Pirates outfielder Starling Marte has been suspended for 80 games due to a positive PED test, the league announced. Marte tested positive for Nandrolone, an anabolic steroid. As per Major League Baseball’s PED policy, Marte will receive the 80-game suspension assigned to first-time offenders, he won’t be paid during his suspension (which will cost Marte roughly $2.4MM of his $5MM salary for the season) and he’ll be ineligible for Pittsburgh’s postseason roster if the Bucs make the playoffs.
The shocking news leaves the Pirates (and MLB itself) without one of the game’s most well-rounded young stars. Marte hit .292/.349/.448 with 53 homers and 148 steals over 2273 PA from 2013-16, his first four full seasons in the big leagues, amassing 16.7 fWAR in that stretch. He made his first All-Star appearance last year and is a two-time Gold Glove winner for his outstanding left field defense. Marte displayed such excellent glovework that the Pirates moved him into the starting center field job this season, with longtime face of the franchise Andrew McCutchen shifting to right field and Gregory Polanco going from right to left field.
The Pirates clearly saw Marte as a long-term building block, signing him to a six-year, $31MM extension (with club options for 2020 and 2021) prior to the 2014 season. Beyond his remaining post-suspension dollars this season, Marte is slated to earn $17.5MM in 2018-19, with a $11.5MM salary/$2MM buyout on the 2020 club option and $12.5MM salary/$1MM buyout for 2021.
[updated Pirates depth chart at Roster Resource]
There’s no good way for the Pirates to truly replace such an important player, and their outfield depth is further limited by Polanco missing time recently due to a minor groin injury. The short-term answer would be to move McCutchen back to center, despite his declining glove, and giving more time to Adam Frazier, John Jaso, or even Josh Harrison in a corner outfield spot. The move with longer-term implications for the Pirates would be to promote Austin Meadows, one of the game’s best prospects. Meadows hasn’t hit well in Triple-A so far this season, however, and he has just 186 total PA at the Triple-A level. The Pirates might want to hold off on promoting the 21-year-old both until they’re sure he is ready, and of course service time considerations are also likely a factor for the small-market team.
Marte released the following statement (hat tip to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports) to fans and media:
“I have been informed that I have tested positive in one of the tests that are regularly done in my job. In this very difficult moment I apologize to my family, the Pittsburgh Pirates, my teammates, my fans, and baseball in general. Neglect and lack of knowledge have led me to this mistake with the high price to pay of being away from the field that I enjoy and love so much. With much embarrassment and helplessness, I ask for forgiveness for unintentionally disrespecting so many people who have trusted in my work and have supported me so much. I promise to learn the lesson that this ordeal has left me. God bless you.”
Pirates club president Frank Coonelly also made a public statement in regards to Marte’s suspension:
“The Pittsburgh Pirates fully support MLB’s Joint Drug Agreement, including the very tough penalties for violations of its prohibitions. We are disappointed that Starling put himself, his teammates and the organization in this position. We will continue to fight for the division title with the men who are here and will look forward to getting Starling back after the All-Star break.”
The Pirates have called up Jose Osuna to take Marte’s spot on the 25-man roster. Osuna, 24, is a first baseman/outfielder who is getting his first taste of the majors after eight years in Pittsburgh’s farm system. Baseball America ranks Osuna as the 26th-best prospect in the Pirates’ system and describes him as a good defensive first baseman but a below-average corner outfielder, so this could hint that Jaso or even Josh Bell could be getting some time in the corners help replace Marte.
Photo courtesy of Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports Images
And just like that, the pirates are out of contention
Probably were before that, but definitely now.
Austin Meadows, c’mon on down.
Marte was one of my favorite players on the Pirates. Now I’m going to have to find someone else
only for eight days tho. lol
Wow, I guess that’s why he sucked so far in 2017! He knew this was coming down! The Pirates have to be so disappointed in him!
Man I wonder what it is. Is it another Mondesi? Or is it an Almonte/Gordon?
