Esteban Loaiza spent 14 seasons in the majors — including a fairly miserable stint with the Yankees in 2004 — and made nearly $44 million.
And now the 48-year-old is sitting in Seattle-Tacoma Federal Detention Center, serving three years in prison for felony cocaine possession with intent to distribute.
Loaiza’s fall, attributed to a lavish lifestyle that included gifts to extended family members long after his peak money-making days were over, was detailed in a Bleacher Report story on Thursday.
“I think when we’re young, we all have a tendency to think it’s going to last forever,” Joe Torre, who managed Loaiza in his half-season in The Bronx, told the website. “And when you have to move on to something else, I guess you’re vulnerable. It’s sad.”
Loaiza last pitched in 2008 and after more than a decade of questionable behavior that included a DUI. Loaiza was arrested in February 2018 after an investigation discovered that Loaiza had 44 pounds of cocaine — estimated to be worth $500,000 — stashed in a townhouse in California.
An All-Star with the White Sox in 2003 and 2004, Loaiza was traded to the Yankees in exchange for Jose Contreras in July, but went 1-2 with an 8.50 ERA in six starts with the Yankees before being pulled from the rotation. He pitched well in the postseason, including in a pair of outings in the ALCS against the Red Sox, but ultimately allowed a walkoff single to David Ortiz in Game 5, as the Yankees blew the series in seven games.
Loaiza struggled for most of the rest of his career and in 2006 he was arrested for drunken driving and speeding when he was caught exceeding 120 MPH on an Oakland freeway in a Ferrari. According to the story, he was convicted of reckless driving and given a three-year probationary sentence.
“This was the Lamborghini-driving, Maserati-driving, DUI Loaiza that we got,” Oakland radio broadcaster Vince Cotroneo said. “The paint was starting to dry. You were starting to capture the full portrait of the guy. When he got to Oakland, it got stranger.”
After his playing days ended, he married Mexican-American pop star Jenni Rivera. The two were in the process of getting a divorce when Rivera was killed in a 2012 plane crash. Meanwhile, the money vanished.
One person close with the Loaizas told Bleacher Report: “His family kept drawing and drawing and drawing from him.”
The bottom fell out in 2018 when he was under surveillance in southern California, near the Mexican border.
He was pulled over and after dogs scented drugs in his Mercedes SUV, the cops obtained a search warrant for the house where Loaiza was headed, where they found 20 packages of cocaine in the compartment of a Nissan parked in the garage.
Loaiza admitted in a plea agreement that he transferred the drugs from one vehicle to the other. The house had been rented in Loaiza’s name.
Loaiza declined an interview request for the story. Since he was born in Tijuana, he is also set to be deported to Mexico after serving his prison sentence.
Loaiza’s attorney said in paperwork filed with the court that his client “made a huge error in [judgment] when he agreed to commit this crime.”
He attended the White Sox’s fan fest in 2018 — just weeks before his arrest — and reportedly looked “gaunt and tired.”