Fernando Tatis Jr. Suspended 80 Games Due to Performance-Enhancing Drug Violation – MLB Trade Rumors

Fernando Tatis Jr.  Suspended 80 Games Due to Performance-Enhancing Drug Violation - MLB Trade Rumors

That of Fernando Tatis Jr 2022 season is over. In a stunning development, Major League Baseball announced Friday afternoon that the Padres star had tested positive for Clostebol, a banned performance-enhancing substance. He was suspended for 80 games without pay, effective immediately. Tatis, who confirmed he has already dropped an appeal he initially filed, is going on the restricted list.

Tatis released a statement through the MLB Players Association (Twitter link):

I have been informed by Major League Baseball that a test sample I submitted tested positive for Clostebol, a banned substance. It turns out that I inadvertently took medication to treat ringworm that contained Clostebol. I should use the means available to ensure that no prohibited substance is in what I have taken. I failed to do that.

I want to apologize to (owner Peter Seidler), (president of baseball operations AJ Preller), the entire Padres organization, my teammates, Major League Baseball and fans everywhere for my mistake. I have no excuse for my mistake, and I would never do anything to cheat or disrespect this game that I love. … I am completely devastated. There is nowhere else in the world I would rather be than on the field competing with my teammates. … I look forward to rejoining my teammates on the field in 2023.

The priests released a shorter statement of their own in the news:

We were surprised and extremely disappointed to learn today that Fernando Tatis Jr. tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance in violation of Major League Baseball’s Joint Prevention and Treatment Program and subsequently received an 80-game suspension without pay. We fully support the Program and hope that Fernando will learn from this experience.

Preller confirmed to reporters (including Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune and Dennis Him of the Athletics) that the organization learned of the suspension this afternoon, about two hours before it became public. The Padres’ baseball chief was open about his frustration, suggesting that “for the last six or seven months, I think (trust) was something that we really couldn’t have.” This is presumably in reference to the motorcycle accident that broke Tatis’ wrist. Preller continued, “I think we’re hoping that from the offseason so far, that there will be some maturity. And obviously with today’s news, it’s more of a pattern and something that we have to dig into a little bit more. I’m sure he’s very disappointed, but at the end of the day, it’s one thing to say it. You have to start by showing it through your actions.

Tatis will go the entire 2022 season without appearing in a major league game. (Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets that he will also be banned from representing the Dominican Republic in next spring’s World Baseball Classic). The star shortstop suffered a fracture in his left wrist in an offseason motorcycle accident, an injury that was revealed when he reported to the team in Spring Training. He underwent surgery and was out of action for months. There was finally light at the end of the tunnel, with Tatis sent to Double-A on a rehab assignment last week. He played in four minor league games and was set to rejoin the big league club within a few weeks. That will no longer be the case.

The Padres have 48 more games on the regular season schedule. That will leave him in position to miss even the first 32 games of the 2023 season, although Tatis’ suspension would be reduced for any playoff games he misses (if the Padres make the postseason this year).

It’s a crushing blow to a San Diego team that enters play Friday night in possession of the National League’s final Wild Card spot. They are just a game clear of the Brewers, setting the stage for a tightly contested pennant race. If they want to reach the postseason, the Friars will have to do it without the elite midseason reinforcement they were counting on.

That does not mean that the priests are condemned. They’ve been without the two-time Silver Slugger winner all season, and yet they’re 12 games over .500 with a +40 run differential. The deadline success to add Juan Soto and Josh Bell weaves now bigger than ever. San Diego still has a formidable middle of the order anchored by Soto, Bell and Manny Machadowhile Jake Cronenworth and Jurickson Profar has every success at above-average levels.

There’s no way to replace a player who owns a .292/.369/.596 slash line through his first three big league seasons, but the Padres are in as good a position as a team can reasonably handle in Tatis’ absence. They got strong play from Ha-Seong Kim at shortstop in his second MLB season. The former KBO star is hitting .247/.324/.371 across 392 plate appearances, right around league average offense as measured by wRC+. Public metrics have pegged Kim as one of the sport’s best defensive shortstops, making him a more than adequate replacement for the rest of the season.

Perhaps the bigger roster shake-up is that San Diego now has little recourse to replace a pesky center fielder Trent Grisham. Tatis was slated to play both shortstop and center field on his rehab assignment, and he may well have gotten more time in the outfield down the stretch. While Kim has held down shortstop effectively all year, Grisham owns a .195/.292/.357 line over 411 trips to the plate. He continued as the primary center fielder, though Wil Myers got the nod the past three times the Friars faced a left-handed opponent. Skipper Bob Melvin figures to stick with at least a soft lineup for the stretch.

While the team will feel the strongest consequences this year, Tatis’ lack of availability in 2022 should be alarming for the organization in the long term. He is under contract for another 12 seasons after this one under the extension he signed in February 2021. That $340MM deal is the fourth largest in MLB history, and arguably none more important to the franchise’s long-term future .

That agreement is retroactive. Tatis’ lost wages during the suspension, while substantial, are not nearly as significant as they would have been had he tested positive a few years later. He will forfeit the remainder of this year’s $5MM salary (about $1.5MM) as well as about one month’s worth of next year’s $7MM salary. The extent of his salary loss depends on how many games he misses next season, which depends on how far in the playoffs the Friars get this year. He will likely miss about 20% of the schedule, which would translate to about $1.3MM in lost salary next year.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan first reported that Tatis failed a PED test and faced a suspension.

Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.

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