Nope, nandralone isn’t used in medicine and can’t be had orally. He’s a cheater
It can be taken orally……doesn’t make a difference though. He either injected it or swallowed a pill
Could be in a topical gel form as well…. Hard to not know you’re taking something that is banned either way
Well either way it’s not a prescription steroid like Mondesi, and his “apology” definitely insinuated purposeful use.
How so? His apology used the words “with neglect and lack of knowledge”, how do you take that to mean he insinuated purposeful use.
You’re not suggesting we should believe the statements players make after a failed test, are you? Those statements are nearly identical and written by agents. They’re theater, not truth. It’s all part of the charade.
The only ppl that ever belive those statements are the home town fans.
Not saying that all, im simply countering the themichigans statement that he insinuated purposeful use. While he most likely is lying, nowhere in his statement did he imply that he even knew he took it, let alone used purposefully.
Does this speed up the meadows time line?
That’s what I was thinking..
No, he won’t be up till June
Meadows hit .214 in AAA last season. He’s hitting .162 in AAA so far this season. That isn’t major league ready
So do you go Angel Pagan or try to acquire a 1B and move Bell to OF?
they can always call up Jose Osuna to play 1st and move Bell to the Outfield
Or put Jaso in right and move mccutchen to center
Man that sucks I feel so bad for Pirates fans
So does make a Cutch trade way more likely but I can also see it making a trade unlikelier.
I think it makes it more likely. Pirates are probably better off writing this year off, and when meadows comes up next year, it might be an upgrade over mccutchen anyways. Better to look at 2018 and beyond when the Cubs have to start handing out arbitration raises to all of their young boras clients. However, as a Cubs fan, I’m hoping the Pirates still try to be competitive this year and trade for Quintana
As a Cubs fan I’m disappointed. The Pirates look like a contender and I’m a big McCutchen fan. Of course I still want the Cubs to beat them but not this way
Big shock! What a blow for the pirates and baseball in general.
The third place Pirates everyone… you can’t lose your 2 best position players and still be good
Whose your other position player?
Jung Ho Kang, I would imagine
There’s no way in Hell he’s one of the two!
Their top two hitters are Kang and Marte
who’s better than Kang? lol
I imagined Kang, just wanted to see.
Had high expectations for the guy tjis season
He meant Polanco
May I just say, Owned!
Nandrolone was the substance
Neanderthal was the player
Wow give the braves a win for that walk off he got
They can prorate us a win…
The Dumbness never ends
do players think they can get away with it? why do it I mean it’s a shame a talented kid like this cheats
They do get away with it. Maybe not an obvious PED like this one, but many others. The other players know it works and they know they can get away with it. Plus, the size of guaranteed contracts are so large that there’s easy incentive.
Poor Pirates fans…. what an idiot.
tear down coming now
Welcome to Pittsburgh, Austin Meadows.
sox could trade melky or frazier right now. im sure they can be had for a small package
Love to see a small package put together for Frazier. Would move one of him or freese to 1st and bell to RF. Less then idea but not a bad solution.
For Pirates sake would think you have better options than Frazier or Melky, but sure WSox would be content to salary dump either and settle for a lottery ticket prospect
They wouldn’t bring back anything like that.
This is really unexpected.
Think Pittsburgh would be interested in Austin Jackson?
Dude, the tribe doesn’t have enough CF depth to begin with. We’re using Lonnie Godforsaken Chisenhall as a CF right now. A former third baseman.
Sure we have Zimmer in the wings, but the way everybody is acting like he’s the solution is annoying, especially since we want to save his service time.. And Naquin should never have been in center to begin with.
Exactly, plus Jackson is barely a waiver wire pickup and nothing you’d get anything of value in return for trade. Teams would rather sign a free agent like Pagan than trade for Jackson.
WOW, was shocked by this. I can somewhat understand fringe players for trying to cheat (although I certainly do NOT condone it in any way, shape or form), but I am shocked that a big name player would try to get away with it in this age of testing.
