Ballplayers at the top of a ponzi scheme

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Here’s Scott Boras’ comment back in February when it was revealed that several baseball players were among the clients of suspected fraudster Robert Allen Stanford:

“The broker dealers the players have chosen have advised our
personal management auditors the players are not in jeopardy of losing
money.”

Here’s the news from yesterday:

The lawyer trying to recover the money from R. Allen Stanford’s
purported Ponzi scheme wants seven current and former Major League
Baseball stars who had invested with the accused swindler to turn over
millions of dollars, mostly of the players’ own money.

Ralph S. Janvey, whom the Securities and Exchange Commission
appointed as the “receiver” in the case, wants to take $9.5 million
from the players, an amount that mostly consists of their initial
investments, so that the athletes’ money can be split up among all of
Mr. Stanford’s purported victims.

“The fact that the [ballplayers] are innocent investors and
committed no wrongdoing does not entitle them to retain proceeds
received from the fraudulent” scheme, lawyers for Mr. Janvey wrote in a
filing last week with the U.S. District Court in Dallas.

Oops.

The players who, if the motion is granted, stand to lose millions
include Greg Maddux, Johnny Damon, J.D. Drew, Andruw Jones, Carlos
Pena, and Jay Bell.

The question I asked back in February and for which I’d still like
an answer is whether Scott Boras — who makes a big deal about how he’s
a full-service representative — steered these guys to Stanford. Maybe
someone in a position to should ask him.

Evan Longoria: “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.