Although we’ve not heard much about it lately, the investigation into whether the Chicago Cubs tampered with Joe Maddon before he’d opted out of his contract with the Tampa Bay Rays is ongoing, according to Nick Cafardo. The investigations group at MLB has been gathering information for some time (phone and computer records, presumably), but apparently is not ready to come to a conclusion.
For their part, the Cubs, Joe Maddon, and Maddon’s agent Alan Nero, have strenuously denied that there was any contact between the sides until after Maddon made his decision to opt out of his contract with the Rays back in October (a right that kicked in when Maddon’s boss, Andrew Friedman, departed for Los Angeles). It still feels like the kind of thing that’s going to be tough to prove either way, and the Rays don’t look to be entirely sympathetic given that it’s been reported Maddon was willing to accept an under-market deal to stay in Tampa, but the Rays would’t do it.
Maddon recently discussed the situation again on MLBN Radio, emphasizing that he wasn’t even aware of the opt-out right until the Rays informed him.
From there, the Rays’ side seem to believe that Maddon would not have opted out unless he knew for sure he could get a sizable contract (thus, the Cubs must have contacted him and/or his agent before he opted out) … even though the Rays’ final offer was reportedly just three years and $9 million, and Maddon is universally held as one of the top managers in the game. It’s not much of a stretch to say that Maddon and his agent would know his market value was much, much higher (Maddon ultimately got five years and $25 million from the Cubs), which would mean there would be no need for the Cubs to “tamper” in order to get Maddon to exercise his opt-out.
All that said, we can’t know for sure what went on behind the scenes, and if MLB turns something up, the Cubs could face penalties. This is not a common occurrence, so there’s not a ton of precedent, but, based on history, the penalties could include fines or suspensions (for personnel involved), the loss of a draft pick to the Rays, or the loss of a player or players to the Rays. No one seems to believe the penalties will be severe. We’ll see.
I’m sure everyone involved just wants to see the thing wrapped up at this point.