Really? Braun, A-Rod, Palmiero, Pettite, Ramirez….the list goes on of big names that think they can beat the system. I understand your point, but at this point it shouldn’t ever be a surprise.
kmuel510, with the exception of Braun none of the names you listed were users before the current testing and suspension system was set up. I will say though that the concept of cheating is something of a foreign subject to me that I’m not well versed in it’s benefits compared to the penalties.
It takes a lifetime to build an honorable reputation, but only a split second to destroy it.
Just since 2011 or so, you’ve seen Braun, Bartolo Colon, Jhonny Peralta, Nelson Cruz, A-Rod, Dee Gordon, Melky Cabrera all suspended for 80 games for PED usage. At one time or another, all of those players were stars. Peralta has over 1750 H, 200 HR and 28 WAR as a primarily shortstop, Melky Cabrera (shockingly, to me) has over 1600 career H, Braun is an MVP, Cruz has almost 300 HR, including three straight 40-HR seasons, Bartolo was a prior Cy Young winner, and Gordon won a batting title and had JUST gotten the massive financial security that made that type of risk unnecessary.
Players are gonna use. It’s a shame, but a fact.
Dookie Howser, MD
I forgot about Bartolo.
I’m always confused on the suspensions. Is the first 80 games? I thought it was 50? Does this mean it’s his second failing test?
PEDS are always 80 games for first timers. The royals prospect last year (forgive me I can’t remember his name) was an exception because it was truly a mistake.
Raul A. Mondesi was the Royal suspended for a reduced 50 games on appeal after proving he bought an OTC medicine in the DR.
It’s 80, 162, lifetime for PEDs. It used to be 50 games then 100 games until 2014-ish. There is also a 50 game suspension for recreational drugs, I believe as a 2nd offense.
It was changed a couple years ago.
I don’t understand why players do this. They know they are regularly tested, so they have to know they will get caught. Idiotic and a huge disappointment to the fan base.
Just Another Fan
Knew this guy was on something just by how many CS’s he constantly piles up year after year – no one can get caught that much and think they’re actually fast unless they’re on something!
From 2014-2016 he had 107 SB and 33 CS. That’s pretty good….
Well Billy Hamilton got caught 23 times (led the league), but stole 56 bases, in 2014 and is widely regarded as one of the fastest players in the league…so on your logic he’s on PEDs right?
I’m pretty sure it’s a joke
Just Another Fan
McGlennandjuice, youre my only friend!
He also tested positive for blow, typical
Dookie Howser, MD
Where did you see that?
Just Another Fan
liar liar pants on fire!
“Neglect and lack of knowledge”? Taking Nandrolone is not due to either of these things. It’s not like it’s a minor ingredient in an over-the-counter supplement, it’s a freakin’ anabolic steroid.
Weak but typical PR stuff.
If he was seeing a Dominican doctor who said there was a totally legal thing he could take to get over his injuries that he had at the end of last season and he did not question it. That is the only way I can see him being able to use that line. Very doubtful though,.
Dookie Howser, MD
Even then….I feel like any MLB club has to want their players to only see the team doctors at this point.
Exactly. He shouldn’t be seeing a DR doctor to help with his injuries anyway, full stop.
I trust you, Dr. Howser
Maybe Big Papi was handing out goodie bags to the DR WBC team.
It’s a big deal in the US, not in other countries where these things are allowed to be included and sold in anything. Like, say, the DR.
I’m not saying I believe him (or anyone else) that it was an accident… but being Dominican myself I know it’s definitely possible.
Dookie Howser, MD
Its actually light years better than most. Guy apologies, doesn’t put the blame on anybody but himself, and doesn’t try to claim that the test was wrong.. That counts for something
All this tells me is that we as a society are conditioned to accept less than par. Maybe we’ve been listening to politicians for too long?
God forbid someone owns up and just says yeah, I took it – without all the garbage to try and lessen the blow.
Dookie Howser, MD
I guess there is no pleasing some people. He said he took it. He apologizes to his family, fans, and teammates. He says he is embarrassed by his mistake. He promises to learn and make himself better.
