1970s Steinbrenner

Watergate investigators had “extreme interest” in going after George Steinbrenner

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Anyone who has read a bit about George Steinbrenner knows that, in the 70s, he pleaded guilty to making illegal campaign contributions to the Dick Nixon and got a little slap on the wrist and a 15-month suspension from baseball because of it.  Some documents were just released, however, that elaborates on just how hot Watergate investigators were to investigate Big Stein:

Newly released documents show Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox expressed “extreme interest” in a 1970s criminal investigation of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner for illegal campaign contributions.

Then-FBI Director Clarence M. Kelley echoed Cox’s concern in an Aug. 16, 1973 memo to the bureau’s Cleveland office, saying agents needed to make sure the probe received “the same, immediate and preferred handling” as other criminal cases then growing from the Watergate scandal.

If Steinbrenner hadn’t pleaded guilty to the counts he pleaded guilty to and, instead, tried to fight the case hard, he could have faced six years in prison. I had a client get two years in federal prison (well, a minimum security camp) for similar charges a couple of years ago.

But one thing I learned in that case: the election law charges are relatively simple. The ugly part of that is that, while the feds are trying to make their campaign finance case, they’re looking at all of the target’s financials, talking to friends, enemies and all of that.  And if you’re the kind of guy who will engage in easy-to-catch campaign violations, you’re probably up to your neck in other bad stuff too.  Just ask my client. As the feds were investigating him for the small potatoes finance case, they stumbled upon a $50 million theft of public funds!  He’s doing 18-20 in state prison for that now. Oops.

Anyway, good move pleading out on that election law charge, George. Saved you a lot of hassle.  Oh, and you were pure money in the 70s, man. Love the collar.

Angels ink Javy Guerra to minor league deal

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Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with right-handed reliever Javy Guerra. The deal includes an invitation to major league spring training.

Guerra was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball last July after testing positive for a drug of abuse. That suspension is now over, though Guerra is probably ticketed for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate to begin the 2016 season.

The 30-year-old made just three major league appearances in 2015 for the White Sox before getting outrighted off Chicago’s 40-man roster. He does own a 2.87 ERA in 150 1/3 career innings, but it has come with bouts of inconsistency and unreliability.

Maybe he can get everything going in the right direction with Anaheim.

Braves sign reliever Carlos Torres

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As first reported by Bill Shanks of Fox Sports 1670, the Braves have signed right-handed reliever Carlos Torres to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Torres was waived by the Mets in January, somewhat surprisingly, and elected to become a free agent. The 33-year-old ultimately chose Atlanta, where he should have a good shot at an Opening Day roster out of spring training with the rapidly-rebuilding Braves.

Torres posted an ugly 4.68 ERA in 57 2/3 innings last season for the Mets, but he registered a gorgeous 3.06 ERA and 96 strikeouts across 97 innings in 2014.

If he gets off to a good start in 2016, he could become valuable trade bait.

Blue Jays will have a closer competition this spring

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Roberto Osuna became the youngest pitcher to ever play for the Blue Jays last season at age 20 and he rose to the challenge with a 2.58 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 75/16 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 frames. Osuna eventually took over as Toronto’s closer, earning 20 regular-season saves and one in the American League Division Series — a five-out effort in Game 5 to close out the visiting Rangers.

But the Jays upgraded the back end of their bullpen this winter, acquiring Drew Storen from the Nationals in early January for speedy outfielder Ben Revere. Jesse Chavez was also brought to Toronto in a trade with the A’s.

Storen has more experience at closer than Osuna, and Storen struggled when the Nationals tried to put him in a setup role. Storen, in his final year of salary arbitration, also gets paid much more. He’s probably going to enter spring training as the favorite for the Jays’ ninth-inning gig, but there will be a competition …

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca on Wednesday that he doesn’t expect the team to choose between Osuna or Storen until midway through spring training, if not later.

There’s been talk of making Osuna a starter, so add that wrinkle.

Storen, 28, boasts 95 career major league saves.

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.