Rangers' debt holder warns Selig not to seize the team

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Monarch Alternative Capital is the fly in the ointment, the monkey in the wrench, the pain in the assets of the Texas Rangers sale.  They’re the lead debt holder, and the ones who appear to be calling the creditors’ shots in the seemingly interminable brinkmanship that has characterized the team’s sale.

Today Richard Sandomir of the New York Times reports that they’re not taking Bud Selig’s threats to seize the Rangers, cancel the debt and do the deal lightly, sending an email to him in which consequences most dire are predicted, including the team’s bankruptcy or “costly, distracting and messy”
litigation.

Which is really the only response that one can expect given Bud’s threats. There are disagreements about whether Monarch actually has the stones to go through with it all, but if you’re in the business of buying debt and a major debtor is basically saying he’s going to ignore your claims, you pretty much have to litigate if you want to be taken seriously with your other customers, don’t you? It’s like the unwritten rules for banks. If one high-profile debtor is allowed to walk all over you, you’re toast. Ask Tony La Russa. I’m sure he can tell you all about it.

That aside, I think the most interesting thing about it is the last line of Monarch’s letter Sandomir quotes, in which they warn of a negative impact to team values if Selig carries out his threat, “as funding will become more costly and difficult to obtain as lenders
lose faith in the contractual security of their loans.”

This is what I was talking about the other day: the lenders may not have all the leverage in the world in the context of this deal, but if they do end up getting burned, you have to figure that the terms of loans to baseball teams will be much more arduous going forward, and not just from entities like Monarch. Lenders are in the business of valuing risk. If the Rangers are able to simply walk away from current obligations like this, banks will consider baseball teams to be bigger risks going forward. And not just because they’re worried that the team will default, but because they’re worried that the debt they hold will be harder to sell on the open market to secondary holders . . . like Monarch Alternative Captial.

In other words, there are greater stakes at issue here than the simple selling of the Texas Rangers, and I’d be surprised if Selig and his able business associates are not well aware of them privately, even if their public rhetoric is errs on the side of the cavalier.

Yadier Molina gets cast removed from surgically-repaired thumb

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Yadier Molina underwent surgery to repair a ligament tear in his right thumb shortly after the Cardinals were eliminated from the NLDS by the Cubs, and then he needed a followup procedure two months later.

It’s been an offseason of rest and rehab for the seven-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glover, though he’s about ready to ramp up the intensity of workouts with the beginning of spring training approaching …

Brayan Pena was signed to a two-year, $5 million free agent contract this winter to provide more reliable depth behind the plate. He’ll be the Cardinals’ starter at catcher come Opening Day if Yadi isn’t quite ready.

Molina started a whopping 131 games behind the plate in 2015.

Jose Fernandez wants $30 million a year, Marlins don’t plan on paying

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You’ve heard the stories by now. Jose Fernandez does not get along with Marlins management and is doubtful to sign a long-term contract with the team.

There’s still time for those relationships to be repaired — Fernandez can’t become a free agent until after the 2018 season — but we also have a monetary issue at play.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes Sunday that the Marlins are “under the impression” Fernandez and his representatives want $30 million per year on a long-term deal, a figure the Marlins “have no plans to meet.”

If the Marlins won’t pay, Fernandez and his reps will seek that number when the ace right-hander reaches free agency. That could be the same offseason Bryce Harper tries for $500 million.

A friend of Fernandez told Jackson that the 23-year-old native of Cuba was upset about some of the trades the Marlins made last summer and the removal of pitching coach Chuck Hernandez. You probably heard talk of Miami shopping Fernandez this winter, but the asking price was predictably sky-high.

Fernandez has been limited to 19 starts over the last two years because of Tommy John surgery and a biceps injury, but he boasts a stellar 2.40 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 10.5 K/9 in 289 career major league frames. He will make $2.8 million in 2016 and carries two more years of arbitration eligibility.

If he can put together a run of 30-start, 200-inning seasons, Fernandez will get that $30 million per year and probably much more.

Michael Brantley’s timetable off shoulder surgery is “hazy”

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Paul Hoynes at the Cleveland Plain Dealer has an in-depth look at how the Indians will manage their outfield during the early part of the 2016 season, in the absence of star Michael Brantley.

Brantley underwent labrum surgery on his right shoulder this past November and has not picked up a bat all winter. “In the off-season people know I love to hit,” Brantley acknowledged to Hoynes late last week. ”I hit a lot. It’s just been a change in my timetable.”

Hoynes says the projected date for Brantley’s 2016 debut is “hazy,” guessing that it might happen around late April or early May if everything continues to go smoothly. Shoulders can be tricky, for hitters and pitchers.

Rajai Davis, Abraham Almonte, and Lonnie Chisenhall figure to make up Cleveland’s primary starting outfield while Brantley is finishing his rehabilitation. Collin Cowgill and Joey Butler could also be in the mix. It’s a lacking group, tasked with replacing one of the most productive players in baseball.

Brantley, 28, has slashed .319/.382/.494 over the last two seasons, tallying 35 home runs, 90 doubles, 181 RBI, and 38 stolen bases in 293 games.

Could the talented Tribe be in for another slow start?

Shouldn’t this club be spending more money?

Jose Bautista had a courtside view of Saturday night’s epic NBA Slam Dunk Contest

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Zach LaVine of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic put on a tremendous show in Saturday night’s NBA Slam Dunk Contest up in Toronto, Canada. The stars were out to see it at the Air Canada Centre, and Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista had one of the very best views in the house. Check out this video he posted to Instagram of LaVine’s final dunk, a between-the-legs jam from just inside the free throw line …

Its a wrap!!! #BackToBack #SlamDunk #Champion @zachlavine8 🙌🏽🙌🏽🙌🏽🙌🏽

A video posted by Jose Bautista (@joeybats19) on

That is Toronto’s very own Drake going wild in the pink jacket. Gordon probably had the best individual dunk of the night, though, if we’re being really real …

Back to your regularly scheduled baseball programming. Pitchers and catchers report Friday.