He’s under contract for, like, 5 more years. Having a big year this year isn’t going to make much difference when he goes for a new deal in 6 years. It’s hard to argue he was doing this for selfish reasons.
As stupid and wrong as it was, he was doing it to help the team.
That’s what everyone says when they get caught, Dookie. Promising to learn and make himself better and apologizing to his team, fans etc is stock standard PR comms.
I take issue with the guy citing lack of knowledge as a contributing factor, when it sure as hell wasn’t. He took an anabolic steroid, he damn sure knew what he was doing and what he was taking.
The only defensible claim is that he had a lack of knowledge regarding the testing process and believed he wouldn’t get caught.
His statement might as well be a template in MS Word.
you can’t assume that Marte knew that what he was taking was against the rules
That’s ridiculous, for all you know he’s been doing it forever and just now got caught. He did it for himself!
He popped for Nandrolone – he knew it was against the rules. A. They have limitless education sessions and resources on this, B. He’s a pro ball player, they know what they are taking, and C. It’s Nandrolone – possibly the most cliche, well known mass building steroid that also cuts. It’s effectively oxygen in the body-building world.
Shooting Nandro is like doing lines of coke – you know what you’re doing, it ain’t accidental and there is no ignorance to fall back on.
Anyone who thinks for a second he’s unwittingly made a mistake is absolutely blind.
Not when it’s scripted by the agent
This shouldn’t surprise anyone. I’ll bet a ton of MLB players are still taking some sort of PEDs, many getting away with it by timing the tests.
Probably Cespedes..look at how his numbers jumped when it was FA time!
His best year was his first year so that gets rid of that logic. And its incredibly reckless and unfair to accuse someone of PED use with no evidence
How do you figure? Looking at his career his power numbers climbed when he got to the Mets which of course was his walk year. Then look at his numbers in 2016..which was his opt out year. Where there’s smoke.
His power numbers were good in Detroit. Also, Cespedes’ power jump *perfectly* lines up with the overall league-wide HR spike. Would it surprise me if Yo used? Absolutely not. But leaguewide HR rate skyrocketed in late Summer ’15, right when Cespedes’ power numbers took their latest jump. And his power was always there – did you /watch/ his HR derby spectacles?
The numbers on the other teams was nothing like this and the Derby kinda fits. Writers and experts are trying to figure why power numbers have been climbing and I’ve read where it wouldn’t surprise anyone if it was because of PED’s. This seems to be a huge problem with the Latin players..and yes I remember Gordon.
Playing in Detroit, with Miggy, Victor, and JD, was a learning experience for Cespedes. Those guys mentor. Not an accident that the batting average improved.
Yes, wouldn’t surprise me if we see a similar story about Cespedes sometime soon.
I highly doubt it, it would be pointless to point fingers at players who have nothing to do with this
I was almost gonna trade for him in fantasy baseball this past weekend. Thank god I didn’t.
While the prevalence of PEDS has probably declined, it’s clearly not completely out of baseball. You do wonder, if players take them just for economic reasons, what Marte was thinking. He’s under team control to 2020. No upside for him, except pride.
Oh, No! We suck again!!!! The water boy is a cheata!
Ah, Scott Paulson. Love it
Nandrolone could only be injected into the body
Really screwed over his teammates and fans.
And then he’ll come back. All will be ok and he’ll never understand that if any of us did this, we lose our job.
MLB needs to make this one year on all first offenses and kicked out of the league for any after that.
Agreed, and/or teams need to be able to get out of contracts if a player is caught.
Dookie Howser, MD
Pirates would not use this to try to get out of his contract. Still a steal.
Speaking of PED’s, can we talk about Eric Thames?
he’s not on any, he’s talented, and if you’ve seen him before he went to korea and him in Korea you’d know he’s just a talented baseball player
Evidence? You sell him something? Help him use it? If not, get out of here
My absolute favorite player to watch in baseball. This explains why he can fire laser beams from the OF to home plate, though.
