Astros stole signs electronically in 2017

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A bombshell report from Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic: the World Series champion 2017 Houston Astros stole signs via electronic means that season. They did it by use of a camera in center field at Minute Maid Park.

Multiple people who worked for the team that season, including current A’s pitcher Mike Fiers, confirmed the existence of the sign-stealing to The Athletic.

Major League Baseball, after acknowledging that many teams complained, in general, about other teams stealing signs in recent years, said it would look into the new information uncovered by The Athletic. MLB is already examining the Astros front office in response to the Brandon Taubman affair just prior to the World Series. UPDATE: The Astros issued the following comment late this afternoon:

Regarding the story posted by The Athletic earlier today, the Houston Astros organization has begun an investigation in cooperation with Major League Baseball. It would not be appropriate to comment further on this matter at this time.

The story reports the genesis of the sign-stealing scheme thusly:

At least two uniformed Astros got together to start the process. One was a hitter who was struggling at the plate and had benefited from sign stealing with a previous team, according to club sources; another was a coach who wanted to help.They were said to strongly believe that some opposing teams were already up to no good.

They wanted to devise their own system in Houston. And they did.

There have been widespread rumors that the Astros were stealing signs in 2017 and that, possibly, they still were. It has never risen above the rumor stage before now.

During the 2018 postseason there was a story involving the Indians and Red Sox thinking that the Astros were stealing signs and/or spying on their dugouts via the stationing of a team employee nearby. The Astros were more recently accused of a far lower-tech means of sign stealing during the 2019 postseason. Specifically, the Yankees complained that the Astros stole and relayed signs via players in the dugout whistling to Astros batters. Major League Baseball found nothing to that and, even if they did, the scheme did not involve technology to steal signs, which is specifically prohibited by Major League Baseball.

My sense is that this is the tip of the iceberg. As the quote from the story about the player proposing the system from his previous team makes clear, it’s likely not an Astros-only phenomenon. It’s likewise not just a 2017 phenomenon (the Athletic only has information from 2017). There are likely lots of teams doing this and many still doing it. Not that that is any excuse for what the Astros have done here. They should be investigated and punished.

But this is likely not just an Astros story. Major League Baseball has a pretty big cheating scandal on its hands. Now let’s see if Major League Baseball treats it as such rather than limit its inquiry to just the Houston Astros.

Cubs sign Jeremy Jeffress

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The Chicago Cubs have signed reliever Jeremy Jeffress to a one-year, $850,000 deal.

While Jeffress is coming off a bad year — due mostly to hip and shoulder problems — this is a surprisingly low figure for Jeffress, who was said to have had a “sizable market” last September, with the Mets, Phillies, Reds, and Rays all rumored to be in on him. It’s also worth noting that he is just a year removed from an excellent 1.29 ERA season with the Brewers. He is reported to be eligible for $200,000 in incentives, which could bring this deal closer to what a reliever of his caliber’s going rate might be.

As for the Cubs, they haven’t been particularly active this offseason — indeed, this is their first free agent acquisition — but I suppose we should give them credit for buying low on a guy who should probably be able to help their bullpen.