Tom Hicks has been told by Major League Baseball that he needs to pick the winning bidder in the Rangers’ sale today and to commence negotiations to finalize a deal. No doubt today was picked as the deadline so that everyone can be free to celebrate my daughter’s sixth birthday later this evening.
Hicks may or may not meet that deadline the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports a source saying that it’s only 50-50 that he’ll pick today — but there is a clear front runner, at least on financial terms. It’s Houston businessman Jim Crane, whose bid is said to be higher than either Pittsburgh lawyer Chuck Greenberg’s or former agent Dennis Gilbert’s.
The article notes, however, that Crane is not a popular figure in MLB circles because he once reneged on a deal to buy the Astros. Also working against him is the fact that Gilbert is said to be a favorite of Jerry Reinsdorf, which automatically makes him a favorite of Bud Selig’s. They’re a clannish bunch, those owners, and they like to reward their friends.
The lawyer and Tom Hicks-hater in me wants a low bid to win because if that happens maybe some investor in Hicks Sports Group will sue Hicks for breaching his fiduciary duties to the debt-addled company, which in turn will better expose the rampant cronyism that takes place in the franchise sale market. Plus, if Glibert wins, there are indications that hey’ll be baseball’s answer to Daniel Snyder, and that would be great fun for everyone except Rangers’ fans.
Likely? Nah. But a boy can dream, can’t he?
In light of the Astros’ deal for veteran designated hitter Carlos Beltran on Saturday, the Yankees are thought to be intensifying their pursuit of free agent Edwin Encarnacion, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. The Yankees never made an official offer to Beltran, but remain in need of a DH/first baseman to give them a little more power outside of a Tyler Austin–Greg Bird combo in 2017.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, are reportedly withdrawing their interest when it comes to the Encarnacion sweepstakes. According to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, they will look for a hitter to beef up their lineup without taking a “big plunge” on the 34-year-old.
Encarnacion enjoyed another All-Star run with the Blue Jays in 2016, hitting at a .263/.357/.529 clip with 42 homers and a league-leading 127 RBI in 702 PA. He’s expected to command a significant contract in free agency, and agent Paul Kinzer said that a potential deal is unlikely to be finalized before the Winter Meetings as Encarnacion is not close to agreeing to any offer. Interested teams include the Blue Jays and the Astros, though Beltran’s signing appears to have effectively taken Houston out of the running for the slugger.
The Nationals are trying to go big this offseason, and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal notes that they are still in trade talks for White Sox’ left-hander Chris Sale and Pirates’ center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Both players figure to command a big return, as Sale delivered another Cy Young-worthy performance in 2016 and, despite a downturn in his production rate, McCutchen is still one of the more coveted sluggers in the National League.
In 2016, Sale led the league in complete games, with six, and turned in a 3.34 ERA and 5.2 fWAR in 226 2/3 innings. While teams have been sniffing around the White Sox’ ace since the trade deadline, the club is expected to maintain a high asking price — so high, said FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, that it may keep the left-hander in Chicago for the foreseeable future.
According to Heyman, four other teams are reportedly in the mix for Sale, including the Red Sox, Astros, Rangers, and Braves, though parts of Rosenthal’s tweet hinted that the Red Sox were maintaining their interest in hopes of striking a more affordable deal. Should the Nationals pursue a deal for Sale, it’s likely that they’d have to move shortstop/center fielder Trea Turner, which they appear reluctant to do.
McCutchen, meanwhile, is also drawing interest around the league after batting .256/.336/.430 with 24 home runs in 675 PA during 2016. He didn’t appear to lose much power in his eighth season with the Pirates, but took considerably fewer walks and struck out at a career-high clip.
The Nationals were said to be in the lead for McCutchen on Thursday, and there was some expectation that the club would wrap up a trade for the center fielder by the non-tender deadline on Friday. FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi pointed out that the Rangers were also talking to the Pirates, however, and no deal has come to fruition as of yet.