Cardinals lose first two picks in 2017 draft and $2 million for Astros hacking scandal

For the most part, I am just happy that the Cardinals can finally put “hackgate” or whatever you want to call it behind them and begin planning for the future. The Cardinals will forfeit their first two picks in the 2017 draft to the Astros as well as pay them a $2 million fine. That penalty ends up right about the middle of what baseball fans wanted to see. Some wanted more, some wanted less.

I wonder how the Astros’ AL West opponents feel with a club in their division receiving two free draft picks. Especially when there was not any real damage to the Astros’ organization. After all, it’s not like the Cardinals used the information to swoop in and steal a deal the Astros were working on. The balance of power in the AL West will be worth watching in three or four years.

It sets up an interesting box for the Cardinals. They are already under penalty for exceeding their international spending cap last year and now they lose their two highest draft picks this summer. With the trade costs we saw this winter, trading out of the prospect pool that the organization will need to rely on to produce talent and absorb the loss of those picks is very unlikely. That leaves the only feasible way to improve the club as free agency.

The organization talks about having money to spend, but it is always careful, perhaps overly so, about how they spend it.

Part of me has wondered if they were waiting to know exactly what the penalty was going to be before opening the checkbook since that money is the only way John Mozeliak can really improve the team for the next few seasons. Now we know, and now this winter will be interesting to watch and see how Mozeliak adapts to it being his only option.

But I did get thinking about the penalty in light of the penalty that the San Diego Padres got in September for intentionally withholding medical treatment information from the central database that all the teams use. The reported reason was to gain an advantage in trade negotiations. All the Padres’ GM got for orchestrating this scheme was a one month suspension during the quietest month of the year for an MLB GM. The organization received no other penalties.

So in San Diego, you have a proven and orchestrated effort by management of the club to potentially defraud the other 29 clubs.

But in St. Louis, even if John Mozeliak personally sanctioned the hacking and used that information in his day-to-day decision making, still only one club was placed at a disadvantage.

The Padres got slapped on the wrist. The Cardinals got punched in the mouth.

Granted, no federal laws were broken when the Padres failed to report the medical information, but that would seem to be why it’s even more important that Major League Baseball step in and do something to penalize it. As Mozeliak said when asked whether MLB’s penalties against the Cardinals establish a strong enough deterrent for clubs not to hack each other, he replied that four years in prison for Chris Correa would seem like a pretty good deterrent.

The penalties do not have any equivalency, especially when the Astros did not have to demonstrate that they were harmed by Correa’s access to their system nor did they have to defend charges that they possessed the Cardinals’ intellectual property.

The Red Sox and Marlins both discovered that the players they acquired from the Padres had more medical issues than they believed because they were not reported to the central database.

Of course, the Astros officially deny that they used any Cardinals’ intellectual property in the development of their “Ground Control” analytics system. However, regardless of what you want to believe, I suggest that it would be impossible for Jeff Luhnow and Sig Mejdal to play key roles in the development of the Cardinals’ analytics system and not reuse some of that knowledge and the lessons learned as they developed the AStros’ analytics system.

They did not go to Houston and reinvent the wheel and magically forget what they did for years in St. Louis. No, they would have built off the idea using what they already knew and learned while building the Cardinals’ system. That knowledge, whether or not it “belongs” to the Cardinals, is what made them worth hiring.

So the penalty does seem out of line with what was deserved. Now I know a little bit about how Patriots fans feel about “deflategate.”

Regardless, I’m glad the organization has it behind them.