Court-appointed restructuring officer recommends the Rangers be auctioned off

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I love that this was sold as a “prepackaged” bankruptcy. If I bought something prepacked like this at the grocery store I’d take it to the manager and demand a refund. Danial Kaplan at SBD:

The Texas bankruptcy court appointed chief restructuring officer (CRO)
has decided an auction of the MLB Rangers should occur, multiple sources
tell SportsBusiness Journal . . . The sources said the CRO, William Snyder, has already informed MLB
President & COO Bob DuPuy and said league approval will not be a
criteria for deciding the best bid.

At the outset, note that this is only a recommendation. The court itself can ignore it and, instead, simply give the OK to the Rangers’ bankruptcy plan as-amended. I haven’t even close to the bankruptcy court experience to even pretend to guess at how likely it is that the court would act on the recommendation, rubber-stamp the plan, poop or go blind.

All we know for sure is that this news, combined with this morning’s information about the unsuccessful creditors being invited to next-week’s mediation, sets the stage for a rebidding if the judge agrees to go along with the recommendation.  A rebidding, Kaplan reports, that would not have “whether or not Major League Baseball likes you” as a criteria.

At which point it would be interesting to see what, if anything, Major League Baseball does about it. Because remember: MLB likes to pretend that it’s federally-created antitrust exemption allows it to accept or reject would-be team owners with impunity.  I assume that they’re not going to try and pull rank over a bankruptcy judge on this point — this sale is complicated enough already — but if they don’t, does it not put an end to the fiction that they can pick and choose new owners?

Oh well. Just another fun day in the sale that everyone insisted was a “done deal” back in January or whatever.

Report: Rays having “advanced talks” with free agent reliever Tommy Hunter

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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported this morning that free agent reliever Tommy Hunter required core muscle repair surgery earlier this offseason. Coming off a disappointing 2015, it’s understandable why he’s still on the market, but it sounds like he has at least one significant lead.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times hears that the Rays are having “advanced talks” with Hunter as they attempt to add an experienced arm to their bullpen. Nothing is considered close and Hunter is also talking to other clubs. Meanwhile, the Rays have been in touch with veteran reliever Ryan Webb while monitoring the trade market.

Hunter posted a 2.88 ERA as a late-inning arm from 2013-2014, but he compiled a mediocre 4.18 ERA over 58 appearances last season between the Orioles and Cubs. On the bright side, his velocity has held steady and his control is still very good. Despite the down year and core muscle surgery, Topkin writes that Hunter may be holding out for a multi-year deal.

Pirates sign left-hander Cory Luebke

Cory Luebke Getty
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
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Eric O'Flaherty wasn’t the only reclamation project added by the Pirates today, as the club also announced that they have signed left-hander Cory Luebke to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Luebke once looked like a solid rotation piece for the Padres, but he hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since April 27, 2012. He’s undergone a pair of Tommy John surgeries since. Now 30 years old, he logged seven innings in the minors last season before requiring a procedure to remove loose bodies around a nerve in his forearm. The Padres cut ties with him in November after declining a $7.5 million club option for 2016.

It’s hard to count on much from Luebke at this point, but he told Adam Berry of MLB.com that he feels healthy and hopes to compete for a bullpen job in the spring.

White Sox reportedly considering Ian Desmond

Ian Desmond
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
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Many have speculated on a potential match between the White Sox and Ian Desmond this winter, but we haven’t heard much in the way of legitimate interest. That could be changing with spring training right around the corner, as MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that Chicago is among the teams considering the free agent shortstop.

After turning the page on Alexei Ramirez this offseason, the White Sox currently have Tyler Saladino in line to serve as their starting shortstop in 2016. The 26-year-old is considered a strong defender, but he batted .225/.267/.335 with four homers over 254 plate appearances as a rookie in 2015. Desmond is coming off a nightmare of a walk year and has seen his strikeout rate climb by 8.5 percent since 2012, but he possesses more offensive upside and it’s not hard to imagine a bounceback campaign while calling U.S. Cellular Field home.

Similar to fellow free agents Yovani Gallardo and Dexter Fowler, Desmond is attached to draft pick compensation after turning down a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Nationals. It’s a big reason why a potential deal with the Rays is reported to be a “long shot.” Chicago’s No. 10 overall pick in this year’s draft is protected, so they would give up their No. 28 overall pick if they sign a qualifying offer free agent like Desmond.

Pirates sign reliever Eric O’Flaherty

Eric O'Flaherty
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Left-hander Eric O'Flaherty has agreed to a minor-league deal with the Pirates that includes an invitation to spring training.

O’Flaherty was one of the best relievers in the league for the Braves from 2009-2013, posting a combined 1.99 ERA in 249 innings, but Tommy John elbow surgery derailed his career and he struggled for the A’s and Mets in 2015 while dealing with shoulder problems.

It’s tough to know if O’Flaherty is healthy at this point, but the 31-year-old southpaw certainly has a chance to be a nice reclamation project for the Pirates on a no-risk contract.