After a long, drawn out investigation, the MLB has officially sanctioned penalties against the St. Louis Cardinals for the “Hackgate” scandal.
The St. Louis Cardinals hacking saga official came to a close early Monday afternoon. The Cardinals must forfeit their top two picks in the 2017 draft to the Houston Astros. Additionally, St. Louis will pay a $2 million fine to Houston. The MLB’s memo in full is below:
The St. Louis Cardinals already forfeited their first-round pick in 2017 to sign Dexter Fowler after he rejected the Chicago Cubs qualifying offer. Therefore, the Cardinals are forfeiting their second- and third-round selections to the Houston Astros, the number 56 and 75 selections, respectively.
However, I think the St. Louis Cardinals were lucky. There were indications even this weekend that the Cardinals might have to give the Astros a player off their forty man roster.
Reports indicate that many MLB executives think the Cardinals got off lightly, as the MLB stood by the belief that Chris Correa acted independently and did not share the information he obtained with higher levels of the front office. The plausibility of that scenario has long been debated.
Further, the Cardinals will still be able to spend internationally, and do not have to forfeit any of the signings they made in 2016. There is hope that, if certain Cuban players defect, the Cardinals could sign a few international free agents in the upcoming season to make up for the draft pick loss.
Additionally, the loss of a second- and third-round pick hurts less than the loss of a first and second. Since the Cardinals acquired Dexter Fowler, who they decided was worth more than a 2017 first round selection, St. Louis was able to gain a starting centerfielder at an effective marginal cost of only a third round pick.
On the other hand, this will be a significant blow to the farm system. While the organization is currently in good shape and could potentially be a top five system in the near future, the loss of three picks in one draft will be a major development obstacle in the new few years. With their first selection in 2017 coming in the fourth round, the Cardinals will be unlikely to get higher ceiling players.
Fourth round selections for the Cardinals have generally been a mixed bag over the last five years. On one hand, prospects Austin Gomber and Paul DeJong fell to this round and have had some level of success in the Minor Leagues. Yet, the selections of Jeremy Martinez, Mason Katz, and Kenny Peoples-Walls are much less exciting.
Even Gomber and DeJong have limited upside. The Cardinals plan to use DeJong at shortstop this year, which might signal they view him as a utility backup down the road. While Gomber has pitched well at each Minor League stop, he doesn’t have ace potential. At best, he’s probably a back-of-the-rotation starter.
The St. Louis Cardinals used the 2016 international signing period to compensate for this potential draft pick loss. The team signed fifteen international free agents, some of which are still only teenagers. They will be keeping all of these players. While international players are less projectable than typical early round picks, they will help compensate for the loss in 2017.
The conclusion of this investigation is a relief both to the St. Louis Cardinals and the MLB. It has been an embarrassment both for the Cardinals and Astros organizations. Now that the punishment has been dealt, the Cardinals, Astros, and MLB can move forward and put this incident in the rearview mirror.