Nolan Ryan: the bankruptcy is gutting the Rangers


Day two of that fun Texas Rangers hearing down in Forth Worth and the highlight so far — thanks to some live tweeting by SBJ’s Daniel Kaplan — is Nolan Ryan on the witness stand.  Among the tidbits he dropped during his testimony, which concluded a few minutes ago:

  • The team is being forced to deplete its minor league
    system because of the bankruptcy;

  • The bankruptcy is preventing the Rangers from signing international players. Ryan says that because of this “there is a void in our system”;

  • The bankruptcy could prevent the team from buying a new
    video board, priced between $5 million and $12 million;

  • Because of the bankruptcy, other teams are starting to poach Rangers’ scouts;

  • A prolonged bankruptcy could cause the team to lose Josh Hamilton;

  • Bankruptcy aside, the team is running $5 million ahead of budget projections in revenue this year, presumably because they’ve been winning.

  • The team expects to sell playoff tickets this year, which will bring in between $11 million and $14 million.

That’s all interesting, but it’s worth noting that Nolan Ryan has every incentive — not just as the Rangers’ President, but also as
its prospective new owner — 
to get the team out of bankruptcy as soon as possible. That  means that a doomsday scenario for the Rangers-in-bankruptcy is in his own best interests in this particular hearing, because if it’s truly doomsday, Greenberg and Hicks’ position — auction the team yesterday before other bidders can improve their chances at landing the team — should win. That doesn’t mean that he’s not telling the truth, but I’m betting there were a lot of “coulds” and “mights” in Ryan’s testimony today.

The judge seemingly took Ryan’s testimony with a grain of salt. According to Kaplan, after Ryan was done, the judge observed that it was not the bankruptcy that was causing many of these problems for the Rangers, but the fact that they’ve been on a line of credit from Major League Baseball to cover expenses. Including, one assumes, scout salaries and signing bonuses for international players.  Which is not to say that the bankruptcy is a good thing — it’s not — but blaming it for all the team’s financial problems seems pretty questionable to me.

The vast majority of the Rangers’ business issues right now are Tom Hicks’ fault, not the fault of the process by which the court is attempting to ensure that the creditors Hicks stiffed for so long get something approaching fair value in return.  The suggestion that it’s the bankruptcy itself that is the real evil here seems wrong to me.

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.