November 2013

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MLB And MLBPA Release 2013 Report On PED Testing

Yesterday, MLB and the MLB Player's Association released the 2013 public report on the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program (commonly referred to as the JDA). The report was compiled by Dr. Jeffrey M. Anderson, the Independent Program Administrator.

The report addresses drug testing over the period between the start of the 2012-13 off-season and the end of the 2013 post-season. A total of 5,391 drug tests were conducted, 4,022 of which were urine samples analyzed for PEDs and/or stimulants. The remaining 1,369 instances were blood samples tested for human growth hormone (hGH).

Of the samples analyzed, eight resulted in "an adverse analytical finding that resulted in discipline," all of which were for the stimulants Adderall or Methylhexaneamine. The report also notes thirteen "non-analytical positives" that resulted in discipline. In addition, the league granted 122 therapeutic use exemptions, the vast majority of which were for Attention Deficit Disorder.

Comparison to last year's report shows marginal increases in overall testing numbers. In 2012, there were 5,136 samples taken, 3,955 of which were urine tests and 1,181 of which were for blood. That means that, along with 67 more of the former, there were an additional 188 instances of blood testing this time around. Therapeutic use exemptions remained relatively constant. The most interesting fact, perhaps, is that no positive PED tests were identified, down from seven last year. Instead, this time around, we saw the thirteen suspensions based upon Biogenesis-related investigation rather than testing. 

Of course, the JDA provides careful parameters for testing. Every player is subject to a urine test upon reporting to Spring Training and is subject to an additional random urine test at some point between the commencement of Spring Training and the end of the championship season (i.e., the conclusion of the regular season). The JDA allows 1,400 additional random tests, 200 of which were allowed to be performed during the off-season in the 2012-13 testing period. As for blood testing for hGH, every player must provide a sample at an unannounced point during Spring Training and a sample can also be taken in conjunction with an off-season urine test. The JDA also provides for further testing based upon reasonable cause as well as follow-up testing for disciplined players.

In large part, of course, the figures released yesterday confirm that the testing program took the form that the JDA contemplated. Last year, about 4.5 tests were performed for each of MLB's 1,200 available roster spots. (Of course, roster spots aren't always all full, and a good number of players cycle through them in a given season.)

But a good portion of the testing is not truly unpredictable, as it takes place at the start of or during the six-week Spring Training period. Assuming that the MLB testing figures reflect a relatively low number of reasonable cause and follow-up tests, something in the vicinity of 3,000 tests were essentially random. With about 320 non-Spring Training days on which those tests could theoretically have fallen, and 1,200 MLB roster spots available on a given day, the percentage of "player-days" that see some kind of surprise PED test is a comfortable bit less than 1%. 

Depending upon how baseball plans to implement and report its in-season hGH testing program, those testing rates stand to remain essentially constant through the life of the current JDA, which expires on December 1, 2016. So, is that sufficient, at least for the time being? 

As MLB COO Rob Manfred has explained, the frequency and randomness of testing is critical. Discussing minor league testing back in 2010, he said: 

"We not only incrased the number of tests conducted this year in the [Dominican Republic], but significantly altered the pattern of testing. And, whenever we do that, we get a spike. Major League, Minor League, in the DR, whenever we change the pattern so that it's not predictable, we get a spike."  

These old-but-illuminating comments are especially interesting in light of the fact that the testing system registered no PED hits this season after logging seven in 2012. It would seem naive to assume that the shift reflects a sudden and drastic reduction in PED use. But if it instead constitutes a step back for testing efficacy, what is the solution? Unless a numerical increase in tests can be negotiated, Manfred's past statement indicates that the league may need to get creative with its process to ensure that baseball's PED testing protocol adequately supports its disincentive system.


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AL East Notes: Cano, Orioles, Drew

Robinson Cano denied asking the Yankees for a $300MM deal back in the summer, writes Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, but just because Cano didn't utter the words himself does not mean that his representatives did not float that number. That was just the "midseason request," however, Martino explains. Now that the star second baseman has reached the open market, his camp has re-set its asking price and is scheduled to meet with the Bronx brass again on Monday. Here's more from the American League East:

  • The Orioles are quietly waiting for the free agent starting pitching market to fall into place, writes Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun. We've heard before that the club is quite interested in returning Scott Feldman, who was acquired in mid-year from the Cubs, and Encina guesses he'll take two years and $16-18MM to land. In his detailed breakdown of Feldman, MLBTR's Steve Adams projected his value at two years and $17MM, plus a vesting option. Other arms that might draw attention from Baltimore, according to Encina, are Bronson Arroyo and even A.J. Burnett, if he decides to look around the market. 
  • Shortstop Stephen Drew is still a great fit for a Red Sox infield that currently features Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks on the left side, writes John Tomase of the Boston Herald. If Drew can't get a club to give up a pick to sign him to a multi-year deal, Boston could swoop back into the mix and try to land him on another one-year contract, perhaps with an implicit promise not to extend another qualifying offer, Tomase suggests.



Pirates, Yankees Nearing Chris Stewart Trade

8:51am: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports (via Twitter) that the Yankees would receive cash or a player to be named later in the deal that's being discussed.

