Greenberg and Ryan win the Rangers, but it came at a steep price

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Wow.

The battle for the Texas Rangers lost a lot of its intrigue for me when the team traded for Cliff Lee. The reason for this is simple: while the drama was interesting on some level as a business story, its significance — to me at least — had mostly to do with how much the strife would impact the Rangers’ ability to make the necessary moves to stay in contention. They made the moves, however, and the courtroom drama turned into more of a sideshow.

But that changed last night when a boring legal battle turned into a dramatic auction, with Mark Cuban and Jim Crane appearing as though they were going to leave the courthouse as the new owners. Indeed, for a while there, they would raise their bid by tens of millions of dollars in the space of mere minutes, while it took Greenberg and Ryan hours to come up with a higher bid of their own. At one point the restructuring officer informed the court that Cuban would beat any bid Greenberg made, and Cuban’s lawyer boldly proclaimed “my client is prepared to own this team.” There were obscenity-filled shouting matches and, at around midnight, Greenberg’s group appeared as though it was going to march out of the courtroom in protest.

But then things changed. Greenberg upped the cash portion of his bid to $365 million (and noted as he did it that, at that very moment, Michael Young hit a grand slam in the Rangers-Mariners game).  Cuban and Crane then upped theirs to $390 million. However, because a sale to Cuban was presumed to take much longer to close and because time is money, Cuban essentially had to outbid Greenberg by $25 million. Greenberg came back five minutes later at $385 million.

Cuban took ten minutes to consider going up past $400 million. Then he folded.  Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan had won. They will be the next owners of the Texas Rangers.

But make no mistake: this was a costly victory.  For months, Greenberg and Ryan were offering a cash portion of the deal that would have paid team creditors $230 million.  The creditors said that they would have accepted $300 million to drop their objections to the sale.  In thinking that they could do an end-run around the creditors’ demands, Greenberg and Ryan took the Chapter 11 route. That move ended up costing them nearly $100 million in cash before even considering the legal fees and interest on operating loans.  Overall, the legal battle caused the sale price of the team to go up from $520 million to $588 million.

Which brings us back to the on-the-field impacts of all of this.  How much does that $100 million in cash and overall increase of $68 million in sale price affect baseball operations?  I’m guessing if you asked them Greenberg and Ryan would say not a all — and this morning Greenberg is talking big about signing Cliff Lee to a long-term deal — but that hardly seems logical. The fact is that the Rangers will have new owners but those new owners will be much more leveraged than they had planned to be when they drew it all up.

But that’s a worry for another day.  For now it’s enough for Rangers fans to know that their team will soon be out of bankruptcy court purgatory.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

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Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.