Ex-MLB player Yasiel Puig to plead guilty in gambling case

Braves are signing Yasiel Puig
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LOS ANGELES – Former Major League Baseball outfielder Yasiel Puig will plead guilty to lying to federal agents investigating an illegal gambling operation, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Monday.

Court documents unsealed Monday say Yasiel Puig Valdes, 31, has agreed to plead guilty to one count of making false statements and after pleading guilty, he could face up to five years in federal prison. He also agreed to pay a fine of at least $55,000.

Puig batted .277 with 132 home runs and 415 RBIs while appearing in seven major league seasons, the first six with the Dodgers where he earned an All-Star selection in 2014.

He played for the Cincinnati Reds and the Cleveland Indians in 2019 before becoming a free agent. He then played in the Mexican League and last year he signed a one-year, $1 million contact with South Korea’s Kiwoom Heroes.

In an August plea agreement, Puig acknowledged that over only a few months in 2019 he wracked up more than $280,000 in losses while wagering on tennis, football and basketball games through a third party who worked for an illegal gambling operation run by Wayne Nix, a former minor league baseball player.

Puig placed at least 900 bets through Nix-controlled betting websites and through a man who worked for Nix, authorities said.

In his plea agreement, Puig acknowledged lying in January to federal investigators who were looking into the business, denying he had placed bets through the operation.

Nix pleaded guilty in April to conspiracy to operate an illegal sports gambling business and filing a false tax return. Prosecutors said Nix’s operation ran for two decades and included both current and former professional athletes as clients or employees.

Federal prosecutors also announced Monday that another former MLB player, Erik Kristian Hiljus, 49, of Los Angeles, had agreed to plead guilty to two counts of subscribing to false tax returns. They said he was an agent for Nix’s operation.

Hiljus was drafted by the New York Mets in 1991 but made his major league debut in 1999 with the Detroit Tigers. He also played for the Oakland Athletics in 2001 and 2002. He pitched 124 innings in four seasons, going 8-3 with a 4.72 career ERA.

Hiljus could face up to six years in federal prison at sentencing.

Brian Cashman signs 4-year contract to remain Yankees GM

Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO — Brian Cashman has signed a four-year contract to remain the New York Yankees Senior Vice President and General Manager. The announcement was made during the first day of baseball’s Winter Meetings.

Cashman, New York’s GM since 1998, had been working on a handshake agreement since early November, when his five-year contract expired.

The Yankees were swept by four games in the AL Championship Series and haven’t reached the World Series since winning in 2009. It is the franchise’s longest title drought since an 18-year gap between 1978-96.

Cashman’s main goal during the offseason is trying to re-sign AL MVP Aaron Judge.

Judge hit an American League-record 62 homers this season with a .311 batting average and 131 RBIs. He turned down the Yankees’ offer on the eve of opening day of a seven-year contract that would have paid $213.5 million from 2023-29.

While Judge remains on the market, Cashman was able to re-sign Anthony Rizzo on Nov. 15 to a two-year contract worth $40 million after turning down a $16 million player option.

Cashman has been the Yankees general manager since 1998. He has been with the organization since 1986, when he was a 19-year old intern in the scouting department. In his 25 seasons as GM, the Yankees have reached the postseason 21 times, including four World Series championships and six American League titles.