The Athletics have announced that outfielder Ramon Laureano has been reinstated from the restricted list after completing his 80-game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug. To make room on the active roster, Stephen Piscotti has been placed on the 10-day injured list with a left calf strain. To create room on the 40-man roster, right-handed pitcher Jorge Juan was designated for assignment.
After debuting in 2018, Laureano was in the midst of a fourth consecutive season of quality production when he was served his suspension in August of last year. He missed the remainder of that season and the first month of this one due to a positive test for Nandrolone, a banned performance-enhancing substance.
That put Laureano’s career on pause, with him sitting on a career batting line of .263/.335/.465. That amounts to a wRC + of 118 and, combined with his speed and excellent defense, has allowed him to produce 8.9 fWAR over 313 career games. He will now be able to get back into action and try to pick up where he left off as an all-around contributor.
Players who violate the MLB – MLBPA Joint Drug Agreement are placed on the restricted list and do not receive MLB service time for the duration of their suspension. That means Laureano has been sitting on three years and 14 days of service time since receiving his suspension in August of last year. Players are credited for a full year of service for spending 172 days on an MLB roster or injured list, meaning Laureano would need 158 days to reach the four-year mark by the end of this campaign. Oakland’s final game of the season is on October 5, which is 150 days from now. That means Laureano’s suspension will lead to his free agency being delayed by a year, until after the 2025 campaign.
A lot has changed for the organization during the span of the suspension. When it was first handed down, the A’s were in the midst of a playoff race. They eventually came up just short and then went into the offseason determined to cut payroll. Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Chris Bassitt and Sean Manaea were all sit away in trades for younger and cheaper players. Whether you want to call it a rebuild or a retool or something else, the club is using 2022 as a year to evaluate some of these younger players and determine the next steps forward. They have a 10-17 record so far on the campaign.
Laureano’s status makes him something of an in-between player. The fact that he can be kept around for this season and then three more means that he could potentially be a part of the club’s return to competition down the line. On the other hand, he’s making $2.45MM this year (prorated to $2,033MM due to the suspension) and will continue to earn raises through arbitration in the years to come. For a team that frequently moves on from its players as they get more expensive, it’s possible that Laureano could find himself on the trading block just like his former teammates. Cristian Pache, acquired in the Olson trade, has been manning center field so far this year. He’s provided excellent defense but hasn’t done much with the bat, hitting .176/.195/.282 so far this year for a wRC+ of 41. Laureano is in right field today with Pache in center.
As for Juan, he was just selected to the club’s roster in November of last year. The 6’8″ 23-year-old has a penchant for racking up strikeouts but also struggles with command. Last year, he threw 26 2/3 innings in the minors with a 5.40 ERA, 35.4% strikeout rate and 11.5% walk rate. He has been on the minor league injured list this year and has yet to make his season debut. The nature and severity of his injury are not known, but injured players cannot be placed on outright waivers. That means that Oakland, if they cannot work out a trade, will have to place Juan on release waivers.