8:27am: The Pirates are on the verge of acquiring catcher Chris Stewart from the Yankees, according to ESPN's Buster Olney (Twitter link).

Stewart, 32 in February, is a non-tender candidate after hitting .211/.293/.272 in a career-high 340 plate appearances with the Yankees in 2013. However, he's regarded as a superior defensive catcher to Michael McKenry, who is a non-tender candidate himself after missing the final two months of the 2013 campaign due to knee surgery.

Stewart projects to earn $1MM in arbitration, per MLBTR's Matt Swartz, while McKenry's projection sits at $900K. Either backstop will likely face competition in the form of Tony Sanchez, who offers more with the bat at a slightly lower price.

This post was originally published on Dec. 2, 2013.



Pitching Notes: Dodgers, Giants, Mujica, Ayala, Williams

The market for starting pitchers has actually started off at reasonable prices, argues Mike Axisa of CBSSports.com. Running the numbers on the price of a projected win for the starters who have signed to date, he says that a preliminary look shows that early-moving teams look to have achieved solid value. Here's more on the pitching market around the league:

  • Even if the Dodgers are willing to spend the huge amount of cash that Masahiro Tanaka's posting and signing is expected to require, says Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com, it is far from clear how the club would sort its rotation out to accomodate him. GM Ned Colletti has said that he is "not going to close the door on any more starters" even after adding Dan Haren on a one-year deal with a vesting option. Saxon notes, however, that it would be more difficult to push aside Josh Beckett and/or Chad Billingsley than it was for the club to do last year with Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang. Of course, Tanaka may be good enough that, if the price is right, that problem is one you just deal with as best you can.
  • The Giants, on the other hand, seem less likely than their rivals to the south to consider the addition of another starter, with Bob Nightengale of USA Today reporting that the club's rotation is set after re-signing Ryan Vogelsong. As Alex Pavlovic of the Mercury News noted earlier today, the rotation seemed complete upon the return of Vogelsong, given GM Brian Sabean's earlier comments that he would not make the veteran compete for his slot in the spring. Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, and Tim Hudson round out the club's starting five.
  • Meanwhile, it could well be that San Francisco could look to add pen pieces given their decision to add veteran arms to the back of its rotation, reasons Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Sulia). It is easier and cheaper to add relief arms, he notes, and the club could look to ease the burden on its starters by following the Dodgers and Cardinals in trotting out multiple arms that can throw quality innings.
  • Free agent reliever Edward Mujica of the Cardinals is drawing interest from a variety of teams, according to Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. The Angels are probably out after inking Joe Smith, Cotillo notes. But the OriolesIndians, and Cubs have at least kicked the tires on Mujica, joining the Phillies in pursuit of the 29-year-old. 
  • Right-handed reliever Luis Ayala, who produced solid results last year at age 35 for the Orioles and Braves, is also in search of a multi-year deal, Cotillo reports. He has not yet seen an offer, but has received interest from the Red Sox and Rays as well as the Dodgers, Giants, O's, and Phils. Meanwhile, the Royals have seemingly stepped away from Ayala after showing initial interest.
  • One other arm that could enter the market is Angels righty Jerome Williams. Soon to turn 32, Williams' agent Larry O'Brien tells Cotillo (Twitter link) that he is rooting against a tender from the Halos since "there are many teams he could effectively start for." That statement seems to imply what has long been suspected about Williams, which is that Los Angeles does not intend to use him as a starter. As MLBTR's Tim Dierkes wrote in reporting Matt Swartz's $3.9MM projection for Williams, a non-tender is a very real possibility for the swingman. Of course, as MLBTR's Zach Links has explained, there are few teams with as many projected rotation holes as the Angels.



Dodgers Discussing Extension With Hanley Ramirez

Hanley Ramirez said recently that he has had ongoing extension talks with the Dodgers, Dionisio Soldevila of ESPNDeportes.com reports (Spanish language link). The 29-year-old is under contract for next year, but his impressive output in an injury-shortened 2013 makes him a definite extension target for Los Angeles. 

Reiterating once again that he hopes to stay with the Dodgers for the rest of his career, Ramirez said that he believes a new deal could be reached this winter. "We are negotiating something, but we are going step by step," he said (in Spanish). Ramirez declined to discuss the salary and length under consideration, but it is safe to say that the shortstop/third baseman is in line for quite a substantial contract when his current six-year, $70MM pact expires.

Last year, in 336 plate appearances, Ramirez posted an outstanding .345/.402/.638 slash, including twenty home runs and ten stolen bases. His 191 wRC+ landed just behind Miguel Cabrera among players with triple-digit plate appearances. In sum, his half-season of work was good for 5.1 fWAR, 25th among field players in all of baseball. 



Dodgers Avoid Arbitration With Elbert, Butera

4:50pm: Butera's deal includes $100K in attainable performance bonuses, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Likewise, Elbert can earn up to $100k in incentive pay, Heyman further tweets.

4:01pm: The Dodgers' deals with Elbert, Butera, and Mike Baxter are all non-guaranteed, Hernandez tweets.

