The Rangers will be auctioned on July 16th. Kinda.

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All the parties to the Great Texas Rangers Clusterbang will be at a mediation starting at noon today, and there’s no telling what will come out of it. Maybe they all leave happy and ready for a judge’s rubber stamp. Maybe someone loses an ear. Could go either way, really.  If fisticuffs break out I got money on Nolan Ryan coming out on top.

If there’s anything other than a hearty chorus of Kumbaya coming out of that conference room today, the Rangers are going to be auctioned to the highest bidder on July 16th.  That according to Barry Shlachter of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, who reports that the Rangers have agreed to the auction scenario recommended by the court appointed restructuring dude last week.  The judge could still put the kibosh on it, but now that everyone seems to be on board, it will probably happen barring some kind of breakthrough at the mediation today.

And it’s really only kind of an auction in that the court has agreed to still allow Major League Baseball to have veto power over the winner. So, if Houston businessman Jim Crane wins — and he was reported to be the high bidder the last go-around — he’s probably S.O.L. because Shachter (and others) report that he remains persona non grata in MLB circles.  Harder to say what happens if the Jeff Beck/Dennis Gilbert team participates again and bids high. Gilbert is a Selig favorite, but he may not even be part of the proceedings anymore.  In other news, allowing baseball to hand pick their owners despite the fact that they probably don’t really have the legal right to do so is totally weak.

Final fun fact: last night Chuck Greenberg’s publicist sent out a press release telling everyone that Team Greenberg has its financing in place and its purchase money in escrow.  This is likely a result of increasing chatter — which began with my report back in December — that Greenberg’s financing was shaky (I haven’t heard anything new on that recently, but Buster Olney made mention of this just the other day).

So that’s fixed, and Greenberg wants to make sure everyone knows it. Granted, I’ve never been accused of suffering from a cynicism deficit disorder, but I tend to take a press release that says “everything is great!” as a sign that everything wasn’t great before the date of the press release.  Otherwise the stuff in the press release is not news, see.  So congratulations Mr. Greenberg on fixing the financial problems you claimed you never had.

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

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Yesterday’s unprecedented sanctions leveled on the Atlanta Braves hit them pretty hard, but it also turned a dozen players into free agents. What happens to them now? Who can sign them? When? And for how much?

First off, they get to keep their signing bonuses the Braves gave them. It wasn’t their fault the Braves messed up so it would make no sense for them to have to pay the money back. As for their next team: anyone can, theoretically, sign them. As far as team choice, they are free agents in the most narrow sense of the term.

There are limits, however, because as young, international players, their signings are subject to those caps on each team’s international bonus money which were imposed a few years back. Each team now has a “pool” of finite dollars they can spend on such players and, once that money is spent, teams are severely limited as to what they can offer an international free agent. Each summer the bonus pools are reset and it starts anew.

Which, on the surface, would seem to create a problem for the 12 new free agents, seeing as though a lot of teams have already spent much if not all of their July 2017-18 bonus pools. The good news on that, though, is that Major League Baseball has made a couple of exceptions for these guys:

  • First, the first $200,000 of any of the 12 former Braves players will not be subject to signing pools, so that’s a bit of a break; and
  • Second, even though these players will all likely be signed during the 2017-18 bonus pool period, teams have the option of counting the bonus toward the 2018-19 period. They can’t combine the money from the two periods, but they can, essentially, put off the cost into next year for accounting purposes.

Which certainly opens things up for clubs and gives the players more options as far as places to land go. A club can decide whether or not the guys on the market now look better than the guys they’ve been scouting with an eye toward signing after July 2018 and get a jump on things. Likewise, teams don’t have to decide whether or not to take a run at, say, Shohei Ohtani, burning bonus money now, or instead going after a former Braves player. Ohtani’s money will apply now, the Braves player can be accounted for next year.

The new free agents are eligible to sign during a window that begins on December 5 and ends on Jan. 15. If a player hasn’t signed by then, he can still sign with any club but cannot get a bonus. If a player hasn’t signed anywhere by May 1, 2018, he has the option of re-signing with the Braves, though they can’t pay the guy a bonus either.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has a rundown of the top guys who are now free agents thanks to the Braves’ malfeasance. Kevin Maitan is the big name. The 17-year-old shortstop was considered the top overall international free agent last year, though his first year in the Braves minor league system was less-than-impressive. There are a lot of other promising players too. All of whom now can find new employers.