Major League Baseball announced this afternoon that Athletics outfielder Ramón Laureano has been suspended for eighty games without pay after testing positive for Nandrolone, a banned performance-enhancing substance. He’ll miss the remainder of the 2021 season.
Laureano released a statement via the MLB Players Association:
“I would never knowingly ingest any banned substance and put the game that I’ve loved all my life at risk. When I found out that I tested positive for Nandrolone, I was shocked. I take great care of my body and have an extremely regimented diet. Based on the minuscule amount that was briefly in my body, I’ve learned that it is likely that it was contamination of something I ingested. … I’d like to apologize for the distraction that this might cause my teammates, Billy Beane, David Forst, and the entire Oakland organization, community, and fan base. I am devastated. Anyone who truly knows me as a person knows how much I love the game and that I would never intentionally do something like this.”
It’s a devastating blow for the A’s, who trail the Astros by four games in the AL West. Oakland currently holds a 1.5 game lead over the Yankees for the American League’s final playoff spot, with the Blue Jays and Mariners also nipping at their heels. The A’s will need to hold onto their position in the standings (and make a potential postseason push) without one of their top players.
Laureano has been an average or better hitter in all four of his big league seasons. The 27-year-old has a quality .246/.317/.443 line (114 wRC+) across 378 plate appearances this season. Oakland’s starting center fielder all season, he’d recently kicked over to right field to accommodate trade deadline acquisition Starling Marte.
The A’s acquiring Marte from the Marlins looms particularly large now. (It’s not clear whether the Oakland front office was aware of Laureano’s positive test at the time, although today’s suspension announcement presumably comes after Laureano had exhausted the appeals process). Marte will continue to get everyday run in center, but the corner outfield is now a major question mark. The A’s have given a decent amount of corner outfield playing time to each of Mark Canha, Seth Brown, Stephen Piscotty, Tony Kemp and Chad Pinder (currently on the injured list with a hamstring strain) this season. Canha will have one corner outfield spot locked down on a nightly basis, but it seems Oakland will have to mix and match in the other spot — as they had to do before acquiring Marte in the first place.
More to come.