Someone hacked the Astros’ “Ground Control” database and got their internal trade discussions

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Hacking anyone or any company’s private communications is underhanded and most likely illegal. People do it all the time, of course, but that doesn’t change it. What also doesn’t change: third parties’ interest in the hacked information, regardless of the legality of the hack. Especially when the hackee is famous or notable.

The Houston Astros are famous and notable and now Deadspin is reporting that their highly-publicized internal communication and evaluation system called “Ground Control” got hacked. Among the stolen data which has been posted online are internal discussions about a possible trade for Giancarlo Stanton last year, the leadup to the Bud Norris trade and discussions between the Astros and Yankees back during spring training in which the Yankees offered Ichiro Suzuki to Houston, largely for cash.

The data comes in the form of notes, not unlike you’d see in a customer service database in which representatives make a note each time you call in. Like this, reflecting conversations about Bud Norris in the runup to last year’s trade deadline:

“7/29/2013″,” SF said they wouldn’t include Mejia on top of Blackburn.”
“7/29/2013″,” SF said they still had interest in Norris. JL said they would have to include both Blackburn and Mejia to be competitive.”
“7/29/2013″,” AA texted JL and asked what a package around Stroman might look like. JL said Stoman + Gose would be in consideration.”
“7/29/2013″,” BC texted JL and said they couldn’t include Boegarts, Cecchini, Webster, or Bradley but thought they had enough depth to still make an appealing package. JL wrote back and asked if they would consider a package around Barnes and Owens.”

On the one hand: let’s smile at the Astros asking for a package including Xander Boegarts for Bud freakin’ Norris. On the other hand: let us not pretend that we have much of a clue how most trade discussions go. You don’t get the sky if you don’t ask for the stars, right?

And no matter what you think of all of this, I think it’s OK to think that (a) whoever hacked into the Astros’ database is probably gonna get in big trouble; and (b) the Astros probably need to talk to someone about data security.

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

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Yesterday’s unprecedented sanctions leveled on the Atlanta Braves hit them pretty hard, but it also turned a dozen players into free agents. What happens to them now? Who can sign them? When? And for how much?

First off, they get to keep their signing bonuses the Braves gave them. It wasn’t their fault the Braves messed up so it would make no sense for them to have to pay the money back. As for their next team: anyone can, theoretically, sign them. As far as team choice, they are free agents in the most narrow sense of the term.

There are limits, however, because as young, international players, their signings are subject to those caps on each team’s international bonus money which were imposed a few years back. Each team now has a “pool” of finite dollars they can spend on such players and, once that money is spent, teams are severely limited as to what they can offer an international free agent. Each summer the bonus pools are reset and it starts anew.

Which, on the surface, would seem to create a problem for the 12 new free agents, seeing as though a lot of teams have already spent much if not all of their July 2017-18 bonus pools. The good news on that, though, is that Major League Baseball has made a couple of exceptions for these guys:

  • First, the first $200,000 of any of the 12 former Braves players will not be subject to signing pools, so that’s a bit of a break; and
  • Second, even though these players will all likely be signed during the 2017-18 bonus pool period, teams have the option of counting the bonus toward the 2018-19 period. They can’t combine the money from the two periods, but they can, essentially, put off the cost into next year for accounting purposes.

Which certainly opens things up for clubs and gives the players more options as far as places to land go. A club can decide whether or not the guys on the market now look better than the guys they’ve been scouting with an eye toward signing after July 2018 and get a jump on things. Likewise, teams don’t have to decide whether or not to take a run at, say, Shohei Ohtani, burning bonus money now, or instead going after a former Braves player. Ohtani’s money will apply now, the Braves player can be accounted for next year.

The new free agents are eligible to sign during a window that begins on December 5 and ends on Jan. 15. If a player hasn’t signed by then, he can still sign with any club but cannot get a bonus. If a player hasn’t signed anywhere by May 1, 2018, he has the option of re-signing with the Braves, though they can’t pay the guy a bonus either.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has a rundown of the top guys who are now free agents thanks to the Braves’ malfeasance. Kevin Maitan is the big name. The 17-year-old shortstop was considered the top overall international free agent last year, though his first year in the Braves minor league system was less-than-impressive. There are a lot of other promising players too. All of whom now can find new employers.