Remember back in February when the Chicago Cubs had “signed” Jorge Soler? There were reports of a signing that, if true, would have violated MLB rules and international law, since Soler was not yet a resident of the Dominican Republic (strangely, he never did become a resident of the DR, instead apparently achieving residency in Haiti).
Remember back in July when the Cubs had “traded” Ryan Dempster to the Braves? There were reports of a trade for Randall Delgado that, if true, would have made us all squeal with delight.
Neither reported event actually took place as reported (Soler was signed some four months later for more money than originally reported; Dempster rejected a trade to the Braves and the Cubs had to settle for whatever they could get from the Rangers), and both sets of reports arguably harmed the Cubs.
Now, remember back last week when the Cubs had agreed to switch their A-ball affiliation from Peoria to Kane County, as originally reported by the Sun-Times?
The Chicago Sun-Times’ story also caught the attention of Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner. Normally a fan of promoting anything and everything related to the minor leagues, O’Conner would rather not have seen this story in print. If the Sun-Times’ report is accurate, it means Kane County and the Cubs could be guilty of tampering.
According to the Professional Baseball Agreement—the rules that guide the relationship between Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball—teams can discuss new affiliations only during a two-week open period that begins on Sept. 16. Any contact before then is prohibited, as is any public comment on other teams’ affiliates.
Asked when Minor League Baseball might open an investigation into possible tampering, O’Conner responded: “As soon as that article hit my desk … As soon as we were aware of it, we started to look into it.” (From Baseball America.)
Neat. The penalties for breaching the Professional Baseball Agreement in this manner include a fine of up to $500,000 for the big league team, and $100,000 for the minor league team.
Obviously pre-deadline “understandings” between big league teams and new minor league affiliates happen from time to time, but they rarely get the kind of media attention that this swap did. That, of course, is not to say that the Sun-Times did anything wrong in reporting a legitimate, interesting story on the information it had available to it. But the Cubs are probably going to pay the price for the leak.
The Cubs can argue that they never reached an agreement, but it’s going to be almost impossible – given the media attention – to argue that there was no “contact” between the Cubs and Kane County, which is also prohibited. Absent some currently unknown facts that complete alter the story as we know it, you can pretty much book it that some punishment is coming the Cubs’ way.
O’Conner sounds kind of pissed about the situation, contacting both Bud Selig and Kane County officials, and noting the purpose of the no-contact rules.
“There is a process that is designed to make it as competitively balanced and as fair as possible,” O’Conner told Baseball America. “If you do have these guys jumping the gun and essentially cheating, then the system’s competitive balance and credibility are out the window.”
I remain of the mind, with apologies to Peoria, that a move to nearby Kane County could yield significant benefits for the Cubs. Hopefully this results simply in a fine, a fist-shaking from the Commissioner’s Office, and a slight black eye.