The Red Sox’ signing of free agent reliever Jenrry Mejia to a minor league deal was bound to be controversial.
After all, Mejia has been suspended on three separate occasions for violating baseball’s drug policy, each time nabbed for use of anabolic steroids. He was “permanently banned” from the game after his third failed test before earning first a conditional reprieve and then full reinstatement from commissioner Rob Manfred.
It sure seems something of a risk for the Red Sox, even though there’s not of money at stake. (The Sox will play Mejia less than $100,000 while he’s in the minors and just $625,000 if he makes it back to the big leagues. That figure is just above the major league minimum salary for 2019).
But if there isn’t a big financial investment, there are other gambles here. If Mejia is caught violating the PED program again, the Sox will look foolish for trusting someone with a checkered past.
While many are sympathetic to those who have battled substance abuse and the medical community views addiction as a disease, PED use is another matter. It’s a choice made by players, who knowingly use banned substances to gain an unfair advantage.
And there’s this: in an atmosphere where players and the Players Association believe too many teams aren’t doing enough (read: spending enough), at least one free agent is angry that Mejia, who hasn’t pitched in the majors for three and a half years, got signed before he did.
On the same day that Mejia signed, the Arizona Diamondbacks signed reliever Greg Holland to a one-year deal for $3.5 million. Granted, that’s about $2.9 million more than the Sox spent on Mejia. And Holland is no guarantee either, after coming off a nightmarish season in 2018.
But if Holland turns out to be an inexpensive find for the D’backs and Mejia either doesn’t reach the big leagues or falls back into trouble with PED police, the Red Sox will have some explaining to do.
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