Free-agent roundtable: How will suspensions affect Cruz, Peralta?

By Eye on Baseball staff

Will the market punish Nelson Cruz and Jhonny Peralta for their suspensions? (USATSI)
Will the market punish Nelson Cruz and Jhonny Peralta for their suspensions? (USATSI)

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As we head toward free agency, one of the more intriguing storylines is going to be how the Biogenesis scandal affects those involved. Specifically, this time around, Nelson Cruz and Jhonny Peralta are both free agents.

Last season, Melky Cabrera was suspended for 50 games for failing a drug test and then had to settle for a two-year, $16 million deal. Had he not failed said test, he may have made around $50 million more and certainly would have gotten a longer deal, given the type of numbers he was putting up in pitcher-friendly AT&T Park.

Is that a harbinger of things to come, at least as far as Cruz and Peralta are concerned?

Matt Snyder: For me, it's not. I think the Melky situation was different because he disgraced himself and his team even further by trying to create a fake website and getting caught. Cruz and Peralta both declined to appeal -- there are varying stories as to why, obviously, but the bottom line is neither appealed -- and accepted their punishments. To many, that appears an admission of guilt along with some contrition, thus, the goods aren't nearly as damaged as in the case of Cabrera.

I do think Cruz and Peralta and going to have to settle for less money than if they wouldn't have been caught up in the scandal, I just don't think it's going to be as drastic as the Cabrera situation. At least Cruz -- and probably Peralta, too -- will sign better deals than Cabrera did.

Dayn Perry: I think, in terms of adding talent to the roster, teams care about past PED use only to the extent that it raises doubts about a player's established level of performance and how that projects going forward. If a team believes that the "clean" version of the player isn't likely to produce in a manner in keeping with past performance, then they'll likely have little interest (that would require a lot of guesswork and blind speculation on the part of the team, of course). There's no "moral" component involved, save for "soft" PR interests.

There are, of course, outliers. Barry Bonds was in essence blackballed at the end of his career because he was the focus of so many inquiries and probes. Melky Cabrera's circumstances, as pointed out, were similarly extreme. The reality is that if teams think PED-linked players will help them and return value on the dollar, they'll sign them. Period. Maybe they'll leverage any PED taint in order to get a better deal from their perspective, but from a business standpoint, they don't care very much. You're not going to see Bonds-like "scarlet letter" treatment again unless, say, A-Rod decides to play beyond his Yankee contract.

Snyder: Agree with all that, but I do wanna add that worries over a repeat violation and a 100-game suspension have to factor in.

Mike Axisa: I don't think the Melky comparison works well. Both Peralta and Cruz have long track records; these guys have been around a while and there was no sudden spike in performance. Cabrera was mediocre for most of his career before breaking out with the Royals and blowing up with the Giants. There was much more reason to be skeptical of Cabrera. That said, I do think the Biogenesis stuff will take a bite out of Cruz's and Peralta's eventual contracts, but not much because both players have something going for them: Cruz has hard-to-find righty power and Peralta's a shortstop. Neither of those things is plentiful these days.

Perry: Also, in terms of any kind of "fan blowback," I find that by and large fans care only about the PED users on otherteams. Guys with checkered pasts on their favored teams tend to get a pass. That's not any kind of earth-shattering observation -- and I'm speaking in general terms -- but that serves to mute whatever concerns front offices might have about bringing in a player who's violated the Joing Drug Agreement in the past. They know they're not going to be faced with ticket-holder boycotts or anything like that.

Axisa: It's important to remember that teams are flush with cash right now -- all 30 clubs are getting an extra $25 million a year starting in 2014 thanks to the new national television contracts -- and there aren't many places to spend it. The draft and international free agency are capped, plus free agency isn't what it used to be because the best players are signing long-term extensions. Cruz and Peralta are two of the best players available this winter and a club that thinks it's a corner outfielder or middle infielder away from going to playoffs or winning the division is going to weight the risk versus the reward and ultimately take the plunge. The Biogenesis stuff is a negative, but ultimately is it any more of a concern than, say, Cruz's history of hamstring problems?

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