There is an in-depth report at Forbes today about the debt crisis facing Major League Baseball that anyone who cares about the business of the game should read.
The story focuses primarily on the well-known financial problems facing the Mets and Dodgers, with a shout-out to the Tom Hicks Rangers, but it suggests that teams taking on too much debt is a widespread problem. The trick comes via what Forbes says is owners’ circumvention of Major League Baseball’s often-cited, but rarely enforced debt ratio rules. Put your debt in a holding company like Tom Hicks did and, voila, you’re in compliance, even as you are being crushed by debt collectors.
One would think that such a charge would meet with a strong rebuke from Bud Selig, but he leaves that to his number two guy, Rob Manfred. And Manfred’s response is a bit unsettling:
“Nobody outside the game knows what was done or not done with respect to any individual club … I don’t think anyone outside the game is in a position to make a judgment as to how the debt-service rule has been administered.”
Really? No “you’re wrong,” or “baseball ownership is healthy?” Forbes comes to you and says that it’s writing a story about how teams routinely circumvent the debt ceiling rules and are doing so at tremendous risk and peril, and you’re really going with “how would you know?”
A report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly suggests that free agent catcher Welington Castillo currently tops the Orioles’ list of potential backstop targets for the 2017 season. With Matt Wieters on the market, the Orioles lack a suitable platoon partner for Caleb Joseph behind the dish, and Connolly adds that the club has been discussing a multi-year deal with Castillo’s representatives since the Winter Meetings.
Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 with the Diamondbacks in 2016, racking up 14 home runs and driving in a career-high 68 RBI in 457 PA. His bat provides much of his upside, and Connolly quoted an anonymous National League scout who believes that the 29-year-old’s defensive profile has fallen short of his potential in recent years.
For better or worse, both the Orioles and Castillo appear far from locking in a deal for 2017. Both the Rays and Braves have expressed interest in the veteran catcher during the past week, while the Orioles are reportedly considering Wieters, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta as alternatives behind the plate.
The Phillies reportedly signed veteran outfielder Daniel Nava to a minor league contract, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Nava began the season on a one-year contract with the Angels, during which he slashed .235/.309/.303 through 136 PA in the first half of 2016. He was flipped to the Royals in late August for a player to be named later and saw the remainder of his year go down the drain on an .091 average through 12 PA in Anaheim. After getting the boot from the Angels’ 40-man roster in November, the 33-year-old outfielder elected free agency.
Nava is expected to compete for a bench role on the Phillies’ roster in the spring. As it currently stands, the club’s projected 2017 outfield features Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera, with precious little depth behind them. Nava’s bat is underwhelming, but at the very least he offers the Phillies a warm body in left field and a potential platoon partner for one of their younger options, a la Tyler Goeddel or Roman Quinn.