The Wilpons are looking to sell a minority stake in the Mets

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As everyone know, Fred Wilpon was taken for a bunch of money in the Bernie Madoff scam.  Yeah, he “broke even” in the sense that he got back his investment, but that was just because he was one of the early lucky ones who got their ponzi scheme money back.  It wasn’t real investment earnings, and because of the way the law works with respect to ponzi schemes, Wilpon is probably going to be on the hook to give back the phony earnings Madoff gave him in order to make those who truly lost their shirts whole again.  There’s a lawsuit to that effect pending right now, and eventually Wilpon will likely have to fork over an awful lot of money.

It is then little surprise that today the Wilpons announced that the Mets ownership group is looking for “strategic partners” to “provide additional assurance that the New York Mets will continue to have the necessary resources to fully compete and win.”  Translation:  we’re looking to sell a stake in the team so we can get some cash.

The Wilpons say in their statement — the entirety of which is reprinted below — that they intend to maintain majority control of the team.  Of course, as in war, no battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy, so it’s not like they can promise that they’ll keep control.  If someone is willing to bail them out in a highly beneficial manner but demands majority control of the team, the Wilpons would have to consider it, right?

It’s been known for some time that another shoe could drop with respect to the Madoff business, and this is apparently it.  In the short term, however, it shouldn’t have much of an impact on the Mets as a baseball team.  They were already facing big payroll obligations for 2011 and have set out on something of an austerity plan in light of it.  They haven’t made big moves this winter and clearly aren’t poised to do so until the payroll goes down.

In the long term: this could mean major changes for the Mets franchise.

Fred Wilpon, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the New York Mets, and Jeff Wilpon, Chief Operating Officer of the New York Mets, issued the following statement:

As Sterling Equities announced in December, we are engaged in discussions to settle a lawsuit brought against us and other Sterling partners and members ofour families by the Trustee in the Madoff bankruptcy. We are not permitted to comment on these confidential negotiations while they are ongoing.

However, to address the air of uncertainty created by this lawsuit, and to provide additional assurance that the New York Mets will continue to have the necessary resources to fully compete and win, we are looking at a number ofpotential options including the addition of one or more strategic partners. To explore this, we have retained Steve Greenberg, a Managing Director at Allen & Company, as our advisor.

Regardless of the outcome of this exploration, Sterling will remain the principal ownership group of the Mets and continue to control and manage the team’s operations. The Mets have been a major part of our families for more than 30 years and that is not going to change.

As we have said before, we are totally committed to having the Mets again become a World Series winner. Our fans and all New Yorkers deserve nothing less.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.