Frank McCourt has a "slush fund," secret partners and pays his kids to do nothing

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John Weinbach of FanHouse reports some more unseemliness from the land of Frank McCourt and the Dodgers:

Over the past 18 months, the Los Angeles Dodgers paid nearly $4 million
in “consulting services” to [the John McCourt Company], an entity that
has done virtually nothing for the club, even as the team has made a
concerted effort to raise ticket prices, trim payroll and acquire
players on the cheap. Moreover, the club paid two of Frank and Jamie
McCourt’s adult sons large salaries — $400,000 and $200,000 per year,
respectively — for services that are undefined and could not be
described by either Frank or Jamie McCourt, according to court documents
filed in the couple’s divorce case.

Jamie McCourt’s attorneys call the John McCourt company a “slush fund” which Frank uses to hide money.  My guess is that she’s less critical of the big salaries her kids make for apparently do-nothing jobs.

In addition, there are apparently two limited partners in the Dodgers — guys no one ever knew about, but who provided considerable funds to the McCourts to buy the team — whose debt gets converted into “sizable equity” in the team if the McCourts default on the loans.

On the one hand this is shocking — and Josh Fisher does his excellent-as-usual job breaking down all of the implications, complete with an apt comparison to the Texas Rangers, who are poster children for what happens when good teams go into bad debts like the McCourts seem to have done.

On the other hand, I would not be at all shocked if multiple teams in Major League Baseball operated in just the same way, complete with family jobs, slush funds, silent partners and all manner of vehicles which, either intentionally or by happy accident, work to conceal the amount of cash a baseball team really earns and where its money is spent.  Baseball teams are almost all purely private companies, most of which are family owned. Despite their antitrust exemption and all of the tax money they consume in the form of public stadiums and the like, we know just as much about their operations as we do the corner gyro shop, and that’s just the way they like it.

The only difference here: we have a divorce case in which these machinations are laid bare.  And however distressing it is for Dodgers fans to see where all the money that should be going towards starting pitching is going, these revelations are educational and useful.

Report: Tigers and J.D. Martinez agree to a two-year, $18.5 million deal

J.D. Martinez
Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images
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UPDATE: Jason Beck of MLB.com confirms that it’s a two-year, $18.5 million deal.

8:00 p.m. ET: Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the Tigers have avoided arbitration with outfielder J.D. Martinez by agreeing to a two-year contract. No word yet on the terms involved, but Robert Murray of Baseball Essential reported earlier today that he was hearing rumblings about a two-year, $18.5 million deal.

Martinez filed for $8 million and was offered $6 million by the Tigers when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. There has been some talk about a long-term extension, but we heard last week that the two sides were discussing both one- and two-year deals. This new deal will buy out Martinez’s final two years of arbitration, so as of now, he’s still on track to go into free agency after 2017.

After a breakout 2014, Martinez batted .282 with 38 home runs and an .879 OPS over 158 games last season.

Free agent reliever Eric O’Flaherty weighing interest from four teams

New York Mets pitcher Eric O'Flaherty throws against the Miami Marlins during the ninth inning of a baseball game in Miami, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015. The Mets defeated the Miami Marlins 8-6. (AP Photo/Joe Skipper)
AP Photo/Joe Skipper
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Veteran reliever Eric O'Flaherty is coming off the worst season of his career, but there’s still plenty of interest in a bounceback, as ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that he’s deciding between four teams and “should sign a deal by the weekend.”

You really can’t sugarcoat O’Flaherty’s 2015. The 31-year-old was flat-out bad, posting an 8.41 ERA and 21/18 K/BB ratio over 30 innings of work between the Athletics and Mets. Opposing batters hit .343/.427/.482 against him. I keep going back to check if that’s a misprint, but nope, it’s real. He also missed some time with shoulder inflammation. On the bright side, Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reported last month that O’Flaherty feels healthy and believes that he has fixed his mechanics.

O’Flaherty’s career has veered off track since Tommy John surgery in 2013, but he has enjoyed plenty of success in the past and throws from the left side. He’s the kind of guy who will continue to get chances.

Mets sign outfielder Roger Bernadina

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Veteran outfielder Roger Bernadina has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Mets that includes an invitation to spring training.

Bernadina was a semi-regular for the Nationals from 2010-2012, but never developed as much as hoped offensively and didn’t play in the majors at all last season.

At age 32 he’s a career .236 hitter with a .661 OPS in 548 games as a big leaguer and given the Mets’ outfield depth–they already have Alejandro De Aza and Juan Lagares in bench/part-time roles–Bernadina seems likely to begin the season in the minors.

J.R. Graham is in The Best Shape of his Life

Minnesota Twins starting pitcher J.R. Graham celebrates after the final out as the Twins beat the Chicago White Sox 12-2 in  a baseball game, Thursday, April 30, 2015, in Minneapolis. The Twins won 12-2. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
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Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com reports that Twins reliever J.R. Graham has lost “roughly 30-40 pounds this offseason.” It’s not a result of workouts, though. Just a change in diet. Bollinger says that Graham cut out sugar, alcohol and foods heavy in carbs and focused on a high-protein diet with lots of salads, meats and vegetables.

That’s an awful lot of weight to lose in four months, but the dude is only 26 and guys in their 20s lose weight just by thinking about it. Which is so very annoying to those of us who aren’t guys in their 20s.

The real test, of course, will come when he is working out far more strenuously once spring training starts and gets into the season. Normal schmos like me can keep up that kind of diet without much of a hitch as long as we have the willpower. An athlete’s energy requirements are far greater and far more specialized, so he’ll need more fuel than he’s probably been getting this offseason. Word is, however, that professional sports teams have people on staff that, you know, have made monitoring that kind of thing their life’s work.

In the meantime:

“I can just feel the change,” Graham said. “The energy. Everything. I feel great. I’m excited to see how it’ll translate into spring. I know I shouldn’t have any problems because I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. I’m faster. All that. So it’s really exciting.”

It’s very exciting indeed. Because, with that, Graham becomes the latest baseball player to be . . . In The Best Shape of His Life.