The Pittsburgh Pirates were dealt a massive blow on Tuesday afternoon, when it was announced that outfielder Starling Marte had failed a PED test, earning himself an 80-game suspension.
Pirates OF Starling Marte suspended 80 games without pay after testing positive for Nandrolone, a performance-enhancing substance.
— MLB (@MLB) April 18, 2017
Pirates president Frank Coonelly released a statement about the failed test.
Statement from Pirates President Frank Coonelly. pic.twitter.com/c6APCxtrcb
— Pirates (@Pirates) April 18, 2017
Marte also released a 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 28-year old Marte is in the fourth year of a six-year $31 million contract extension, and is coming off a 2016 season during which he made his first career All-Star team and won his second straight Gold Glove. He’s off to a bit of a rough start in 2017, hitting .241/.288/.370 with two homers and two stolen bases.
The 80-game suspension will roll through the rest of the first half and just through the All-Star Break, ending on July 17th (barring rainouts) against the Brewers at PNC Park.
This places the Pirates in a delicate situation. They’re already without infielder Jung-ho Kang, who is stuck in South Korea after his visa was denied this offseason. Kang won’t have an appeals hearing in his native country until the end of next month. Fellow Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco has missed time this season with a groin injury. Andrew McCutchen was moved from his customary center field to right field in order to allow Marte to play center, and it’s a reasonable to assume he’ll be shifted back.
Marte’s suspension will also presumably open the door for 21-year old top prospect Austin Meadows, but he’s off to a .162/.220/.270 start over ten games at AAA this season, following a season where he hit .266/.333/.536 over 87 games between AA, AAA, and a rehab stint in short-A.
This is a tough blow not only for the Pirates, but also for baseball. Marte is one of the league’s most exciting players, and the game is simply more entertaining when he’s on the field. Pittsburgh, off to a 6-7 start to the season, will be hard-pressed to make a playoff run without Marte, and his suspension could lead to some of this team’s top assets (like perhaps McCutchen) being dealt before the trade deadline this summer.