MLB Disciplines Five Players for Betting on Baseball

MLB has issued four suspensions – and one lifetime ban – to five players found to have violated the league's sports betting policies.

Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Tucupita Marcano looks on during an MLB game against the San Diego Padres at PNC Park.
PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 28: Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Tucupita Marcano (30) looks on during an MLB game against the San Diego Padres on June 28, 2023 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

On the morning of Tuesday, June 4, 2024, Major League Baseball announced that five players have been disciplined for violating the league’s rules and policies around sports betting. Michael Kelly (OAK), Andrew Saalfrank (ARI), Jay Groome (SDP), and José Rodríguez (PHI) have all been issued one-year suspensions. Tucupita Marcano (SDP) has been deemed permanently ineligible to return to MLB.

While none of the players under investigation placed bets on games in which they played, their actions still violated the league’s official rulebook. The rules clearly state that players cannot bet “any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game.”

The punishment for players who bet on any baseball game is a one-year suspension. Furthermore, the punishment for players who bet on a baseball game “with which the bettor has a duty to perform” is a lifetime ban.

In Marcano’s case, he did not place bets on any MLB game in which he appeared, but he did place bets on Pirates games while he was “assigned to the Pirates’ Major League Club” (per MLB).

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One could argue that Marcano did not “have a duty to perform” in any of the games on which he bet because he was on the injured list following knee surgery. Evidently, however, MLB’s Department of Investigations disagrees.

Although MLB announced all five punishments simultaneously, they are each for unrelated violations. There is no known connection between any of the five players’ gambling activities.

None of the five players have chosen to appeal the league’s decision.

Tucupita Marcano

Marcano was a utility player in the Padres organization. He began his professional career with San Diego, signing as an international free agent in 2016 and making his big league debut for the club in 2021. The Padres dealt him to the Pirates that summer as part of a package for Adam Frazier.

After parts of three seasons in Pittsburgh, Marcano made his way back to his original organization this past offseason. He had not yet played a game in 2024, as he continues to recover from knee surgery last August.

Michael Kelly

Kelly, 31, also began his career in San Diego, when the Padres selected him in the first round of the 2011 draft. However, he struggled to live up to his first-round billing, shuttling between several teams before finally making his MLB debut with the Phillies in 2022.

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Despite a solid performance out of the Guardians bullpen over the second half of the 2023 campaign, Kelly was DFA’d after the season. The Athletics scooped him up, and four months later, he was pitching out of Oakland’s bullpen on Opening Day. Through 28 appearances this year, Kelly was 3-2 with a 2.59 ERA and 3.81 FIP.

Andrew Saalfrank

Saalfrank played a role for the Diamondbacks during their postseason run last fall, leading the team with 11 appearances in the playoffs (including 2.1 scoreless innings in the World Series). However, he did not make the Opening Day roster in 2024, and he only appeared in two games for the D-backs this season amid a brief call-up in late April.

He will be 27 next season when he is eligible to return from his suspension.

Jay Groome

Yet another Padres connection, Groome, 26, was one of the top prospects in the 2016 draft, in which the Red Sox took him with the 12th overall pick. Six years (and one Tommy John surgery) later, Boston traded him to San Diego in exchange for Eric Hosmer, Max Ferguson, and Corey Rosier.

The left-hander struggled in his first full season with the Padres organization, pitching to an 8.55 ERA (6.91 FIP) over 30 starts at Triple-A in 2023. Despite his struggles, he was a depth option for the Padres this year, given his spot on the 40-man roster and all the pitching injuries the team has suffered.

He has yet to make his MLB debut.

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José Rodríguez

Rodríguez, 23, is the youngest and least recognizable name on the list. He signed with the White Sox as an international free agent in 2018 and rose through the ranks in Chicago over the next six seasons.

He had a rough minor league campaign in 2023 and an equally rough spring training in 2024, after which the White Sox DFA’d the young infielder and traded him to the Phillies in April. Rodríguez hit pretty well over 38 games at Double-A Reading, putting up a 112 wRC+ in 164 PA before his suspension.

For more details about the disciplinary action taken against Marcano, Miller, Saalfrank, Groome, and Rodríguez, you can read MLB’s official announcement here.