Blue Jays first baseman/outfielder Chris Colabello has received an 80-game PED suspension, per a league announcement, which is the penalty for a first-time offender. He tested positive for the banned substance dehydrochlormethyltestosterone. The 32-year-old’s roster spot will go to southpaw Chad Girodo, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca tweets.
In a statement, via the Toronto Star’s Brendan Kennedy (Twitter link), Colabello says that he was informed of his positive test on March 13th. It would appear, then, that he’s only just lost his appeal. Colabello suggests that he is not at fault for the test, saying that he “would never compromise the integrity of the game of baseball” and has “spent every waking moment since that day trying to find an answer as to why or how” he ended up with the banned substance.
Even before today’s news, things hadn’t gone as hoped for the late-blooming slugger, as Colabello has logged just two hits and two walks in 32 plate appearances. Both he and the club were no doubt hoping for quite a bit more, given that he ran up a .321/.367/.520 batting line with 15 home runs in 360 trips to the plate in 2015.
While his K:BB ratios remain constant, Colabello has clearly suffered from more than just a turnaround in luck. His .411 BABIP from a year ago now stands at a meager .100, but he’s also making tons of soft contact (40.0%) and putting the ball on the ground much more often (60.0% after a 47.9% mark last year).
As those round numbers suggest, it’s still early, but it would have been hard for any organization to wait much longer on a player who is so limited defensively and doesn’t have an extensive history of production. Colabello racked up extremely negative defensive ratings, especially in the corner outfield, in his extensive action last year. And the indy ball find had never previously posted a major league season with an above-average batting line.
Needless to say, the suspension spares Toronto from making any tough calls on Colabello at the moment. But it also changes the calculus for the organization quite a bit moving forward. Colabello won’t be eligible to return until just before the trade deadline, and under the league rules will not be eligible for the postseason.
Jays GM Ross Atkins expressed support for Colabello in a statement on the team’s behalf, despite what he called an “unfortunate situation.” Atkins says that the organization is “confident he’ll return ready to compete and will have taken the steps necessary to ensure that this does not happen again.”
With the right-handed hitter out of the picture for at least eighty games, the Jays will presumably rely more heavily on Justin Smoak — a switch-hitter who is deployed mostly against righties, and could ultimately be paired with another option to face opposing southpaws. Jesus Montero presents an internal possibility, and veteran power hitter Michael Morse just entered the free agent market. Of course, the organization could instead look to fill out its roster with a different kind of player entirely. For now, of course, they are going with an eighth reliever, but outfielders such as Dalton Pompey, Darrell Ceciliani, and the just-signed Michael Bourn could add a different element if the team were to use Edwin Encarnacion more often at first and/or give Jose Bautista more time in the DH role.
Colabello had only just cracked two years of MLB service after entering the year with 1.157 years on his ledger. The Joint Drug Agreement provides that suspended players “shall receive Major League Service while suspended during any period he would have received such service but for his placement on the Restricted List as a result of violating the Program.” Colabello will, therefore, remain on track to reach Super Two status next winter if he returns to Toronto’s active roster after his ban is complete.