Yesterday, Joel Sherman reported that the Tampa Bay Rays, after weeks of saber rattling, are indeed pursuing tampering charges against the Chicago Cubs for their hiring of Joe Maddon, which came after Maddon opted out of the final year of his current deal, and rejected extension offers from the Rays. That report has since been confirmed by multiple other outlets, and MLB is now investigating.
On the subject, Cubs President Theo Epstein remains steadfast that the team did nothing wrong, and they welcome an investigation.
“As we said last week, there was no tampering whatsoever,” Epstein told reporters, including Patrick Mooney, Jesse Rogers, and Paul Sullivan. “I’d rather they investigate, so we can clear our names and move on from this quickly. We’re giving our full cooperation and we welcome it.”
The investigation will play out over the course of the next several weeks, and we may or may not hear too much about it. The risk to the Rays in demanding an investigation is quite low, so I can understand why they would push, even if I don’t respect it (unless, of course, they’re basing it on more than the really dubious suspicion that Maddon had no idea he could make a lot more money on the open market than re-upping with the Rays, and therefor the Cubs must have tampered by letting him know that they’d pay him well if he opted out).
The only real risk to the Cubs is that there is some smoking gun email or phone record or witness statement out there that proves they contacted Maddon prior to his opt-out – which, if the Cubs and Maddon’s agent are to be believe, there is no such email or record or statement, because it didn’t happen. There isn’t a great deal of precedent for punishment in these situations, but it could involve fines, suspensions, and/or the loss of a player or draft pick if the Cubs are found to have tampered.