Part of my background is 20 years in the Continental Basketball Association. While I only worked on the scorer's table, I tended to be a bit manic regarding transactions. Teams traded in the Triple-A of the NBA, often, rather haphazardly. Sometimes, players would get called up to the NBA right before the playoffs. The drafts were a bit curious, in that teams wanted to draft players who were good, but not good enough to fly off to Europe. The fruitbasket upset of the league was when a team went belly-up mid-season. In most cases, this would lead to a dispersal draft. Aaaaaaawesome, the joy of everything being available in a draft.
I have no idea what the Cardinals' punishment for their role in purported corporate espionage should be. That some parties might have doubled down, and engaged in a cover-up of a conspiracy, probably won't help their case. For the record, I think some people will be fired, others will be suspended, and the team will face a series of fines. Whether there can be more done or not is as up in the air as is what should be done. I expect the punishments will be very tame. I do have a few ideas on what should be considered if Commissioner Rob Manfred goes with the nuclear option.
For the record, my idea of the nuclear option involves displaying to all 30 teams that what was done is completely and unequivocally not acceptable. The purest way to do this is to siphon away a year of draft picks. If that is done, every team will have a policy in place that de-incentivizes recreational computer hacking. Within a few days. Nobody wants that to happen to them.
One significant problem appears to exist with the nuclear option. If the picks are appropriated and redistributed, some teams will likely get very fortunate, and quite a few will get next to no benefit at all. It doesn't have to be that way. It goes back to the dispersal draft in my CBA (for most of this article, that acronym will mean "Continental Basketball Association," not "collective bargaining agreement") background.
For the record, I'm not interested in making scouts, executives, players, or coaches available. They have contracts, and messing with their livelihood would be a poison pill for the Player's Union. As it should be. The goal, if the nuclear option comes about, is to harshly punish the guilty team, and disperse the loot in a somewhat fair fashion. At least, as fair as a 29-team blind lot can be done.
Back to the CBA dispersal drafts. Teams would have 10 active players, a number of inactive players (be they injured, in the NBA or whatever), draft picks for the upcoming draft, and that was about it. As quickly as practical, the teams would have a conference call. As I remember, the worst record got the first selection each round, and they could take whatever was available. The starting lineup would go rather quickly, along with the top draft pick or two. By the end, the options were scarce, and then the goal became fixing the schedule.
As for the nuclear option regarding the Cardinals, the draft picks and international free agency wedges would be available. However, worst-to-first for two rounds seems to de-incentivize winning, so it shouldn't be done that way. Though it might be. The first thing that should be done is something to get the Player's Union to buy in completely. Here's something that would do it: Eliminate the Cardinals' option to give any qualifying offers for the next three years. In other words, resign Jason Heyward, or don't. However, if you don't, you don't get a draft pick for him. I also would rule them ineligible for four years for the competitive balance selections, as on-line thievery is a good way to skew balance in your favor.
Now, on to the dispersal draft. Each team would have a representative or two on hand for the lottery selections. Similar to the NBA lottery, ping pong balls might make for a decent TV event. I wouldn't object to a mild tipping of the likelihood of the first selections to the weaker teams, but that certainly isn't necessary. One of the key points will be the draft will be "snaked." In other words, the first choice would also get the 58th selection. As with the NBA, the draft would be a few days or weeks after the lottery.
But, I hear you say, there aren't 58 things available. There are only 40 or so draft picks, and four IFA signing wedges. It won't get that far around again.
It could, if baseball isn't constrained by traditional thought. First, the draft has 30 picks on the third day. That is one time around, plus a spare. The IFA wedges make 34. "You're still 24 away. You can't get close to 58."
The traditional way of looking at things is to link the draft picks and their spending pools. The teams that get the first, second, and third choices make out like bandits. Everyone else gets... well.... they don't lose all their selections.
As soon as you unbundle the picks from their values, it's a pretty short trip to somewhere near 58. The Cardinals would likely re-sign everyone if they can't get qualifying offers, so their selections will likely be around 10 in the first two days of the draft. If you separate the pick from the slot value, you're suddenly pretty near 54. The teams that get the first four or five choices don't need to double-dip to be happy.
Now, the first 24 teams all get something of value. Whether it a bonus selection, more cap room, or an IFA wedge to spend or trade, all but the last five teams selected get some largesse. The question is, would you prefer the Cardinals' first selection, or the money linked to said pick?
As an added benefit, the event would take place right before the other CBA, the collective bargaining agreement, expires. Just for the sheer experiment of it all, allow teams to trade anything they get from the yard sale, to see how bizarre trades might get. For draft picks and bonus pool slots, they can only get dealt once, and trades should be consummated pre-draft. Otherwise, the draft might break due to complexities.
Basically, the Cardinals get punished, but no players do. Every team other than the Cardinals benefits, and the presents are spread out somewhat evenly. Even if you get the short end of the stick, you still get a bonus pick early on the third day.
There's my idea. Feel free to shoot holes in it.