According to a report by the Miami New Times, the New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez, Washington Nationals' Gio Gonzalez and Texas Rangers' Nelson Cruz have all been linked to an anti-aging clinic in Miami that allegedly distributed performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), including HGH. Melky Cabrera, Bartolo Colon, and Yasmani Grandal, who have all already been suspended by MLB for PED use, were also linked to the clinic.
Records obtained by the Miami New Times suggest that Rodriguez received HGH as recently as a year ago, though he denies the allegations. This news comes about three years after Rodriguez’s emotional confession to steroid use during his tenure with the Texas Rangers.
From a fantasy perspective, Rodriguez was already a declining and damaged asset, projected to be sidelined for the next six months following hip surgery. Now, the threat of a suspension is very real as MLB begins its investigation into this report. The possibility of losing an additional 50 games is an important development for the New York Yankees and fantasy baseball owners.
If A-Rod does get hit with a suspension, then his 2013 fantasy value falls close to zero. He would be virtually undraftable, and it wouldn't be worth carrying his dead weight throughout a suspension. If a 50-game ban is looming, fantasy owners could probably look at a mid-August return as the best-case scenario. Even then, nobody knows how effective he would be. Expect to see much more of Kevin Youkilis at the hot corner for the Yankees.
Of more immediate consequence to fantasy owners are the fates of Gonzalez and Cruz.
Gonzalez, the biggest name from a fantasy standpoint, posted career bests in wins, strikeouts, ERA, WHIP and opponents' batting average during his first season with the Washington Nationals. That led to a third-place finish in the NL Cy Young award voting. Normally, he would head into the 2013 season as a fantasy ace, but a possible suspension hurts that status. He would still be worthy of a draft-and-stash in most leagues, but a suspension would mean missing roughly two months or 10-12 starts. For what it's worth, Gonzalez has also denied any relationship with the Miami clinic or ever using PEDs.
Cruz has seen his production decline the past couple seasons, but fantasy owners are always hoping for that power/speed talent to break out. Now with the threat of a suspension on top of spotty production and annual injury concerns, Cruz is close to becoming no more than a late-round flier.
Meanwhile, fantasy owners will be looking to see how Jurickson Profar profits from a potential Cruz suspension, but the player who may stand to gain the most could be fellow prospect Leonys Martin. The raw-but-talented Martin is unlikely to make a big power impact, but he has 20-steal potential given everyday playing time.
Fantasy owners will need to keep a close eye on this developing story and make the necessary adjustments to their preseason rankings. We're not adjusting projections for Rodriguez, Gonzalez and Cruz just yet until we hear more about potential punishments. However, it's not a good sign that this trio is being associated with already suspended players such as Cabrera, Colon and Grandal. Stay tuned.