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Here We Go: Inside MLS transfers, featuring Ricardo Pepi and Daryl Dike’s exit and Lorenzo Insgine’s arrival

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The first week of the January window brought many surprises on the MLS front. Lorenzo Insigne officially agreed to became a Toronto FC player starting from July 2022, while Ricardo Pepi and Daryl Dike moved to Augsburg and West Bromwich Albion, both on permanent moves. Let’s go behind the scenes of these three deals.

How Toronto wooed Insigne

The story between Insigne and Toronto entered its decisive moments months after the Canadian MLS club first contacted Insigne earlier, and patiently waited after placing five-and-a-half-year offer on the table as the Italian player took his time through November. In December, the Toronto FC began to insist and the temptation became very strong for the Napoli man. There a key aspect to consider in these talks: Napoli never improved their initial proposal to Insigne — a contract worth €3.5 million net per year plus €1.5 million in bonuses. The 30-year-old would have earned less than the current agreement (€5 million guaranteed per season), which is why he was disappointed to see that Napoli would not have improved the offer.

The strength of Toronto FC’s offer preyed on his doubts. But it wasn’t just the MLS record-breaking economic size of the offer, but also the idea of a five-year project that will be linked to Insigne as the headliner. Not to mention as well as the promise of benefits to the player and his family, from a personal house in Toronto to the English teacher they will need. Toronto’s advances made Insigne feel important, which did not happen with Napoli, his lifelong club which he has been with since he was 15. The love with the fans obviously remains intact, but this separation from the club is a shock to not only the team but the entire city.

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The decisive call came around Dec. 20, when Toronto received a green light from Insigne to get into the details of the proposal. There was a lot of talk about Inter Milan, Newcastle and Tottenham, but none of those clubs made official offers to Insgine. Besides Toronto, only Borussia Dortmund got serious information, but they would only think about signing Insigne as free agent in the summer. Insigne wanted Toronto, a feeling he reached quickly after looking at the offer seriously.

Augsburg beat Wolfsburg to Pepi’s signature

Ricardo Pepi arriving at Augsburg, on the other hand, is a surprising story because that move was a bit unexpected. Wolfsburg had been frontrunners for weeks, but never agreed to the final details of a deal with FC Dallas. Pepi’s agent has had many meetings with European clubs. Pepi’s dream has always been Real Madrid but there have been no offers from Spain, he’s probably still too young. From Italy, Inter Milan and Sampdoria made some inquiries. Ajax had some serious intentions to buy Pepi, but that €16 million price tag was deemed too much at a difficult financial time for everyone. 

Augsburg acted in secret within three days. First came the agreement with Dallas, then a blitz from the board with Pepi and his agent to reach an agreement on a five-year contract, a quick negotiation that proved successful. Pepi was immediately convinced by the idea of going to the Bundesliga, a league that gives a lot of space to young people rather than other leagues such as Serie A where Bryan Reynolds is struggling for minutes at AS Roma. And just days after joining, he’s already made his first appearance for the club battling against relegation.

Manager crucial in Dike’s West Brom decision

Daryl Dike chose West Brom as the ideal destination because of the presence of the manager Valerien Ismael. Contacts were frequent, so West Brom decided to buy him on a permanent deal, instead of on loan which was how the negotiations started, precisely because they were convinced of the deal’s qualities and long-term potential. It’s the latest example of how more and more, MLS is growing into a league which exports potential talents to Europe even as they also become an even more attractive talents like Insigne moving in the other direction

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Trayce Thompson hits three-run home run in Dodgers' 8-3 victory over Royals

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Trayce Thompson hit a three-run home run in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 8-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals.



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Biggest MLB stars suspended for PEDs: Fernando Tatis Jr. joins Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, more on list

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Friday night, a shockwave was sent through the baseball world when Major League Baseball announced San Diego Padres star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. has been suspended 80 games after testing positive for Clostebol, a performance-enhancing drug. The 80-game suspension begins immediately. Tatis will miss the final 48 games of 2022 and the first 32 games of 2023.

“We were surprised and extremely disappointed to learn today that Fernando Tatis Jr. tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance in violation of Major League Baseball’s Joint Prevention and Treatment Program and subsequently received an 80-game suspension without pay,” read a statement by the Padres. “We fully support the Program and are hopeful that Fernando will learn from this experience.”

Between the offseason motorcycle accident that broke his wrist and this PED suspension, Tatis will miss the entire season and go roughly 20 months between appearances in an MLB game when he returns next season. The 23-year-old who’s finished in the top four in the NL MVP voting twice already is in the second year of his 14-year, $340 million contract extension.

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Needless to say, this is a shocker, and Tatis is certainly one of the biggest stars to be suspended for PEDs. Here are 10 other big name players who have been suspended for banned substances, listed alphabetically.

