Cardinals Forfeit Draft Picks To Astros In Hacking Scandal

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred stripped the Cardinals of their first two picks in the 2017 draft, awarded them to the Astros and fined the Cardinals $2 million—payable to the Astros—as punishment for the actions of St. Louis’ former scouting director, Chris Correa.

Correa also was placed on the permanently ineligible list. He’s got bigger problems, though—he's serving a 46-month sentence in federal prison, having pled guilty to five counts of unauthorized access to a protected computer in January of 2016.

Following that release and his own investigation, commissioner Manfred stripped the Cardinals of the 56th and 75th overall picks in the 2017 draft, awarding the picks to the Astros as compensation. St. Louis already had forfeited its first-round pick after signing free-agent outfielder Dexter Fowler.

Those two picks add $1,853,200 to the Astros' bonus pool, which jumps to $8,608,300, 11th-highest in the game. The 75th pick, a compensation round pick, also has a bit more value as it can be traded. The Cardinals will now have the smallest pool at $2,072,300, more than $1.5 million less than any other team.

“We respect the Commissioner’s decision and appreciate that there is now a final resolution to this matter,” Cardinals chairman and CEO William O. DeWitt Jr. said in a statement. “Commissioner Manfred’s findings are fully consistent with our own investigation’s conclusion that this activity was isolated to a single individual.”

The Houston Chronicle reported Sunday that U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes had unsealed three documents detailing the court's findings in its investigation of Correa, who was found to have hacked into the Astros' "Ground Control" computer system. The database was full of scouting information that Correa used to help him in his role as scouting director of the Cardinals, and he also used it to keep tabs on Houston's analytics department, led by former Cardinals employee Sig Mejdal.

In a press release, commissioner Manfred said the Astros had sought compensation from the Cardinals for Correa's system intrusions. Manfred had MLB's investigations department work to get the bottom of the scandal, though Correa declined to cooperate.

On Tuesday, Correa denied that via a statement he released on Twitter, saying  he was “unimpressed with (MLB’s) commitment to fair and just sanctions in this matter.” He said the commissioner was “unresponsive” to Correa’s offers to meet in 2015, and he accused an unnamed Astros employee of accessing proprietary data on a Cardinals’ server, two weeks after Jeff Luhnow left St. Louis to become general manager in Houston.

“I would learn—through unlawful methods—that Cardinals’ data were used extensively from 2012 through 2014,” Correa said in his statement. “Houston Astros employees used the data to replicate and evaluate key algorithms and decision tools related to amateur and professional player evaluation. Many individuals throughout the Houston organization, including the general manager and assistant (GM), were included in email discussions about these efforts.”

In a statement later in the day, Manfred said he didn’t meet with Correa in 2015 due to the ongoing criminal investigation into Correa’s activity, but MLB’s department of investigations “repeated requested Mr. Correa’s cooperation through his attorney” in July and August 2016. The statement also said the investigations unit “was not provided evidence to substantiate the other allegations contained in Mr. Correa’s letter, but remains willing to meet with Mr. Correa at any time.”

In a statement Monday, the Astros said they “support MLB’s ruling and award of penalties. This unprecedented award by the commissioner’s office sends a clear message of the severity of these actions. Our staff has invested a great deal of time in support of the government, legal and league investigations and (is) pleased to have closure on this issue.”

The investigation included interviews with more than a dozen witnesses and a review of hundreds of thousands of documents, as well as forensic analysis of both clubs' computer systems, according to the release.

The Cardinals also must pay Houston a $2 million penalty, but in general, the punishment could have been much worse. In the fall, MLB stripped the Red Sox of actual minor leaguers for violating its "package deal" rule in international signings, and the Red Sox were banned from signing any international players during the 2016-17 signing period.

In contrast, the Cardinals didn't lose any active players, and while they lost two picks, neither is a top 50 selection, as St. Louis already yielded its first-rounder.

The Cardinals’ first pick will now be No. 94 overall.

Correa wrapped his statement by saying, “I accept responsibility for my wrongful actions and am paying my debt to society. The Cardinals organization must now pay a heavy price as well. But punishment does not function as a deterrent when sanctions are applied arbitrarily.”