Former MLB Pitcher Expected to Plead Guilty to Cocaine Charge

August 8, 2018 Updated: August 8, 2018

Esteban Loaiza, a former Major League Baseball pitcher who played for the Chicago White Sox and seven other teams, may plead guilty on Aug. 10 to cocaine trafficking charges at a U.S. District Court hearing in California, according to a court filing.

Loaiza, 46, earlier this year pleaded not guilty to charges of possession with intent to sell cocaine, stemming from a February arrest in San Diego. Authorities found about 20 kilos of cocaine in bags with his name on them, federal court records show.

Loaiza’s lawyer had requested that a trial scheduled to start on Aug. 10 be changed to a plea hearing for her client, the court records said.

Defense attorney Janice Deaton offered no comment on Tuesday when reached by Reuters. A spokeswoman for San Diego federal prosecutors declined to discuss the potential plea deal but said in an email that the statutory penalties for the current charge are mandatory minimum 10 years and maximum of life imprisonment.

Loaiza, a journeyman who pitched for eight major league teams and most of them more than once between 1995 and 2008, was a two-time American League all-star.

His most productive season was 2003 with the White Sox, when he posted a 21-9 won/loss record and finished second in voting for the American League Cy Young Award, given annually to league’s best pitcher.

Loaiza’s 126 career wins is second behind only Fernando Valenzuela for most victories by an MLB pitcher born in Mexico, according to Baseball Reference.

Loaiza was born in Tijuana, which is just a few miles south of where he was arrested on the cocaine charge.

Law officers in February stopped a Mercedes-Benz SUV driven by Loaiza in San Diego County, and a drug-sniffing dog indicated narcotics or drug residue was in the rear of the vehicle, court records show. Officers found a compartment “commonly used to smuggle drugs and drug proceeds.”

By Bernie Woodall