Suspended: 65 games in July 2013

In December 2011, Braun was suspended 50 games for PEDs, though he was able to get the suspension overturned through an appeal because the sample’s chain of custody had been broken. Less that two years later, Braun was suspended again, this time for his connections to Biogenesis. Braun was suspended 50 games for PEDs and additional 15 games for his actions during the appeals process of the original suspension. He later admitted to lying and using PEDs during his 2011 NL MVP season.

Suspended: 50 games in August 2012

If nothing else, Cabrera undoubtedly has the most ridiculous PED defense. He created a fake website pushing a fake product that he said led to a positive test inadvertently. It did not fool MLB’s investigators. Cabrera was an All-Star the year he was suspended and would have won the NL batting title, though he withdrew his name from the race. “I have no wish to win an award that would be tainted. I believe it would be far better for someone more deserving to win,” Cabrera said at the time.

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Suspended: 80 games in May 2018 and 162 games in November 2020

Unlike some other players in this post, there is no wild story to Canó’s suspension(s). He was suspended in May 2018, served it, was suspended again in November 2020, and he served that too. There was no nasty appeals process or anything like that. Canó was traded in the offseason immediately following his first suspension, however. Still hard to believe another team wanted a declining 36-year-old player owed big money and coming off a PED suspension.

Suspended: 50 games in August 2012

Colon missed all of 2010 with arm problems, resurfaced with the Yankees in 2011, then joined the Athletics as a free agent in 2012. He took responsibility for the failed test and went on to spend another seven years in the big leagues as a journeyman starter.

Suspended: 50 games in August 2013

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A total of 13 players were suspended in 2013 as part of the Biogenesis scandal, and Cruz — an All-Star that season and a year away from becoming a consistent 40-homer threat — was among them. Cruz did have to settle for a one-year contract as a free agent after the 2013 season, however.

Jenrry Mejia

Suspended: 80 games in April 2015, 162 games in July 2015, and a lifetime ban in February 2016

Mejia was not a big name player, but he deserves a mention here because he was the first — and is still the only — player to be hit with a lifetime ban as a result of a third positive PED test. And the thing is, Mejia was hit with his second suspension while he was serving his first, and he was hit with his third suspension when he was still serving his second. Now, lifetime bans aren’t always lifetime bans. Mejia was quietly granted reinstatement in July 2018, though he has not pitched in an MLB game since 2015. He is still active and is currently pitching in the Mexican League.

Rafael Palmeiro

Suspended: 10 days in August 2005

The first star player to be suspended for PEDs, Palmeiro was hit with his suspension less than five months after sitting in front of a Congressional panel and saying: “I have never used steroids. Period.” The suspension came less than a month after Palmeiro became the fifth player to reach the milestones of 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. Palmeiro’s suspension also shows how far the penalties have come. He was suspended only 10 days. Now, first-time offenders get 80 games.

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Manny Ramirez

Suspended: 50 games in May 2009 and 100 games in April 2011

Ramirez was not the first player to be suspended twice for PEDs — Neifi Pérez was suspended 25 games in July 2017 and then 80 games in August 2007 — but he was certainly the first big star to be suspended for PEDs twice. Manny was with the Rays and voluntarily retired following the second suspension and later agreed to a reduced 50-game ban in December 2011, though it is technically still pending. Should Ramirez, now 50, attempt a comeback, he’ll have to serve the suspension before being activated by an MLB team. Manny played in the minors in 2012, in Taiwan in 2013, and in the minors again in 2014.

Alex Rodriguez

Suspended: 162 games in 2014

A-Rod never actually failed a PED test. He did admit to using PEDs during his time with the Texas Rangers, then he was suspended following MLB’s investigation into Biogenesis in August 2013. A-Rod was originally suspended 214 games (the rest of the 2013 season and all of 2014), though he got it reduced to 162 games through appeal. Rodriguez went scorched earth during the appeals process and threatened to sue MLB, the MLBPA, the Yankees, the commissioner, you name it. He never did follow through on the lawsuits, however. At the time the 162-game PED suspension was the longest in MLB history.

Miguel Tejada

Suspended: 105 games in August 2013

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Tejada, the 2002 AL MVP, tested positive for amphetamines, not testosterone or a hardcore anabolic steroid. Amphetamines were not always banned and were once common in big league clubhouses. Under the policy at the time, the first positive test for an amphetamine effectively came with a warning. The second brought a 25-game suspension and the third an 80-game suspension. Tejada had previously tested positive for an amphetamine, and he tested positive for the second and third time with the Royals in 2013. The 25-game and 80-game bans together equal 105 games. Tejada never played in the big leagues again after being suspended.



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Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado crush home runs to give the Cardinals the win

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Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado blast home runs to give the St. Louis Cardinals the win over the Milwaukee Brewers.



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