MLB’s official account just sent out the following message on Twitter.
BREAKING: Giants OF Melky Cabrera suspended 50 games without pay after testing positive for Testosterone, a performance-enhancing substance.
— MLB (@MLB) August 15, 2012
Melky Cabrera‘s suspension begins immediately, and since the Giants only have 45 games remaining in their schedule, this effectively knocks him out for the remainder of the regular season and the NLDS, should the Giants qualify for the playoffs. Losing Cabrera in the midst of their pennant chase will obviously hamper those efforts.
Cabrera was in the midst of the best season of his career, hitting .346/.390/.516, and had accumulated +4.5 WAR in 501 plate appearances. Taking his bat out of the Giants line-up creates a significant offensive hole, and this news probably makes the Dodgers the favorites to win the NL West.
This will also have massive ramifications on Cabrera’s future, in all likelihood. He is eligible for free agency at the end of the season, as a guy heading towards his age 28 season who had put together two straight terrific seasons, he was likely in for a significant payday. This failed test will certainly cast a cloud of suspicion on Cabrera’s breakout performance from last year (which was caused by a significant jump in power), and teams will likely be very wary of giving a significant contract to a player coming off suspension for PEDs.
Rather than pointing to the contracts received by the likes of Torii Hunter and Aaron Rowand, teams will now be equating him to the likes of Jose Guillen and Manny Ramirez. If this list of PED suspensions on Wikipedia is accurate, then as far as I can tell, no player has ever signed a deal for more than two years after previously failing a drug test, and nearly every player on the list had to go year to year for the remainder of their career.
Most other players who have failed drug tests have either been at the end of their careers — and thus easily avoided — or have already been under contract. How Major League teams approach Cabrera’s free agency should be a fascinating story. He’s probably gone from looking at a 5+ year contract to hoping for a one-year “pillow contract” where he can attempt to get through 2013 without any failed drug tests and hope that he can sustain a high quality performance, and the list of teams who are willing to take the PR hit to bring in a guy coming off a failed PED list is probably not that large. Cabrera has instantly gone from being one of the prizes of the winter to being a guy who will probably not have many suitors.
This failed test may end up costing Cabrera in excess of $60 to $70 million this winter. Because of the timing of the suspension, this may be the highest cost any player has ever paid for failing a drug test.
Just to settle my curiosity, I’ve set up a poll (after the jump) to see how this news affects your willingness to employ Melky Cabrera on your own. If you were a Major League GM and Cabrera offered to play for you at whatever number you considered to be a reasonable price — whether that’s the league minimum or $5 million — would you sign him? Or do you simply now see Cabrera as a guy you wouldn’t want on your roster because of the bad PR and the belief that he’s going to take a big step backwards if he stops using testoserone?