Indians outfielder Marlon Byrd was officially slapped with a 162-game suspension after testing positive for a performance enhancing substance, as Vince Grzegorek of Cleveland Scene first reported on Twitter. Byrd had previously been hit with a 50-game ban, meaning he was a second-time offender for purposes of the league’s more punitive current PED regime.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports noted via Twitter that Byrd chose not to appeal. The veteran has released a statement disclaiming fault, as has his attorney, both via Rosenthal (here and here). They suggest that a tainted supplement is to blame for the growth hormone secretagogue Ipamorelin that was found in Byrd’s system. Given his age and history, it’s fair to wonder whether this is the end of the line for the veteran, who has seen action in fifteen major league seasons.
Cleveland added the 38-year-old on a minor league deal to shore up an outfield that had several question marks — due, in part, to the PED suspension of presumptive center fielder Abraham Almonte. His own 80-game ban will finish up early next month.
Byrd had performed as hoped, posting a .270/.326/.452 slash with five home runs over 129 plate appearances. As usual, he’s done most of his damage against left-handed pitching. With his glovework in the corner outfield rating as at least average by measure of both UZR and DRS, and solid baserunning valuations added in, he’s been a sturdy contributor at the bargain rate of a $1MM annual salary.
Unfortunately for Cleveland, that wasn’t meant to last. With Almonte and Michael Brantley still out of action, the Indians are left with an outfield of Jose Ramirez, Rajai Davis, and Lonnie Chisenhall. All three have been rather productive this year, though it may be a lot to ask of that trio to make up an everyday unit.
The club has Michael Martinez on hand as a utility option, and seems likely to bring back Tyler Naquin to add another corner option. Naquin, 25, showed well earlier in the year, and both Joey Butler and Collin Cowgill provide depth on the 40-man roster.
Looking forward, the intriguing question is whether the loss of Byrd will add any motivation for a more dramatic move. Highly-rated prospects Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier are both raking at the Double-A level; while it’s unclear whether either would be considered in the near term, they could factor in down the line. Otherwise, it’s fair to wonder whether Cleveland will entertain an outside addition. The club can take its time assessing its needs and canvassing the market, but a significant strike can’t be ruled out with the division up for grabs.