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Big League Stew

Report: Diamondbacks against rewarding known PED users with big contracts

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

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Arizona will pass on free agent Nelson Cruz due his PED past. (USA Today)

The aftershocks of Jhonny Peralta's four-year, $53 million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals may be felt for years to come if it leads to harsher penalties for PED users. For now, though, the Arizona Diamondbacks are happy to take their own stance against such players by refusing to sign them to long-term, big money contracts.

This according to Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro, who specifically noted on Wednesday that the D-backs will not be in the hunt for free-agent outfielder Nelson Cruz due to his performance-enhancing drug history.

Cruz, a free agent, probably will cost more than the Diamondbacks can afford, but there’s a much simpler reason why it’ll never happen. Cruz has a performance-enhancing drug history, and the Diamondbacks tend to avoid those kinds of players, or at least the high-profile ones.

Piecoro's report comes just days after one of Arizona's own, reliever and MLBPA player representative, Brad Ziegler, spoke out strongly against Peralta's new contract. "It pays to cheat.” Ziegler tweeted. “Thanks, owners, for encouraging PED use.”

Though Ziegler's comments got a lot of attention and carry a lot of weight given his role and the respect he's earning among his peers, he's not in a position to influence the team's decision-making process. For the D-backs to take this stance, it's clear he isn't the only one in the organization who feels that way.

According to Piecoro, that mindset starts at the top.

As far as the Diamondbacks are concerned, their hardline stance appears to be spearheaded by Ken Kendrick, the club’s managing general partner and a longtime critic of PED users. When Jason Grimsley’s house was raided in 2006, Kendrick made sure the Diamondbacks immediately cut ties with the reliever — and even tried to have his contract voided. Team sources say Kendrick continues to discourage the acquisition of players, or even the hiring of coaches, who have ties to PEDs.

St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak may not be willing to lead the morality police, but the Arizona front office is — we think. Recent history might actually suggest something different.

But the club apparently doesn’t have a zero-tolerance policy. Former player and coach Matt Williams was named in the Mitchell Report, as was then minor league manager Mike Bell. Williams remained in the organization until taking the Nationals’ manager job last month; Bell has advanced to be the club’s director of player development.

And first baseman Mike Jacobs, who was suspended for human growth hormone in 2011 while with the Rockies, got back to the majors with the Diamondbacks in 2012.

And then there's this:

Based on those facts, the Diamondbacks probably aren't qualified to lead the morality police. That said, there's a difference between immediately rewarding a known PED user with a big contract and giving second chances. How big that difference is is a matter of opinion, but it seems their philosophy genuinely reflects Ziegler's words and frowns upon rewarding PED users.

It's an admirable stance, but it also means players like Cruz and Ryan Braun will likely never wear a Diamondbacks uniform, which in turn presents challenges for them to stay competitive with organizations who are more likely to overlook a recent PED track record. In other words, we shouldn't count on Arizona or any team being married to such a philosophy long-term, because everyone knows the ultimate goal is making money, and nothing drives revenue more than winning.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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