For months, the results of the Commissioner’s investigation into the Cardinals’ hacking scandal were coming soon. Since initial reports of the Cardinals’ hacking into the Houston Astros database came out more than a year and a half ago, the principal actor, former Cardinals employee and Scouting Director Chris Correa, has been sentenced to multiple years in prison. The punishment for the Cardinals’ organization has now been set as well:
The Cardinals will lose the first two picks in this year’s draft (#56 and #75), and they will be fined $2 million. Both the picks and the fine will head to Houston, per Derrick Goold.
The Cardinals have already forfeited their first round pick due to signing Dexter Fowler. The 56th pick in the draft was the Cardinals second round pick, and the 75th pick was the Cardinals supplemental pick for being in a smaller market. According to Baseball America, the 56th pick has a slot value of $1,122,400 and the 75th pick has a slot value of $730,800.
Before the penalties were announced, the Cardinals already had the second-lowest amount of pool money to spend on the draft at just under $4 million. These penalties will reduce the Cardinals’ pool money to $2,072,300. That is the amount the Cardinals can spend on the first ten rounds plus any bonuses on later rounds above $100,000.
Last season, the Cardinals’ bonus pool was in excess of $9 million. The team is also currently above the penalty amount for international spending so beginning on July 2 of next season, they will not be allowed to sign any international amateur for more than $300,000.
The $2 million fine is an expected punishment, while many speculated that the Cardinals could lose draft picks as part of a punishment. While losing draft picks is a fairly harsh punishment, it is an equitable one, as the team wronged in this case will receive the picks as well as the important bonus pool money that goes along with them.
Buster Olney recently reported that many executives around the game felt the Cardinals must be dealt a severe blow given the hacking and spying that occurred, which included Chris Correa repeatedly accessing the Astros’ computers to gain competitive information that could have proved very useful to the Cardinals, especially as it related to the draft.
Correa, in a ruling that pales in comparison to the punishment leveled by the state, has been placed on the permanently ineligible list, so he can’t work in baseball. Correa’s jail sentence should serve as deterrent enough for anyone contemplating such espionage in the future. His prison sentence likely brings to light the serious nature of hacking an opponent.
I wrote back in July, that those calling for particularly harsh penalties were doing so not out of competitive fairness, but out of a desire to see the Cardinals organization, and their relatively pristine reputation, take a massive hit. This punishment should appease those looking for a fair punishment for the Cardinals’ actions as well as those who just want to see the Cardinals knocked down a peg.
The Cardinals don’t lose a first round choice, but the choices they do lose probably have some value close to one first round pick at the back of the first round where the Cardinals have typically selected. The $2 million to the Astros is roughly the amount the team believed its stolen property was worth.
In the short term, this will really hurt the Cardinals draft in 2017. They won’t pick until the third round just a year after having three first round picks, and will have little to no room to maneuver signing bonuses around to take overslot players. It really isn’t a penalty that will be easy to feel, however.
Long term, these picks weren’t likely to make an impact anytime soon, and the Cardinals should be able to paper over the lost draft picks over time. Correa hasn’t been with the team in quite some time, and no other employees have been implicated so the loss in talent to the front office is minimal. This has clearly been an embarrassing situation for the Cardinals, and these penalties should put an end to the story so that all parties can move forward.