Houston Astros defy their own ‘zero tolerance’ policy, acquire player accused of assaulting woman

Roberto Osuna hasn't appeared in a Major League Baseball game since being charged with assaulting a woman in May.

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Roberto Osuna during batting practice at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario on July 26, 2016. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Roberto Osuna during batting practice at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario on July 26, 2016. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Major League Baseball’s trade deadline is Tuesday and a flurry of deals are making headlines. But one team’s decision-making is drawing intense scrutiny, as the Houston Astros, the reigning World Series champions, acquired suspended pitcher Roberto Osuna from the Toronto Blue Jays.

Despite the fact that he is still serving a 75-game suspension under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy after being charged with assaulting a woman, the Astros thought Osuna was valuable enough to trade away their former closer and two highly-rated minor league prospects.

Osuna was charged with assault in Toronto on May 8. According to Toronto police spokesperson Constable Jenifferjit Sidhu, “no further details of the incident, or the female victim, were released in order to protect her identity.” Osuna pleaded not guilty in June. Osuna’s lawyer, Domenic Basile, said his client was looking forward to returning to game action during a court appearance earlier this month.

The Astros have previously claimed to have a zero-tolerance policy for domestic violence. The organization released minor league prospect Danry Vasquez in March after disturbing surveillance footage emerged in which he is seen striking a woman multiple times and dragging her down the stairs. Prominent Astros players backed the organization’s decision to cut ties with Vasquez.


However, Astros general manager Jeff Lunhow said his acquisition of Osuna complied with the team’s zero-tolerance policy even though the pitcher is still facing legal proceedings for the assault charge against him. “We are confident that Osuna is remorseful, has willfully complied with all consequences related to his past behavior, has proactively engaged in counseling, and will fully comply with our zero tolerance policy related to abuse of any kind,” Lunhow said. 

Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan ripped Luhnow over the acquisition of Osuna, and his weak attempt to justify the move, in a column Tuesday:

“Certainly Jeff Luhnow heard the same stories as everyone else. The disgusting, abhorrent ones about what happened the night Toronto Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna was arrested and charged with domestic assault. He heard about the brutality Osuna allegedly inflicted. About the picture of the victim’s face that police officers in Toronto still talk about. He heard the details that have circulated around the game for months, details that prosecutors in Canada have not confirmed but are so ugly, so off-putting that anyone with a conscience could not, in good faith, place him on a major league roster.

And then Jeff Luhnow, architect of the world champion Houston Astros, traded for Roberto Osuna.”

ESPN’s Buster Olney also noted how the Blue Jays’ return for Osuna shows how highly Houston values the closer:

“It was something of a surprise when the Blue Jays managed to extract not just one player out of the Astros but three: former Houston closer Ken Giles, who had been sent to the minor leagues; pitcher Hector Perez, rated by as the Astros’ No. 10 prospect; and pitcher David Paulino, who was suspended for 80 games last season for a PED violation. That’s a relatively aggressive return for a player other teams wouldn’t consider.

It’s a decision that is surprising — and completely unsurprising. Tolerance and forgiveness in professional sports have long been directly proportional to the talent of the player.”

Osuna is eligible to pitch for the Astros on Saturday. His next court hearing is on Wednesday.

Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy was instituted following the backlash over the National Football League’s handling of the Ray Rice case. MLB’s guidelines were tested immediately upon implementation with incidents involving high-profile players. Yankees pitcher Aroldis Chapman became the first player to be suspended under the league’s domestic violence policy in March 2016. When Chapman was traded to the Cubs, Chicago fans donated to domestic violence charities whenever he successfully closed out a game.