Yesterday saw the mainstream break of MLB’s punitive vision surrounding the Biogenesis PED fiasco, the lead actor in which is Ryan Braun who will supposedly be targeted for a 100-game suspension. As fantasy analysts, it is important to look at major events that re-order, or risk the re-order of the baseball landscape as opportunities. And, if you want to turn this headline into an opportunity, the earlier you attempt to act the better.
My recommendation to teams languishing at the bottom half of the standings: go buy Ryan Braun. Rarely does a “dice roll” with this level of stakes come around at a potentially highly discounted price.
You want my opinion on the overall story in a nutshell? If I was presented with 2:1 odds to take the bet that MLB doesn’t successfully suspend a single player for a single game when all is said and done, I’d take it. …I don’t think adding Ryan Braun to a fantasy team is really much of a risk, especially if you are currently a non-contender.
The story of the potential 100-game suspensions for marquee names like Braun and Alex Rodriguez will first attract a lot of moral grandstanding and rash pronouncements, but eventually cooler heads will prevail, and when they do, the panic level of Braun owners will likely get dialed back. Let’s think about this case rationally for a moment, so we can try to objectively project the extent and timing of the fantasy damage to ensue.
Let’s assume for the sake of argument that MLB does go ahead and issue suspensions. Well, we do not know when that will happen. Conventional wisdom, or crowd sourced speculation, suggests this won’t actually occur for a few weeks. The reason for this delay is most likely that MLB is continuing preparations for the subsequent appeal that will be filed by the players’ union. That appeal process itself is known to take months. So, even assuming for the sake of argument that the suspensions stick, it could very easily be a matter of months before they take effect; successful suspensions are likely to impact players in 2014 more than they are in 2013.
The realistic schedule of a successful suspension is a strong enough argument to largely disregard the noise if you are a Braun (or Jhonny Peralta, or Nelson Cruz, or Robinson Cano, etc.) owner. But, it’s worth further questioning the likelihood of a suspension sticking at all, especially for those in keeper leagues.
The penalties for PED use are clearly defined, as are the methods by which such use can be detected. In this case, MLB does not have a single positive test, and certainly not one conducted under the protocol of their (self-professed, world class) testing program. We know nothing about the timeline for the alleged violations that Anthony Bosch will present evidence to support, and it seems like these suspension threats amount to trumped up charges that represent a mixture of double jeopardy situations (Bartolo Colon, Yasmani Grandal, Melky Cabrera), and wishful second bites at the apple for big fish who have previously gotten away (Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun).
My intuition is that the likelihood of a player who has never been suspended previously receiving a 100-game suspension seems extremely low. Further, the likelihood of the suspensions not holding up to appeal and subsequently getting overturned seems quite substantial as well. We’ve seen how effective the attempted prosecutions of “dirty players” have been when they’ve relied on the evidence of would-be convicts turned informants in the criminal cases against Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds. At the end of the day, I’m more worried about MLB pulling some sort of illegitimate power play (knowing that MLB can ill-afford another embarrassing whiff in the PED hunt) than I am about the evidence that will be presented.
The points laid out above are a much more measured and nuanced take on this situation than fantasy owners will see on the back page of their local tabloid or hear from the screaming pundits on mainstream sports news outlets, and I’m certainly not the first or only voice of this perspective. I anticipate that it will be a few days before this kind of perspective pushes out the lowest common denominator hysteria. However, information travels fast and the window to nab these players amid their owners’ panic is small, so be proactive.
There is no guarantee that this situation plays out in the manner I’ve hypothesized. It’s certainly possible that the outcome is one that is much more detrimental to owners of Braun and the like. Ultimately, owners must decide if acquiring these players is a chance they are willing to take and is sensible given their individual situation. But, if I’m in your shoes, I’m rolling the dice. I’m also a Braun owner in one of my leagues, and I assume I’ll get offers, but I will approach them as if I’m getting 145+ games from my first rounder in 2013.