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Angels employee told feds he supplied Tyler Skaggs with opioids

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Latest: Major League Baseball has an opioid problem. Now what?

In the wake of the death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs from a drug overdose, Skaggs’ family issued a statement in which they suggested that an Angles’ employee played some role in Skaggs’ death. It would seem that they were correct in their assumptions.

ESPN’s Outside the Lines reports that an employee of the Los Angeles Angels told the Drug Enforcement Agency that he supplied Skaggs with opioids. He told the DEA that he too abused opioids with Tyler Skaggs for years, that he told two team officials about Skaggs’ abuse, and named as many as five other current Angels players as having used opioids.

The employee is Eric Kay, the Angels Director of Communications who, according to his LinkedIn page, has been an Angels employee since 1996. Kay told the DEA all of this during two interviews in late September. Kay’s attorney confirmed the substance of ESPN’s report to ESPN late last night.

Kay, ESPN reports, told investigators that he routinely gave Skaggs Oxycontin — Kay would obtain it and Skaggs would reimburse him for them via Venmo transactions ESPN reviewed — and often used it with him. He also supplied drugs to Skaggs on the day of his death:

Kay told DEA investigators that hours before Skaggs’ death in July, Skaggs was in his Southlake Hilton hotel room and texted Kay to visit him, according to a source familiar with what Kay told the DEA. Kay also told investigators that Skaggs snorted three lines of crushed opioids in front of him, the sources said. Kay recognized that two of the lines could have been crushed oxycodone, but the third was not a substance he recognized, the sources said.

The autopsy report revealed the presence of Fentanyl in Skaggs’ system. It’s possible that that was the third substance, assuming Kay’s statements to the DEA are accurate. Kay is currently on paid leave from the Angels while in a substance abuse program.

One of the team employees who May says knew of Skaggs’ use is Tim Mead, who recently left the Angels to become the President of the Hall of Fame. Mead says he was unaware of Skaggs’ use, though he was aware of Kay’s. Kay says he told Mead about Skaggs’ use as early as 2017.

In August, the Angels suffered a major tragedy. Now they, several of their players and Major League Baseball have a massive, massive scandal on their hands.

UPDATE: The Angels have issued a statement in the wake of the ESPN report:

“We have never heard that any employee was providing illegal narcotics to any player, or that any player was seeking illegal narcotics,” Angels president John Carpino said. “The Angels maintain a strict, zero tolerance policy regarding the illicit use of drugs for both players and staff. Every one of our players must also abide by the MLB Joint Drug Agreement. We continue to mourn the loss of Tyler and fully cooperate with the authorities as they continue their investigation.”

The Royals are paying everyone. Why can’t all of the other teams?

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Over the past several weeks we’ve heard a lot of news about teams furloughing front office and scouting staff, leveling pay cuts for those who remain and, most recently, ceasing stipends to minor league players and releasing them en masse. The message being sent, intentionally or otherwise, is that baseball teams are feeling the pinch.

The Kansas City Royals, however, are a different story.

Jon Heyman reported this afternoon that the Royals are paying their minor leaguers through August 31, which is when the minor league season would’ve ended, and unlike so many other teams, they are not releasing players either. Jeff Passan, meanwhile, reports that the Royals will not lay any team employees off or furlough anyone. “Nearly 150 employees will not take pay cuts,” he says, though “higher-level employees will take tiered cuts.” Passan adds that the organization intends to restore the lost pay due to those higher-level employees in the future when revenue ramps back up, making them whole.

While baseball finances are murky at best and opaque in most instances, most people agree that the Royals are one of the lower-revenue franchises in the game. They are also near the bottom as far as franchise value goes. Finally, they have the newest ownership group in all of baseball, which means that the group almost certainly has a lot of debt and very little if any equity in the franchise. Any way you slice it, cashflow is likely tighter in Kansas City than almost anywhere else.

Yet the Royals are paying minor leaguers and front office employees while a great number of other teams are not. What’s their excuse?