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Starling Marte suspended 80 games for PED use

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Atlanta Braves v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

In a surprising and baffling bit of news, the league has announced Starling Marte has been suspended 80 games for testing positive for Nandrolone, a steroid. Marte released the following statement:

I have been informed that I have tested positive in one of the tests that are regularly done in my job. In this very difficult moment I apologize to my family, the Pittsburgh Pirates, my teammates, my fans, and baseball in general. Neglect and lack of knowledge have led me to this mistake with the high price to pay of being away from the field that I enjoy and love so much. With much embarrassment and helplessness, I ask for forgiveness for unintentionally disrespecting so many people who have trusted in my work and have supported me so much. I promise to learn the lesson that this ordeal has left me. God bless you.

The Pirates, meanwhile, released a statement of their own:

The Pittsburgh Pirates fully support MLB’s Joint Drug Agreement, including the very tough penalties for violations of its prohibitions. We are disappointed that Starling put himself, his teammates and the organization in this position. We will continue to ght for the division title with the men who are here and will look forward to getting Starling back after the All-Star break.

This news ... makes no sense. Marte was signed to a long-term deal that guaranteed him tens of millions of dollars no matter what, except in situations like this. (He won’t be paid during the suspension.) He should have had very little financial motivation to take steroids at this point in his career.

The Pirates were already short Jung Ho Kang, who has problems of his own. Now they’ll have to continue without yet another of their top position players for half the season. Their plans for center field aren’t clear; one possibility is that they move Andrew McCutchen back to the position or put Gregory Polanco there, then move Josh Bell back to the outfield while John Jaso plays first. Angel Pagan is still available as a free agent. They could also promote Austin Meadows somewhat earlier than anticipated, although it’s hard to imagine them doing so before the likely Super Two threshold passes in June. Adam Frazier will also likely to continue to receive time in the outfield.

In any case, the loss of Marte puts a significant dent in the Pirates’ ability to compete this season, and the Bucs’ inability to stay out of trouble is disheartening.