3:49pm: The Dodgers have avoided arbitration with Scott Elbert and Drew Butera, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times (on Twitter).  Elbert gets a one-year, $575K deal while Butera will earn $700K (link).  

Our own Matt Swartz projected that Elbert would earn $600K through arbitration while Butera would get $700K.  Elbert, 28, underwent Tommy John surgery in June and was considered a non-tender candidate, but it would appear that the Dodgers are confident that he will bounce back strong in 2014.  The lefty reliever posted a 2.20 ERA with 8.0 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 in 2012.  

Butera, 30, saw just six big league games in total last season for the Twins and Dodgers.  The catcher came to Los Angeles in a July 31st deal for a player to be named later.  In 43 Triple-A games last year, Butera hit just .187/.228 /.281.

The Dodgers have now avoided arbitration with three of their players today after signing Elbert, Butera, and Mike Baxter earlier today.  There are four remaining arbitration eligible Dodgers - Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, A.J. Ellis, and Ronald Belisario.



Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Marlins, Pirates, D'Backs

On this date in 1976, The Yankees signed free agent Reggie Jackson to a five-year, $3.5MM contract.  During Mr. October's tenure, the Bronx Bombers will win four divisions, three pennants and two World Series.  Here's this week's look around the baseball blogosphere..

If you have a suggestion for this feature, Zach can be reached at ZachBBWI@gmail.com.  



Ted Lilly To Retire

FRIDAY, 3:26pm: Lilly's agent Larry O'Brien confirmed to Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet (via Twitter) that his client is retiring.

WEDNESDAY: 1:23pm: Left-hander Ted Lilly's comeback attempt has stalled due to persistent shoulder and back pain, and the 15-year veteran is set to announce his retirement from professional baseball, he told Andreina Salas Guzman Venezuelan news outlet El Universal (Spanish link).

"My body in general is telling me that I can't take any more," Lilly told Guzman. "I feel like I don't have the ability to continue at the Major League level."

Lilly, 37, recently had nerve endings in the right side of his neck cauterized in an attempt to alleviate neck pain that had been hampering his ability to pitch. That procedure seems to have been effective, as he told Guzman his neck feels ok, but he's far from pain free: "It's principally the pain in my back and shoulder. I'm having problems there. I feel like I can't return to being the pitcher I was a few years ago."

Lilly told Guzman that he's disappointed and feels "awful," as he never expected to be forced into retirement when initially traveling to Venezuela for winter ball. He looks back on his first two years with the Cubs fondly, noting that he pitched well and was on a good team in a "great city," calling those seasons the best of his career. Though he tells Guzman that he enjoys teaching baseball and won't rule out coaching in the future, his immediate plans are to spend time with his family, and he won't be seeking a coaching job anytime soon.

Lilly's career will come to a close with a 130-113 record, a 4.14 ERA and 1,681 strikeouts in 1982 2/3 innings of Major League action. Originally a 23rd-round pick of the Dodgers back in 1996, Lilly spent parts of 15 seasons with the Expos, Yankees, Athletics, Blue Jays, Cubs and Dodgers. He earned more than $80MM over the course of his big league career, according to Baseball Reference. Congratulations on an impressive career, and best of luck in life after baseball, Ted.

Thanks to MLBTR's Nick Collias for the translation of Guzman's article.


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Dodgers, Mike Baxter Avoid Arbitration

2:45pm: Baxter settled with the Dodgers for $700K in 2014, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (on Twitter).

1:50pm: The Dodgers have avoided arbitration with outfielder Mike Baxter, according to his representatives at the Beverly Hills Sports Council (via Twitter).  Terms of the one-year deal are not known for Baxter, who was projected to earn $500K by MLBTR's Matt Swartz.

Baxter, 29 in December, was arbitration eligible for the first time this winter as a Super Two.  The Dodgers claimed the outfielder off waivers from the Mets in October, hoping that he could regain his form from 2012 where he slashed .263/.365/.413 with three homers in 211 plate appearances.  In 74 games for the Mets in 2013, Baxter hit just .189/.303/.250.



Royals, GM Dayton Moore Agree To Two-Year Extension

The Royals announced that General Manager Dayton Moore has agreed to a two-year extension that runs through the 2016 season.  Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

When Dayton’s contract was extended during the 2009 season, I felt that this franchise had begun to turn the corner and that we were pointed in the proper direction,” said Dan Glass, Royals’ team President. “It’s been a challenging process, but we are now seeing tangible evidence that the process is working, thanks to the tireless efforts of Dayton and his Baseball Operations staff. Dayton is not only an outstanding baseball man, but he’s very much a part of our family and one of the top individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.

Under the guidance of Moore, who became the Royals’ GM in June 2006, the Royals have focused on building from within, with 21 members of the current 40-man roster home grown.  The club's 86-76 record was the Royals' best mark since 1989.  Since taking over KC, the Royals have had a total record of 552-685 and have yet to make the playoffs or place higher than third in the AL Central.  The Royals haven't found their way to the postseason since 1985 when they topped the Cardinals in seven games to win the World Series.  









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