MLB Strips Red Sox Of 2020 Second-Round Pick
Major League Baseball announced Wednesday it was stripping the Red Sox of their 2020 second-round draft pick after the league concluded its investigation into whether Boston illegally stole signs during games using video replay.
Commissioner Rob Manfred stated in his report of the investigation's findings that Red Sox video replay operator J.T. Watkins "utilized the game feeds in the replay room, in violation of MLB regulations, to revise sign sequence information that he had permissibly provided to players prior to the game" on at least some occasions during the 2018 regular season.
The investigation found that the Red Sox's violations were more limited in scope and impact than the Astros' sign-stealing. Manfred's report stated the signs were only transmitted to players when the Red Sox had a runner on second base, and that most players and coaches were not involved or aware of the scheme.
The violations were found to have taken place only during the 2018 regular season. The investigation did not find sufficient evidence that the conduct continued in the 2018 postseason or 2019 regular season.
Due to the limited nature of the infractions, Manfred issued the following punishments:
- Watkins is suspended without pay for 2020 and will be prohibited from serving as a replay room operator through 2021.
- The Red Sox will forfeit their second-round pick in the 2020 draft.
The investigation did not find that then- manager Red Sox manager Alex Cora knew or should have known about the violations. However, the report separately stated that Cora will be suspended through the 2020 postseason for his actions as the Astros' bench coach in 2017. The Red Sox fired Cora in January following the announcement of the Commissioner's findings into the Astros sign-stealing allegations
The Red Sox's second round selection was originally scheduled to be No. 52 overall and came with a bonus slot value of $1,403,200. The loss of the pick drops the Red Sox's available bonus pool in a five-round draft from $6,514,300 to $5,111,100.
MLB's Department of Investigations interviewed 65 witnesses, including 44 current and former Red Sox players, and reviewed tens of thousands emails, text messages, video clips and photographs, according to the Commissioner's report.
The majority of players said they were not aware of Watkins using in-game video feeds to revise his pregame sign decoding work. However, a "smaller number of players," the report states, noted Watkins occasionally provided different sign sequence information during games than he did prior to the start of games and suspected he gleaned the new information from the use of live, in-game video.
Watkins denied using the replay system to decode signs in live games.
A former minor league catcher in the Red Sox's system, he was previously involved in the "Apple Watch Incident" in 2017. Watkins had admitted to watching live game broadcasts in the replay room and communicating catcher signs to the Red Sox dugout via text messages received on a team trainer's Apple Watch.
After weighing witness statements and Watkins testimony, Manfred wrote in his report "Watkins did not provide a persuasive explanation for why the information he provided to players during the game differed from information provided prior to the game. While he may have received updated information from players who decoded signs while on second base, the players themselves who provided the incriminating information did not believe that this was a credible explanation for how he was able to obtain updated sign sequence information during the game on all occasions."
Red Sox president Sam Kennedy and general manager Brian O'Halloran said on a conference call with reporters that the club would take no further action against Watkins beyond the punishment issued by the Commissioner.
Unlike the Astros, MLB's investigation found the Red Sox "consistently communicated MLB’s sign stealing rules to non-player staff and made commendable efforts toward instilling a culture of compliance in their organization."
Players were granted immunity for their testimony and and no additional punishment will be issued against the Red Sox organization or employees.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated with additional details.