At long last, the sentence has been rendered.
In response to the long-discussed hacking of the Astros, which ultimately led to the nearly four-year prison sentence for former scouting director Chris Correa, MLB has punished the Cardinals thusly:
1.) The Cardinals must send their two highest available selections in the 2017 draft (second rounder (56 overall) and competitive balance pick (75)) to the Astros. (There is no mention of the slot values for those picks, but I’ll assume they are also being sent with the picks.)
2.) The Cardinals must send the Astros $2 million.
The first response I have is that, yeah, that’s actually a legit punishment – it’s not just a fine – but it’s not a particularly stiff penalty.
With the Cardinals already sitting out the top of the draft thanks to signing Dexter Fowler and losing their first round pick, it’s not like they had already been heavily focused on first round players that they suddenly cannot now draft. In other words, they were already preparing for a low-money, low-pick draft.
Given the phrasing of Commissioner Manfred’s decision, I can’t help but wonder if the decision was “top two picks gone”, and it just so happened that the Cardinals’ top two picks this year came after the first round. I joked – JOKED! – about this back when the Cardinals signed Fowler and lost their first round pick, but now I wonder. Surely MLB recognizes the significant difference in value between a first and second round pick (miles wider than the difference between, say, a fourth round pick and a fifth round pick). Surely they wouldn’t have allowed the Cardinals to get around the worst of the pain by signing a qualified free agent, right?
The more I think as I type – this is all happening on the fly, of course – that’s an awfully soft punishment. Yes, the Cardinals’ draft is just about kaput this year now (it will resemble the Cubs’ 2016 draft, in terms of available picks and pool), but it was already going to offer them only the second smallest bonus pool in the draft. They now have to punt on the top of a draft in which they were already going to kinda-sorta have to punt.
Imagine a world – say, next year’s draft – where the Cardinals have a first rounder, and also get a competitive balance pick after the first round (as they will next year). Losing their “two highest available” picks would cost them a first rounder and a post-first rounder – BOTH picks higher than the two they lost this year.
No, I can’t say the phrasing of the punishment would have been the same (of course I can’t say that); but that feels more like the level of an appropriate punishment here. Or maybe the Cubs homer in me is just oozing out uncontrollable, because it feels like the Cardinals are getting away with something.
Given how significant the incursions were on the Astros, and the MLB-wide interest in protecting organizations from each other, I’m growing steadily frustrated as I type.
I’ll let this sit a bit, marinate, and likely offer some more thoughts in the morning Bullets.