I guess he just wanted to be a Hall of Famer and saw the massive increase in votes for Bonds and Clemens and decided no one really cared.
Both Starling and the people who preen about PED’s while voting for cheaters can take a long walk…
Oh how loyalty is such a fragile thing.
Oh look, it’s the biggest yinzer who ever yinzed. Has Madden told you what to think yet, Lemming Parrot?
I’m usually ahead of the madden curve. Actually he feels bad for you all. I think it’s freaking funny as hell.
Can you explain your joy in any way that doesn’t expose yourself as a miserable tool?
Marte has always had a cannon. No way he would of been able to hide his use all of these years. Just a bonehead move on his part. Hopefully he gets past this and helps us compete next season.
I feel bad for the Pirates. They were a couple pieces away and now went backwards. Maybe a rebuild is what they need but the fans deserve better.
They are one of the small budget teams I always root for. This does crush them. Could be an interesting trade deadline. So many key players are FA’s, and unforeseen several teams could be sellers (Rangers, Blue Jays, Pirates, etc…)
Thoughts and prayers.
And syringes and a tourniquet!
As my fantasy team gently weeps.
i just.. so disappointed.
Well I was first place in my fantasy league. …
Apparently Adam Frazier will be receiving time in a corner OF slot, according to Fangraphs’ Travis Sawchik. That leaves either Cutch or Polanco to fill in in Center. Hrm.
Spare us all the sudden sorrow, Starling, you’re most upset about being caught. Disappointing. I thought better of Marte.
How is it every apology by these players manages to say both “I’m sorry” and “Well it’s not really my fault.”
everytime I read about a player testing positive and suspended, seems like the majority are Latin ballplayers…. language barrier? are they being duped by someone else? seems strange.
MLB does this to itself spending so much in these poor countries vs the US. Check the Doc with Harold Reynolds about the lack of black US born players in the league and please don’t give me the other sports excuse. Spend in the US like they do in those countries and things might change..per Adam Jones and Dave Winfield in various interviews. The Latin countries skim from those kids and it’s been going on forever so when these players cheat it might be because they’re used to being cheated.
Because the American players don’t have enough of an advantage? Sheesh most of them get to college without having to pay a dime. If anything, they should invest more in Latin America so there’s less of guys like Castillo and olivera
Most of them do not get to college without paying a dime. “There are approximately 299 NCAA Division I baseball programs with each team being allowed to offer a maximum of (11.7) scholarships. Under NCAA rules, these 11.7 scholarships can be divided between a maximum of 27 players, with all players on athletic scholarship having to receive a minimum of a 25% scholarship.”
This has been cited as one of the reasons that it’s hard to get people to commit to baseball.
chesteraarthur thank you very much for such an insightful post. It’s people like this that just don’t get it or post just to post. NCAA baseball is nothing close to say basketball or football scholarships as you pointed out. If he would have saw the doc hosted by Reynolds one of the players Marcus Strohman chimed in on this along with the others. Those players said why and also noted the lack of black fans attending games “Adam Jones”.
Watch the documentary and use Google..SHEESH!
speculation on my part but I bet is human trafficking. “scout” sees a kid with some talent, takes him to a baseball “academy” jucies him up sells him to the highest MLB bidder who think the guy is 18 years old but really 28. scout gets paid, player gets paid, team gets a good player cheap at least until they get caught and MLB profits.. every one except those honest people who “do it right” benefit.
It wouldn’t surprise me if they didn’t know they where being juiced.. at least when they’re younger
Good job numb nuts
I wonder if somebody has ever put something in somebody’s drink or food in order to help them finally get their chance of being in the majors I’m sure it’s going to happen at some point
Well I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure Marte is already established as a star. But I get what your saying but I see it the other way. I could see people putting stuff in so that the player gets in trouble like this and they get a chance.
Jeez. A guy just trys to heal up his corneas, and all of a sudden he’s public enemy #1!