Former Texas Rangers starting pitcher Esteban Loaiza — best known for being the biggest piece in one of the best trades in franchise history — is in a San Diego County jail after being arrested on three drug felony charges Friday. The San Diego County Sheriff's Department's Border Crimes Suppression Team found 20 kilograms — about 44 pounds — of cocaine in house Loaiza was renting in the city of Imperial Beach, California. The former pitcher is charged with possession of more than 20 kilograms of cocaine, possession of cocaine for sale and transportation of cocaine. His bail is $200,000.
According to the sheriff's department, deputies pulled Loaiza over after spotting him driving a car they believed to be involved in a drug smuggling operation, thanks to ongoing surveillance. When they searched the car, the sheriff's deputies found "a sophisticated aftermarket compartment used to conceal contraband," according to the sheriff's department.
After finding the compartment, deputies got a warrant for the nearby house, searched it and found the cocaine, which they say is worth about $500,000.
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The Rangers acquired Loaiza from the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1998, two weeks before the trade deadline. While his overall line in Arlington was mediocre, he flashed as a better-than-average starter. In 1999, he started game three of the American League Division Series against the Yankees, throwing seven strong innings in a Rangers loss.
A year later, with the Rangers out of the 2000 race, the team traded Loaiza to the Toronto Blue Jays for minor league pitcher Darwin Cubillan and infielder Michael Young. While Cubillan appeared in just 13 games for the Rangers — all in 2000 — Young retired as the Rangers all-time leader in hits and one of the most popular players in team history.
After leaving the Blue Jays, Loaiza pitched for the White Sox, A's, Dodgers, Nationals and Yankees, having his best season in 2003, when he won 21 games, struck out a league-leading 207 batters and finished second to Blue Jays superstar Roy Halladay in Cy Young voting.
Loaiza's arraignment is set for Wednesday, according to sheriff's department records.