When MLB announced Monday that noted Victor Conte client Marlon Byrd would be suspended for 50 games after he tested positive for taking an estrogen inhibitor, it was reported that Byrd would be docked 50 days' pay, since that's what the rules say. The suspension began immediately, since Byrd is still an active player. But here's the hang up: Byrd was released by the Red Sox on June 12, so he's currently a free agent. Which means he's walked right into a loophole that actually works to his benefit at the expense of the Cubs. Confusing? You bet. But it's true.
According to multiple sources, the fact that Byrd had been released by the time his suspension took effect meant the balance on his contract turned into termination pay, creating a ‘‘closed door'' on his 2012 salary because the contract is already considered paid off.
So what does any of this have to do with the Cubs, who weren't even Byrd's last team? Here's Wittenmyer again:
The Cubs wind up the biggest losers in that equation because as part of the April trade for Michael Bowden, they sent cash to Boston equaling all of Byrd's remaining salary, minus the prorated major-league minimum.
Had Byrd retired when he was released, he'd no longer be considered active, so he wouldn't be able to take his "suspension" immediately (think Manny Ramirez last year). But retirement would also mean Byrd has to forfeit his earnings. As things now stand, Byrd is serving a "suspension" by not playing for a team, even though he has no team to play for. And he's not being docked any pay because he's not getting paid to play anymore, even though he's still earning the $6.5 million he was scheduled to make anyway. The Cubs, meanwhile, paid another team to take Byrd off their hands, but they're still stuck footing the bill. So: There's no incentive at all for Marlon Byrd to do jack shit until Aug. 20, which is when his "suspension" will be lifted. And how's that for performance enhancement?
[Chicago Sun-Times; photo via AP]