The Rundown: Astros Investigation Reveals Potential Smoking Gun, Cubs Looking to Extend Báez, Sunday Baseball Notes

The plot has thickened in the Astros’ alleged sign stealing scandal that seems to have no bottom. Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic uncovered an email written by a front office executive and sent to team scouts suggesting they used camera to steal signs during the 2017 playoffs ($). Because it is a subscription service, I cannot provide mant details of the article here, but the correspondence contained this bit of information:

“One thing in specific we are looking for is picking up signs coming out of the dugout. What we are looking for is how much we can see, how we would log things, if we need cameras/binoculars, etc. So go to game, see what you can (or can’t) do and report back your findings.”

That, ladies and gentleman, is your smoking gun. Or is it?

Though incredibly unethical, if not downright immoral, there is no MLB rule that prohibits sign stealing. However, the use of electronic technology to provide a distinct advantage for one team over another during any game is against the rules. In 2017, the league fined the Red Sox for using an Apple Watch in their dugout. So though the email is no doubt damning evidence, definitive proof of their alleged actions has yet to be discovered.

This is not the first go-round for Houston as far as the allegations are concerned, as the team has long been suspected of technological tomfoolery. Kyle McLaughlin, an Astros baseball operations staffer, was removed from the camera wells next to the dugouts of the Indians and Red Sox during the 2018 postseason after he was accused by players and coaches of those teams of using his device to gather intel. Because of those incidents, Baseball codified this type of behavior heading into the 2019 season, limiting the amount of live-feed access available to teams, while disallowing closed circuit cameras between the foul poles.

Jeff Passan of ESPN indicated in his column yesterday that Kevin Goldstein, who is the special assistant to GM Jeffrey Luhnow, sent the email in question. Goldstein previously wrote for Baseball Prospectus, Baseball America, and ESPN before joining the Houston organization in 2012.

MLB is continuing its investigation and has or will interview current and former employees of the Astros’ organization, including recently dismissed assistant GM Brandon Taubman. Other individuals expected to be questioned include Houston manager AJ Hinch, new Mets manager Carlos Beltrán, Red Sox manager Álex Cora, and Red Sox bullpen coach Craig Bjornson. All were employed by the club during the 2017 season.

Cubs News & Notes

  • Here’s the free agent profile and scouting report for Akiyama.
  • A crazy potential trade scenario by has the Cubs sending Kris Bryant to the Rangers for their top two prospects, third baseman Josh Jung and catcher Sam Huff, as a starting point. Huff is interesting, but I’d think even Bryant’s biggest detractors would hate this trade. In tomorrow’s Rundown I’ll look at what a theoretical Bryant trade with the Indians might look like.

Apropos of Nothing

I love Christmas and perpetuating the myth of Santa Claus, though at times it does seem odd we are telling our children it’s okay for a grown man in red pajamas to slide down our chimneys on the middle of the night while the entire family is asleep.

This Week’s Baseball Trivia

Updates On Nine

  1. Vera Clemente, the widow of Pittsburgh Pirates legend Roberto Clementehas died at the age of 81, according to reports. She is survived by her three sons: Roberto Clemente Jr., Luis Clemente and Roberto Enrique.
  2. Twins starter Jake Odorizzi seems more than happy that he accepted the $17.8 million qualifying offer to stay in Minnesota. MLBTR had predicted the veteran would get a 3-year $51 million deal from the Twins and the two sides may continue to negotiate a longer-term deal. Even if the numbers ended up being slightly lower, that’s a lot of money to leave on the table.
  3. Dodgers’ starter Kenta Maeda is a bit unhappy with the way he has been deployed by Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts. Maeda toggled between starting and relief roles all season, earning 26 starts while being called on to relieve 11 times. That type of usage is costing the right-hander more than a few dollars due to the bonus escalators in his contract. His salary has gone from $7.25 million in 2016, down to $4.25 million in 2017, and down even further to $3 million in 2018 before bouncing back up to $5.4 million this season. Team president Andrew Friedman issued a challenge to the pitcher to find “another gear” in his performance.
  4. The USA baseball team failed to clinch a spot in the 2020 Olympics, losing to Mexico last night 3-2 in extra innings. They’ll have two more chances to qualify before the final field of teams is set.
  5. Mets starter Zack Wheeler recently rejected the team’s $17.8 million qualifying offer for the 2020 season, and Anthony DiComo of reports that the team is unlikely to re-sign him in free agency. GM Brodie Van Wagenen only has about $20 million in payroll to work with this winter and the team has other needs to address. Wheeler should be one of the more sought-after free agents in the next few months, and though he won’t command the same type of money as Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg will, the Mets would be handcuffed by keeping their free agent pitcher. The Yankees could make a run at Wheeler.
  6. Because Van Wagenen has more or less conceded he cannot keep Wheeler, it seems unlikely that he would trade Noah Syndergaard this winter, though moving Thor could help the Mets fill a number of needs. Syndergaard, 27, is under team control through 2021 and would co-anchor a rotation led by back-to-back Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom.
  7. The Brewers may have interest in Rockies starter Jon Gray, who is reportedly being made available in trade talks. Ironically, Colorado is said to be looking at a return package that includes starting pitching and a back up catcher in any trade for Gray.
  8. Nationals shortstop Trea Turner underwent surgery on his broken right index finger on Saturday, fixing an injury that occurred on April 2. Despite the injury, Turner managed a slash line of .298/.353/.497 with 19 home runs and 35 stolen bases, though his fielding suffered. The five-tool shortstop logged a -10 DRS and -7 UZR  in 2019 after recording slightly above-average fielding metrics in 2018.
  9. Now that Ben Cherington has been named Pirates GM, he has a number of manager dossiers to sort through in determining who will be the team’s next skipper. Since a number of candidates have already interviewed with Pittsburgh to replace Clint Hurdle, Cherington won’t necessarily have to start over, unless he doesn’t like any of them. At least Cherington provides some name recognition to a team that has lost its identity since it last made the playoffs in 2015.

Extra Innings

Everybody is in love with Darvish but are you cool enough to be his real friend?

They Said It

  • “I feel that if I absolve myself and say it was the Astros’ fault I was bad in Game 7, in the World Series, I can’t develop as a person…I think huge failures are extremely important. I’ve had a few up to this point. The World Series was one of them. I think it will remain a point of reference for me. I’ve already learned a lot from it. So regarding that, I can’t view myself charitably. I think I have to continue to accept the results.” – Yu Darvish

Sunday Walk Up Song

32 Flavors by Alana Davis. There is beauty in everyone if you are willing to look at someone from the inside out, rather than the opposite. Alana is a friend, so I chose her version over the original by Ani DiFranco.

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