not be suspended at all. If he is suspended for 50 games, that likely won't happen until after Opening Day. If the Rangers weren't interested in spending big money on Bourn prior to this news breaking, they aren't likely to be interested in spending big money on him because of potentially missing Cruz for 50 games.
So what will the Rangers do if Cruz is suspended?
I think the Rangers' response to a Cruz suspension would depend on the amount of time he was suspended, and when the suspension kicks in. If it is as of Opening Day or soon thereafter, or if the suspension is for a relatively short period of time, my guess is that the Rangers would look to either have Mike Olt replace Cruz on the roster, either by playing right field or by playing first base and having Mitch Moreland move to right field, or have Julio Borbon replace Cruz on the roster, with Borbon playing some centerfield and/or left field and either Leonys Martin or David Murphy playing right field in place of Cruz.
If Cruz gets hit with a 50 game suspension mid-season, then I think the Rangers at that point would be a lot more likely to look at the trade market to try to find someone who could step in for Cruz. The options available in the trade market are going to be greater in June or July than they are now, or than they will be in April or May.