Penalties assessed for illegal breach of Houston's baseball ops database
By Jenifer Langosch and Brian McTaggart
ST. LOUIS -- The Astros have been awarded the Cardinals' first two picks in this year's Draft as a result of the illegal breach of the Astros' baseball operations database by a former baseball operations employee of the Cardinals, Christopher Correa. Commissioner Rob Manfred made the ruling on Monday.
In a statement, Manfred stated that Major League Baseball's investigation found no evidence that anyone besides Correa was responsible for accessing the Astros' information. However, Manfred did hold the Cardinals liable for Correa being in position to use the information in a way that would benefit the organization and levied multiple punishments, commensurate with the vital nature of proprietary information for all 30 clubs.
Houston will receive the Cardinals' top two Draft selections -- Nos. 56 and 75 -- in 2017, which is the most severe penalty of its kind imposed on an organization. The Commissioner's decision to have the Cardinals pay reparations to the Astros was because he determined that Houston suffered material harm as a result of Correa's actions.
The Cardinals are also required to pay $2 million to the Astros within the next 30 days. The amount is substantially higher than the damage calculation relied on by the federal government in its case against Correa, who is serving a 46-month prison sentence for unlawfully accessing another company's information. As part of Manfred's ruling, Correa was placed on MLB's permanently ineligible list.
"We respect the Commissioner's decision and appreciate that there is now a final resolution to this matter," Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr. said in a prepared statement. "Commissioner Manfred's findings are fully consistent with our own investigation's conclusion that this activity was isolated to a single individual."
The Astros, who filed a claim with the Office of the Commissioner for compensation after Correa pleaded guilty to five counts of unauthorized access of a private computer, issued the following statement:
"The Houston Astros support MLB's ruling and award of penalties. This unprecedented award by the Commissioner's Office sends a clear message of the severity of these actions. Our staff has invested a great deal of time in support of the government, legal and league investigations and are pleased to have closure on this issue. We are looking forward to focusing our attention on the 2017 season and the game of baseball."
MLB's investigation into the matter followed separate ones by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Cardinals. The Cardinals initiated an internal investigation immediately upon being made aware of the breach. In each investigation, Correa was determined to have acted alone in accessing Houston's information.
In addition to the prison sentence, Correa was fined $279,038.65 by the court for his actions.
"It took a lot of time and a lot of energy from our staff, and we burned up a lot of resources trying to deal with it over the years, but I'm glad it's over," Astros owner Jim Crane said. "We think what the Commissioner did with the picks and the cash is a fair assessment of really what happened."
In its investigation, MLB interviewed more than a dozen witnesses and reviewed hundreds of thousands of documents to determine the extent of the breach and those responsible for it. The Information Security Department also conducted a forensic analysis of both teams' electronic systems.
The Astros and Cardinals fully cooperated with the investigation. In its statement of findings, MLB said that Correa, who was dismissed by the Cardinals in July 2015, did not answer questions.
It was determined that Correa accessed the Astros' information multiple times from 2013-14, including on days right around the MLB Draft and non-waiver Trade Deadline. Correa, who had worked for the Cardinals since 2009, was named the organization's scouting director in December '14.
"The conduct [of Correa] is in contrast to everything the Cardinal organization is about," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said. "No one in the Cardinal organization directed or authorized him to access the Astros' database or knew he was viewing Astros confidential and proprietary information. We reacted immediately when we learned of these allegations, fully cooperated with the government's investigation, conducted our own investigation and terminated the responsible individual as soon as the facts became clear."
As a result of losing the two Draft picks, the Cardinals' first selection will be the 94th overall. The organization had already forfeited its first-round pick by signing free agent Dexter Fowler, who had rejected the Cubs' qualifying offer.
The Astros will choose 15th, 53rd, 56th, 75th and 91st.
Each team's allotted Draft pool money will be adjusted accordingly, with Houston's rising and St. Louis' reduced. MLB has not yet announced pool allotments for this year's Draft, to be held June 12-14.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.