January 30, 2017

Astros 2, Cardinals 0

That's not a game-day score in interleague baseball. Instead, it's the number of draft choices the Redbirds have to forfeit to the Stros, courtesy of Rob Manfred, Commissioner Corleone, dropping the hammer (actual report) on owner Bill DeWitt and GM John Mozeliak for former scouting officer Chris Correa's cybersnooping on the Astros' scouting computers. The local angle is offered up by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

For his part, via ESPN, Correa stands by his claim when caught, and through his trial, that the Astros stole first. I have a follow-up blog post about those ideas here.

My first thought? Mo has shown a bit more urgency in going after mid-level free agents, signing Dexter Fowler this year and Mike Leake a year ago. But, Jhonny Peralta's front-loaded contract three years ago was the only other real move in the last decade. He passed on resigning Albert Pujols, passed (fortunately, so far, it seems) on Jason Heyward, and passed on Matt Holliday (probably also fortunately) as far as renewing players on the team.

Fowler was probably an overpay, especially if Mo had any advance inkling the hammer would come down this hard. Leake a year ago was a definite overpay and I said so even before he put on the 2016 Birds on Bat uni.

So, Mo in general in free agency, like Dave Dombrowski, has no problems letting a veteran go rather than extending end-of-career contracts, and he's generally been right on that. (Had Pujols stayed as healthy as Tiger counterpart Miggy Cabrera, we'd be questioning that, though.) But, his track record is mixed in chasing players from other teams, when he does.

Peralta = good;
Leake = already bad, known in advance;
Fowler = jury out
Not signing David Price = jury out so far.

And, Mo has so far shown himself somewhat adverse to signing players with opt-out clauses and absolutely allergic to double opt-outs like Heyward's. Will he change in the future?

Meanwhile, was the punishment too light? Critics are already boo-hooing, but I don't think so, and I don't think I'm being too much of a homer. Correa was a rogue operator, and this was the first time something like this happened. And, it's fun to watch Jeff Passan, and even more, Buster Olney (or anybody else at ESPN) fulminate over this. I mean, Manfred took several months on this after the feds lowered the criminal hammer on Correa. The Cards fully cooperated from the start. The idea that this is a Deflategate, that Bill DeWitt is a Robert Kraft, or that the Cardinals are the New England Patriots is crap.

Mark Saxon of ESPN says it's comparing apples to mangoes, this punishment vs. what the commish had for the BoSox in what was an organized club effort, then retracts that with the other hand, but saying this still seemed "far less stringent." Well, yes, and you explained why. Let's add that the Cards cooperated with Manfred from the start, AND that we've not been told publicly how much, or how little, this affected Astros signings. Tim Brown at Yahoo also gets it wrong, in insinuating that surely Correa wasn't all alone for three years. Both you guys are journos; if you've got somebody in either Manfred's office or US AG's office who's got info to leak, move forward. If not, STFU.

Related: The Houston Chronicle has a new story on documents from Correa's criminal trial, now unsealed. The feds don't seem to have ever, since the early part of the investigation, have seen anything to convince them that Correa was anything other than a rogue operator, too.

Besides, at least for public consumption, and no leaks indicating otherwise, the Astros say they're OK too.

Now, as for the Astros' possible success off this?

The pics are actually a second round and a compensatory balance pick. But, lots of players are available in those second and third rounds. Google away for past successes. Or note that Pujols, Mike Piazza and Keith Hernandez all went 10th round or later.

The Stros also get the Cards' draft money slots for those two picks. So, IF Jeff Luhnow still has the magic touch he often did in St. Louis, that relatively young Houston team could add serious prospect depth for years to come.

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