Odds are likely the punishment handed down Monday by Rob Manfred won’t fit the crime.
On Monday, Major League Baseball announced the punishments the St. Louis Cardinals will endure due to Chris Correa’s hacking of the Astros’ scouting database.
It entailed a $2 million fine, and the forfeiting of two draft picks to the Houston Astros. At pick numbers 56 and 75, those picks were the Cardinals’ two highest picks for the 2017 Draft. Correa was also sentenced to 46 months in prison for illegally accessing Houston’s proprietary information, and was also issued a permanent suspension from MLB.
How much will those punishments actually, well, punish the Cardinals?
To answer that question, we’ll have to figure out the value of the aforementioned picks.
Of the 46 players drafted in the 56th slot of the June Amateur Draft from 1965 to 2010, only 21 (37.5 percent) reached the Major Leagues. To this date, those players have accumulated a total of 154.0 WAR. This means the average 56th draft pick will provide their team 3.35 WAR over the course of their careers.
Don’t get me wrong, there is breakout potential, but it doesn’t happen often. Three players drafted in the 56th slot ended up with 20+ WAR (Jimmy Key, JJ Hardy, Richie Zisk). Other than those select few, there isn’t much there.
How about the 75th pick? Well, of the 46 players drafted in that slot from 1965 to 2010, 16 (34.8 percent) reached the Bigs. Those players have accumulated a total of 122.7 WAR, which, on average is 2.67 career WAR per draft pick.
Again, a handful of players (Tino Martinez, Grady Sizemore, Yunel Escobar, Jason Thompson) have overcome the long odds of getting drafted 75th and put together a decent to good career. Keep in mind they represent less than 10 percent of the players drafted in that slot, however.
Now for the money, for completeness sake. To a baseball team, $2 million is nothing. But why not look at what you could get for $2 million? Well, using the cost per WAR from the 2016 season (about $7.5 million per WAR), we get that $2 million could get your team an additional 0.27 WAR. It’s not nothing, but it’s actually pretty much nothing given how much baseball teams spend.
After adding up all of the averages, we find the Cardinals’ penalties would cost them about 6.29 WAR in the near future (not in one season, more likely closer to a decade). Using the WAR to team win conversion (one WAR equals 0.41 team wins), we get that the Cardinals, on average, would lose about 2.6 more games than they would’ve without these sanctions.
Then the question becomes, “how many more games did the Astros lose because of the hacking?” Keep in mind, those 2.6 wins aren’t just disappearing. They’re going to the Astros. They get the money and the draft picks. So if the Cardinals did nothing with the scouting information they took (which probably wasn’t the case), then the Astros got an extra few wins because of it. However, if the hacking had a much larger effect, one we’ll never know the extent of, then the Cardinals could’ve gotten off easily.
But, who knows for sure?