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Cleveland Indians centerfielder Abraham Almonte's season will be starting a little later than planned, as he's been suspended for 80 games after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. Almonte tested positive for Boldenone, which is a real drug despite having a ridiculous, made-up sounding name. Almonte hasn't even been with Cleveland for 80 games yet -- he arrived from San Diego via trade in 2015 in exchange for reliever Mark Rzepczynski, and appeared in 51 games for the Tribe. Cleveland's outfield was already in questionable shape with left fielder Michael Brantley out until April or May recuperating from shoulder surgery, so this latest development almost literally adds insult to injury.
What will Cleveland do in the outfield until Almonte and Brantley get back? They already have Rajai Davis standing in for Brantley in left, and he'll join former third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall for his first full season in right field. They got on the ball immediately and signed Will Venable to a minor league contract before the Almonte news broke publicly. (A move that made a lot more sense once everyone knew about the suspension.) The free agent market has more to offer than just Venable, though. They could sign Austin Jackson, a center fielder by trade. Internally, their options aren't great. But Let's Go Tribe has their eye on Tyler Naquin as someone who could take advantage of this unpleasant situation. With some solid play they can turn it into an opportunity to spend more time with the Indians instead of their Triple-A affiliate.
Almonte's suspension is just the second major league PED suspension of the year. The first was Jenrry Mejia, who received a lifetime ban just a few weeks ago after his third positive test. But Mejia's suspension isn't affecting the Mets much anymore. Mejia sat out the first 80 games of the 2015 season for a positive PED test, and was banned a second time in July. The Mets had no choice but to find replacements not just once, but twice, and now Mejia's now permanent absence barely even registers for his former team. Cleveland is going to miss Almonte far more than the Mets currently miss Mejia. With two-thirds of their regular outfield out of commission for the time being, Cleveland's immediate future isn't as bright as it was yesterday. Yesterday, Fangraphs still had them projected to win the AL Central by three games in a very tight division race. That's still true today, but with a margin that thin and less-than-inspiring fill-ins, this could give all four remaining AL Central teams a chance to get the jump on the projected division winners.
- A Philadelphia columnist wrote an open letter to Ryan Howard asking him to retire, but maybe Howard's not the one who should call it quits.
- Speaking of 2008 Phillies who are actually former, outfielder Shane "SHANF" Victorino finally has found a new home with the Cubs on a minor league deal.
- Though it was probably his agent who did it, David Price didn't personally ask for an opt-out clause in his contract with the Red Sox. Could that mean he's open to sticking around after his opt-out year?
- Ervin Santana says that the new pitcher safety helmets have vision issues that make it difficult to actually pitch, so the designers might want to head back to the drawing board.
- Yasiel Puig wants to have fun and buy a helicopter to take him to the stadium every day, but the FAA are big lame squares and made the Dodgers tell him that was against the law.
- The world will sadly be deprived of Chris Sale's pitching arm (as well as the rest of him) until March 19, but his Cactus League debut is being delayed for his own good.
- The Braves' TV deal with Liberty Media doesn't end for 11 more years, but both sides are already looking forward to negotiating a new one that doesn't suck.
- John Axford has once again graced the universe with his Oscar picks. He has an impressive track record, so ignore them at your own risk.