Cardinals forfeit draft picks, cash in MLB-issued hacking punish - KMOV.com

Cardinals forfeit draft picks, cash in MLB-issued hacking punishment

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  • Former Cardinal Director of Player Development Chris Correa pleads guilty

    Former Cardinal Director of Player Development Chris Correa pleads guilty

    Friday, January 8 2016 11:49 AM EST2016-01-08 16:49:00 GMT
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    (AP) Fans make their way to Busch Stadium for Game 7 of baseball's World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers Friday, Oct. 28, 2011, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)(AP) Fans make their way to Busch Stadium for Game 7 of baseball's World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers Friday, Oct. 28, 2011, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

    Chris Correa, the Cardinals' former director of player development, appeared in court Thursday in front of US District Judge Lynn Hughes, ultimately pleading guilty to five counts of unauthorized access of a protected computer.

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    Chris Correa, the Cardinals' former director of player development, appeared in court Thursday in front of US District Judge Lynn Hughes, ultimately pleading guilty to five counts of unauthorized access of a protected computer.

    More >

ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Major League Baseball handed down punishment Monday, effectively concluding the investigation into the hacking of the Houston Astros by former St. Louis Cardinals Scouting Director Chris Correa.

The Cardinals were forced to give their first two picks of the 2017 draft (numbers 56 and 75) to the Astros and were fined $2,000,000. In addition to the punishment levied against the organization, the commissioner's office issued a lifetime ban for Correa. He was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison and ordered to pay more than $200,000 in restitution late last year in criminal court. 

In a release issued shortly after MLB's announcement, Cardinals chairman and CEO Bill DeWitt Jr. said, “We respect the Commissioner’s decision and appreciate that there is now a final resolution to this matter. Commissioner Manfred’s findings are fully consistent with our own investigation’s conclusion that this activity was isolated to a single individual.”  

After becoming aware of the hacking allegations, the team ordered an independent investigation into the matter, which ran concurrently to both the federal investigation and MLB's inquiry. 

All three investigations concluded Correa acted alone. 

According to court documents unsealed in recent days, Correa reportedly accessed the Astros' player scouting and evaluation database nearly 50 times in two-and-a-half years, with the intention to "cause $1.7 losses to the Astros." That financial figure was defined by Correa himself in his plea agreement.  

While Correa claims to have been searching for propriety information stolen from the Cardinals by Houston's Jeff Luhnow (St. Louis' former scouting director), court documents reveal he used his access to the Astros' system to look at internal scouting reports, trade talks and medical evaluations of players. The court concluded such intrusions weren't aimed at identifying stolen information, but rather were used to compare notes on possible draft picks. 

The most damning example is Correa's research of lefthanded pitcher Marco Gonzales, who the Cardinals drafted 19th overall in 2013. 

According to court documents, Correa accessed Houston's medical reports on the prospect multiple times in April that year, as well as the most up-to-date scouting information the Astros had on Gonzales just days before the 2013 draft. The Astros took Mark Appel with the first overall pick, and The Cardinals took Gonzales 18 picks later. The Astros then took Andrew Thurman with pick number 40. 

Further, the court says Correa had access to the email of Sig Mejdal, Houston's director of decision sciences for more than two years. 

The final, bizarre detail revealed within the federal documents pertains to the Deadspin leak, a dump of the Astros' internal trade discussions between June 2013 and March 2014. The site received an anonymous email pointing them to a repository of text files, which they summarily published. 

The court alleges Correa was behind the email, possibly in response to a Sports Illustrated cover story touting the analytic-driven strategy of Houston's personnel department. Following the release of SI's story, Correa reportedly attempted to log into the Astros' player information database, Ground Control, from several different accounts. When that failed, he allegedly went through Mejdal's email and located Ground Control credentials for users in the minor league system. After discovering those credentials only granted limited access, he again tried the original accounts multiple times. 

On the same day, Deadspin was emailed a link to the text repository, which the court concluded was compiled and sent by Correa. 

While he declared in court other members of the St. Louis organization were aware of his actions, he did not answer any questions pertaining to that knowledge and did not cooperate with MLB's investigators on that front, according to league sources. 

As such, he received a lifetime ban as the sole actor in the hacking, and the Cardinals were punished for employing him, not facilitating the intrusion. 

The financial punishment ($2 million) is little more than symbolic, and likely centered around Correa's stated target figure of intended damage to the Houston organization. The Cardinals accrue more than $300 million per year in revenue, making the fine little more than an inconvenience.

The draft pick forfeiture is more significant, as early-round draft picks are a team's best chance to acquire cost-controlled talent. The Cardinals already surrendered their number 19 pick when they signed free agent Dexter Fowler from Chicago. Additionally, they will forfeit nearly half of their available bonus pool. Since bonus allotment is assigned by slot, the Cardinals will lose $1.2 million for the 56th pick and $730,000 for the 75th pick.

They previously had just $3.925 million in available bonus money, which was 29th in the league. They now have just $2.072 million, more than $1 million less than the next team (Cleveland). Those forfeited funds also head to Houston, tied to the draft picks the Cardinals must give up. 

St. Louis' first pick is now number 94, which will be near the end of the third round. 

New Cardinal scouting director Randy Flores took his post amidst the hacking investigation (the Cardinals fired Correa in 2015) and by many accounts did an excellent job in his first draft (2016). He will now have the task of restocking a farm system in need of new blood with a limited deck of cards.

Additionally, the current trade market reflects a massive premium on high-end prospects, with minor league talent being the preferred currency in deals where top-tier MLB names are part of the exchange. Less access to early round talent can have a cascading effect on future ability to execute necessary personnel maneuvers. 

The punishment issued by the commissioner's office is one of the strictest penalties levied against a team in the modern era. It reflects more than one year of investigation and testimony, and concludes one of the most tumultuous chapters in St. Louis' franchise history.

Copyright 2017 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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