Johnny Damon is pricing his way out of New York

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SI’s Jon Heyman listened to Scott Boras hold court up at the GM meetings in Chicago, and reports that (a) Boras thinks that Damon should get a four-year deal; (b) Damon doesn’t want less than his current $13 million; (c) the Yankees are saying that they are “absolutely not” going to offer him four years  — more like 2; (d) the Yankees offer would be at $10 million per; and (e) the Giants have some interest in Damon.

Setting aside for a moment the fact that Heyman’s report reads more like a press release for Johnny Damon as opposed to a news story (Jon: the reason Damon leads many other players in stats measured “over the past 12 seasons” is because he’s old!) let’s parse this:

Just because the Yankees have more money than God doesn’t mean that they’re going to throw it away stupidly. Indeed, in the past few years we’ve seen the Yankees move from a model of spending outrageous amounts of money stupidly to spending outrageous amounts of money wisely. If you’re the Yankees, in an offseason where almost every other team is looking to slash payroll, and there are at least three all-star caliber left fielders around, why on earth would you give the oldest one $52 million over four years? If I’m Brain Cashman I call the bluff on Damon, wish him well in that big outfield in San Francisco and focus my attention on Matt Holliday.

Which, come to think of it, may be Boras’ hope anyway. If the Yankees are eliminated as a Damon suitor — and a hard demand for a four year deal for the guy should eliminate them — it opens up the market for Holliday, also a Boras client, considerably.

Reds sign catcher Tucker Barnhart to a four-year deal

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Mark Sheldon of MLB.com reports that the Reds have signed catcher Tucker Barnhart to a four-year contract extension. The terms: $16 million total, with a $7.5 million club option for the 2022 season that has a $500,000 buyout. He also received a $1.75 million signing bonus.

The deal buys out all three of his arbitration years — he was going to be eligible for the first time this offseason — and the first year of his potential free agency. The club option buys a second. Barnhart made $575,000 this season.

Barnhart, 26, is finishing his second season as the Reds primary catcher. This year he’s hitting .272/.349/.399 with six homers and 42 RBI in 113 games. For his career he has a line of .257/.328/.366 in 330 major league games. His real value is defensive, however. He leads the National League in caught stealing percentage and number of base stealers caught (31-for-70, 44%) and leads all players at any position in the league in defensive WAR according to Baseball-Reference.com.

Dodgers owner Mark Walter is involved in a scandal

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The Dodgers last owner, Frank McCourt, was a mainstay of the gossip pages. The new administration has been pretty drama free since taking over five years ago. That is, until now.

Multiple outlets, ranging from the New York Post to the Wall Street Journal, have been reporting on a scandal brewing at Guggenheim Partners, the multi-billion investment firm led by Mark Walter, its CEO. Walter is also the head of Guggenheim Baseball Management, the offshoot of the firm which owns the Dodgers. Walter is the Dodgers’ named owner — the “control person” — as far as Major League Baseball is concerned.

The scandal does not directly relate to the baseball team. Rather, it involves allegations that Walter bought a $13 million Pacific Palisades home for a younger female executive named Alexandra Court:

In the past 24 hours, the company has pushed back on multiple reports that CEO Mark Walter will step down; its chief investment officer has claimed on CNBC that there’s “no tumult” at the company; and Guggenheim has denied reports on a real-estate blog and in the New York Post that Walter bought a California mansion for a younger female executive at the company.

The denial regarding who bought the mansion is a bit too cute, though, as the company only denies that Walter bought it or owns it. In fact, the mansion is owned by a holding company that also bought Walter’s personal residence in Malibu. Billionaires don’t go to closings at title company offices, of course. They buy houses through companies and LLCs and trusts and stuff. As such, the claim that Walter didn’t buy the house may be technically and legally true but entirely misleading all the same. For what it’s worth, The Wall Street Journal has reported that Walter and Court have a “personal relationship.” Walter, who is married, and the company deny this. Court is on an extended leave of absence.

Walter and Guggenheim are denying that Walter is going to step down as CEO. That remains to be seen. The question for our purposes is whether, if he steps down from Guggenheim Partners, he would necessarily have to step down from Guggenheim Baseball Management and thus relinquish control of the Dodgers. I suspect not — they’re distinct legal entities, and his departure from Partners would be unrelated to stuff having to do with the baseball team — but you never know. It’s not like he put up $2 billion of his personal dollars for the team. There are likely a lot of strings attached and contingencies involved to the arrangement.

Something to watch.