What Chris Correa's hacking case sentencing means for Cardinals

ST. LOUIS – Major League Baseball has put the St. Louis Cardinals on the clock.

Now that former scouting director Chris Correa has been sentenced to nearly four years in prison for illegally accessing the Houston Astros’ data, the league has said that it will decide as quickly as possible whether the team should be punished.

Commissioner Rob Manfred’s office said it now is turning the matter over to its investigation arm, saying Monday that it plans to “conduct a complete investigation of the facts in this matter, including requesting information from the appropriate law enforcement authorities. The commissioner hopes that the investigation can be completed promptly and put him in a position to take appropriate action.”

Nobody really knows what such “appropriate action” would look like, though speculation seems to be that it could include fines, limiting the money the team spends on signing young players or confiscating one or even multiple draft picks.

Correa was sentenced in federal court Monday to 46 months in prison six months after he pleaded guilty to five counts of unauthorized access to a protected computer. Correa also will be under two years’ supervised release and be on the hook for restitution payments of $279,038.65.

The Cardinals aren't saying much, which comes as no surprise as an active investigation is still underway.

“As we did with the government during its investigation, we intend to fully cooperate with the Commissioner’s Office in connection with its investigation so that this matter can finally be resolved,” Cardinals chairman and CEO Bill DeWitt Jr. said in a statement. “Pending the outcome of the commissioner’s investigation, we will have no further comment.”

The criminal investigation took more than 13 months, so most expect the commissioner’s people to take at least a month to gather facts and hand them over to Manfred to determine the Cardinals’ punishment, if there is any. There has already been speculation that the harsh penalties he handed down to the Boston Red Sox -- voiding existing contracts and barring the team from signing international prospects -- sets a bad precedent for the Cardinals.

Manfred tried to quash some of that talk when he addressed members of the Baseball Writers Association of America at the All-Star game.

“I do not see a great parallel between the Red Sox situation and the St. Louis situation, principally for these reasons: The Red Sox, to their credit, accepted organization responsibility for what went on,” Manfred said. “We don’t have all of the facts in the St. Louis-Houston situation. To date, there has been no implication that this was an organizational problem but there has been an indication that it was one employee [who] did something inappropriate, the organization found out about it, and fired the employee. Those are very, very different things.”

Though the facts that come from the government could alter his thinking, Manfred’s comments seem to indicate he agrees with DeWitt -- who is viewed as an influential owner in Manfred’s regime -- when he called Correa’s actions “roguish behavior.” That could mean the Cardinals will get off lightly.

Then again, only a few really know where this is headed, but many have a stake in where it ends up.