Martin Luther King III

Martin Luther King III confirms his interest in the Mets

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Over the weekend we learned that Martin Luther King III is interested in becoming one of Fred Wilpon’s “strategic partners.”  Last night he released a statement confirming this interest:

“I believe in the merit and American value of creating an example, and if I personally, or as part of a collective, can advance the vision of a more diverse ownership group in professional sports, domestically or internationally, then, like my father, I am prepared to act in that spirit.  There has been a lot of discussion and speculation about my participation in the acquisition of the New York Mets. The public release of those discussions was premature.”

King is planning on meeting with the Wilpons this week.

I may be wrong about this, but I don’t recall King ever being mentioned as a potential owner or head of an ownership group.  I imagine, however, that the Mets sale is going to bring out a lot of unusual suspects.  It’s been a while since either the Mets or Yankees sold, and since then the value of those franchises compared to all of the others has become apparent. That said, I continue to believe that the Wilpons will have a hard time simply selling off a quarter of the team, either because they owe too much to government for that to make sense for them or because potential buyers realize that they have an opportunity to take the team over rather than merely be satisfied with a non-controlling share.  As Joel Sherman reports, Major League Baseball officials feel the same way. They’ve gone so far as to call the Wilpons “delusional” in this regard.

As for King himself: his career has been a tad spotty.  He lost reelection as a Fulton County commissioner in the early 90s after revealing that he owed the federal government more than $200,000 in back taxes.  He was suspended as the head of the Southern Christian Leadership conference after the board cited him for inactivity and insubordination to the board’s interests (though he came back and improved in the role). Some have charged that King has sought to commercialize his father’s legacy by doing things like licensing (for profit) the “I have a dream” speech and suing media outlets who use it without the family’s authorization.

Of course, given that he’s seeking to enter a fraternity that includes Frank McCourt, David Glass and Jeff Loria, none of this should be a concern.

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.