Alex Cora is a dead man walking

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Today’s suspensions and subsequent firings of Astros manager A.J. Hinch and Jeff Luhnow — along with the loss of high draft picks and a $5 million fine — constitute major sanctions arising out of the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal.

But there’s another shoe to drop. And it’s almost certainly going to drop on Red Sox’ manager Alex Cora.

Rob Manfred’s full report about the sign-stealing in Houston calls out many people, but Cora is slammed more than anyone. The report says that the sign-stealing was primarily player-driven, but it states that Cora, then the bench coach of the Astros, played a key role in setting it up.

Relevant parts of the report:

  • Alex Cora (Bench Coach). Cora was involved in developing both the banging scheme and utilizing the replay review room to decode and transmit signs. Cora participated in both schemes, and through his active participation, implicitly condoned the players’ conduct.”
  • “Early in the season, Alex Cora, the Astros’ Bench Coach, began to call the replay review room on the replay phone to obtain the sign information . . . Cora arranged for a video room technician to install a monitor displaying the center field camera feed immediately outside of the Astros’ dugout . . . witnesses consistently describe this new scheme as player-driven, and with the exception of Cora, non-player staff, including individuals in the video replay review room, had no involvement in the [trash can] banging scheme . . .”
  • “The attempt by the Astros’ replay review room staff to decode signs using the center field camera was originated and executed by lower-level baseball operations employees working in conjunction with Astros players and Cora . . .”
  • “Hinch neither devised the banging scheme nor participated in it. Hinch told my investigators that he did not support his players decoding signs using the monitor installed near the dugout and banging the trash can, and he believed that the conduct was both wrong and distracting. Hinch attempted to signal his disapproval of the scheme by physically damaging the monitor on two occasions, necessitating its replacement. However, Hinch admits he did not stop it and he did not notify players or Cora that he disapproved of it.”

Hinch was opposed to the scheme and had nothing to do with its development. He was suspended for a year, and fired, however, because he didn’t do anything to stop it.

In the report Cora, in contrast, reads like he was the mastermind. The key man. That he did so as a coach of the Astros, then moved on to a second team and continued a sign-stealing scheme, all after that team had already been fined and warned against it the previous season with the Apple Watch business, is some dire freakin’ stuff.

Manfred says in his report that Cora’s discipline has not yet been decided and that it will come when he is done investigating the Red Sox’ sign-stealing. No matter when it comes, I cannot imagine how Cora will not receive substantially more discipline than Hinch. And assuming that means at least a multi-year suspension, I do not see how he is not fired by the Boston Red Sox.

Reds sign Nicholas Castellanos to a four-year deal

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The Cincinnati Reds have signed outfielder Nicholas Castellanos to a multi-year deal. That’s the report from C. Trent Rosecrans and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. Jon Morosi of MLB.com was the first to report the Reds as frontrunners. The deal is pending a physical. UPDATE: The deal is four years. Financial terms have yet to be reported.

With Castellanos in the fold the Reds are going to have a lot of outfielders when they hit Goodyear, Arizona in a couple of weeks, with newcomer Shogo Akiyama, Jesse Winkler, Nick Senzel, Aristides Aquino, Travis Jankowski, Scott Schebler, and Rule 5 draftee Mark Payton already on the roster. Senzel was an infielder before last year, of course, so he could move back to the dirt, perhaps taking over short from Freddy Galvis, who could be dealt. Alternatively, the Reds could trade from their newfound outfield surplus.

Castellanos, however, will have left field to himself. While he’s shaky at best with the glove, he had a breakout year at the plate in 2019, hitting .289/.337/.525 overall (OPS+ 121), but slugging at a blistering .321/.356/.646 pace (OPS+ 151) after being traded from the Tigers to the Cubs. In Chicago — rescued from cavernous Comerica Park — his big doubles power turned into big homer power.

Now that he’ll be playing in hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark one can only imagine the damage he’d do.