The Biogenesis scandal overshadowed baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline Wednesday like rain clouds hanging over a stadium during a summer afternoon game.
During an unexpectedly quiet final 24 hours before the 4 p.m. (EDT) deadline, the Boston Red Sox landed the biggest prize, Chicago White Sox starter Jake Peavy, in a three-way transaction in which 23-year-old Boston shortstop Jose Iglesias joined the Detroit Tigers.
Tigers general manager David Dombrowski acknowledged his team needed insurance against veteran shortstop Jhonny Peralta being suspended for obtaining performance-enhancing drugs from the now-closed Biogenesis anti-aging clinic in Florida.
“If it were a 15-day thing, like a typical injury, I think we could have comfortably dealt with it with the players we already have,” Dombrowski said Wednesday. “But when you start to talk about 50 days [suspension] and a possible playoff run, we feel better going ahead with Jose.”
Similarly, the Texas Rangers went shopping for a power-hitting outfielder in case right fielder Nelson Cruz receives a suspension. Texas spoke to the Toronto Blue Jays about Jose Bautista, sources say.
Bautista, hitting .254 with 21 doubles, 25 homers and 66 RBIs, is signed through 2015.
“I don’t think anybody’s comfortable losing a significant part of your club, but it’s out of our control,” Rangers GM Jon Daniels said. “We explored some deal like that. They just didn’t come to a head. It wasn’t for lack of interest or lack of effort. It was more lack of supply and lack of fit, really.”
New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli, Seattle Mariners catcher Jesus Montero and Padres infielder Everth Cabrera have also been linked to Biogenesis by documents first published by the Miami New Times. The documents, supported by testimony from clinic owner Anthony Bosch, have formed the basis of a MLB investigation into the activities of around 20 players.
Rodriguez refused to speak with media in Florida on Wednesday.
And speculation surfaced that baseball may seek a lifetime ban for the 38-year-old, three-time American League most valuable player.
Last Monday, his lawyer pledged publicly to appeal any disciplinary action, and hours later, a report emerged commissioner Bud Selig would be prepared to circumvent the joint drug agreement between the league and the union by invoking a best interests of baseball clause in the collective agreement. The clause enables the commissioner to take action to preserve “the integrity of, or the maintenance of public confidence, in the game of baseball.”
MLB would like to announce all the suspensions at once in order to be done with the matter, and the commissioner may be bluffing in order to leverage a settlement from Rodriguez. Rather than cede the legal territory, the union would likely question whether the clause pertains strictly to gambling, or gives the commissioner broad, sweeping power.
The suspensions, which had been expected to be announced as soon as Thursday, but may be on hold until the weekend, are certain to affect pennant races one way or another by withdrawing key players from action. It’s expected that 14 players will be disciplined, The Associated Press reported Wednesday night.
MLB executive vice-president Rob Manfred presented findings and proposed length of suspensions to the players’ union last Tuesday, and the commissioner’s office was reportedly attempting to cut deals with the individuals thereafter. The players have the right to appeal to MLB arbitrator Fredric Horowitz.
Peralta is batting .307 with 10 homers and 53 RBIs.
“He’s very important to this team,” Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander said. “He’s obviously had an all-star-calibre season, and he’s gone out there and played just about every game at shortstop. You lose a guy like that, that’s tough.”
Peavy is 8-4 with a 4.28 earned-run average in 13 starts this season. The 2007 National League Cy Young Award winner, considered the best starting pitcher on the trade market, gives the Red Sox a much-needed boost in the rotation with right-hander Clay Buchholz (shoulder) on the disabled list.
“If there’s one thing we wanted to do, if we could pull it off, is to add a starting pitcher as we look at the next two months,” Boston GM Ben Cherington said.
In the Peavy deal, the Red Sox also got reliever Brayan Villarreal from the Tigers. They shipped Iglesias to Detroit and three minor-leaguers to the White Sox. Chicago also received prized Detroit outfield prospect Avisail Garcia, 22.
With Boston making its move in the AL East, the third-place Baltimore Orioles countered at the 11th hour Wednesday, by picking up right-hander Bud Norris (6-9, 3.93 ERA) from the Houston Astros.
Both Boston and the Yankees were in the running for veteran infielder Michael Young, but could not get a deal done with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Also Wednesday, the Arizona Diamondbacks sent starter Ian Kennedy to the San Diego Padres for a package including lefty reliever Joe Thatcher.
With files from Jeff Blair, The Associated Press