Fred Wilpon

The Mets and Madoff: “Bernie was part of the business plan for the Mets”

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Fred Wilpon has insisted since 2008 that the Bernie Madoff mess had little impact on the Mets’ baseball operations.  Even since last week, when it was announced that he would have to sell part of the team due to the Madoff losses, the sense has been that they are exclusively personal losses and that since the team is the Wilpons’ largest asset it was logical that he turn to the team for his capital needs.

There’s an article in today’s New York Times, however, which tells a far different story: Bernie Madoff and his investments were deeply involved in the Mets, and the Mets operations were highly dependent on Bernie Madoff:

When the Mets negotiated their larger contracts with star players — complex deals with signing bonuses and performance incentives — they sometimes adopted the strategy of placing deferred money owed the players with Mr. Madoff’s investment firm. They would have to pay the player, but the owners of the club would be able to make money for themselves in the meantime. There never seemed to be much doubt about that, according to several people with knowledge of the arrangements.

“Bernie was part of the business plan for the Mets,” a former employee of the club said … interviews with current and former associates of Mr. Wilpon and Mr. Katz, as well as former employees of the club, former employees of Mr. Madoff and others, make it clear that the relationship was substantial and that the role Mr. Madoff played in the financial life of the ball club and the Wilpon and Katz families was pervasive.

The more damning part of the article, however, involves the way that the Wilpons would steer friends and even Mets employees to Madoff investments.  Indeed, former Mets GM Frank Cashen says that his deferred compensation package after leaving the Mets was invested with Madoff.  He was paid before the bottom fell out, but he says that Wilpon and Madoff worked “in unison” he says that Wilpon and his partner Saul Katz worked “in unison” to push Mets employees to invest in Madoff securities. That famous Bobby Bonilla deferred money deal was also invested with Madoff.  Madoff also reportedly got many of his investors via introductions from Fred Wilpon, who the bankruptcy trustee suing him alleged knew or should have known that Madoff was a scam artist.

If what the many sources of this article say is true, the Wilpons are more than the victims they’ve made themselves out to be.  They were an important part of Madoff’s operation, whether they themselves knew the nature of the operation or whether they simply placed stupid blind faith in their close friend.

And there is no question that, by virtue of placing team-related investments with Madoff, the financial prospects of the Mets — and not just the Wilpons — was deeply harmed as a result.

The Padres are aggressively shopping Yangervis Solarte

PHOENIX, AZ - OCTOBER 01:  Third baseman Yangervis Solarte #26 of the San Diego Padres fields a ground ball against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the sixth inning of a MLB game at Chase Field on October 1, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
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In a column published on Sunday, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports says the Padres are “aggressively shopping” third baseman Yangervis Solarte. The 29-year-old is entering his first of three years of arbitration eligibility and is projected to earn $2.7 million next season.

This past season, Solarte hit a solid .286/.341/.467 with 15 home runs and 71 RBI in 443 plate appearances. It’s quite impressive factoring in that he plays in the pitcher-friendly Petco Park.

Given that Solarte is team-controlled for three more years and he offers lots of versatility with previous experience playing first and second base as well as corner outfield, the Padres should receive a fair amount of interest.

Yankees sign Matt Holliday to a one-year, $13 million deal

ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 20: Matt Holliday #7 of the St. Louis Cardinal hits a solo home run during the second inning against the San Diego Padres of game one of a doubleheader at Busch Stadium on July 20, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Kane/Getty Images)
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Update (6:52 PM EST): The deal is expected to be one year for $13 million, per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports confirms the report.

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The Yankees are close to signing veteran free agent Matt Holliday, WFAN’s Sweeny Murti reports.

Holliday, who turns 37 years old next month, was limited to 110 games in 2016 with the Cardinals due to a fractured left thumb suffered in the second half. He finished the season hitting .246/.322/.461 with 20 home runs and 62 RBI in 426 plate appearances.

Holliday is likely looking at spending the majority of his time in the DH role. Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran, and Brian McCann handled the DH role for a majority of the time last season but all three have moved on — Rodriguez was released in the second half, Beltran just signed with the Astros, and McCann was traded to the Astros last month.