File photo of Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt speaking at a news conference about increased security at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles

Frank McCourt could lose the Dodgers but remain their landlord

2 Comments

Remember how Frank McCourt, upon buying the Dodgers, split the team’s assets up into multiple different businesses and holding companies and things?  Yeah, that couldn’t even lead to a depressing outcome. Bill Shaikin:

When McCourt bought the Dodgers in 2004, the purchase included the team, Dodger Stadium and the surrounding parking lots. He has since divided those assets among separate companies, providing the embattled Dodgers owner with a possible claim to the stadium and the land even if he loses the team … In theory, McCourt could sell the Dodgers, then make more money from renting the stadium to the new owner, taking a cut of parking revenue and reaping the benefits of future development within the parking lots.

This reminds me of Wayne Huizenga and the Florida Marlins. Whereas McCourt has screwed up the Dodgers via ineptitude, Huizenga just burned the Marlins down following their 1997 World Series championship. Then, after selling the team, he held on to huge chunks of team parking and concession revenues because those things were separate from the ballclub itself.  And there was (Is? Does Wayne still have this stuff?) nothing more depressing to Marlins fans than knowing that the guy who destroyed a championship team was making more money off the Marlins than the Marlins were.

Unlike Florida, however, there could be obstacles to McCourt serving as the Dodgers’ landlord. For one thing his ex-wife will claim a stake in all of those ancillary interests, so she will either have to be bought out of them or else will they will have to be sold, with the most likely bidder being whoever ends up buying the team (and anyone who wants the club will almost certainly want the stadium too).

Shaikin also suggests that Major League Baseball could say something about it, but it’s not quite clear to me how that’s possible given that their rules apparently don’t prohibit busting up team assets like that and their authority seems to extend to management of the club, not management of the owners’ assets.

My hope is that McCourt can’t hold onto the ballpark and parking lots because he’s too leveraged to do so. Given his track record, it’s probably a reasonable hope.

Athletics trade Billy Burns to the Royals for Brett Eibner

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MAY 13: Billy Burns #1 of the Oakland Athletics waits on deck to bat during the fourth inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays on May 13, 2016 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
Brian Blanco/Getty Images
3 Comments

The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.

Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.

Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.

Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.

Nationals acquire closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 20:  Mark Melancon #35 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches during the ninth inning against the Colorado Rockies on May 20, 2016 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Joe Sargent/Getty Images
7 Comments

The Nationals announced on Saturday afternoon that the club acquired closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates in exchange for reliever Felipe Rivero and minor league pitcher Taylor Hearn.

Melancon, 31, put together another solid season for the Pirates, leaving the club with 30 saves, a 1.51 ERA, and a 38/9 K/BB ratio in 41 2/3 innings. He led the majors last season with 51 saves and has a 1.80 ERA since joining the Pirates in 2013. Melancon is earning $9.65 million this season and can become eligible for free agency after the season.

With Melancon out of the picture, the Pirates intend to have Tony Watson take over the closer’s role.

Rivero, 25, has handled the seventh and eighth innings for the Nationals this season, compiling a 4.53 ERA and a 53/15 K/BB ratio in 49 2/3 innings. He’s just shy of one year of service time, so the Pirates will have control of him for a long time.

Hearn, 21, was rated the Nationals’ 27th-best prospect by MLB Pipeline. He was originally drafted by the Pirates in the 22nd round of the 2012 draft but he didn’t sign and ended up going back to college. The Nationals took him in the fifth round of last year’s draft. This season, between rookie ball and Single-A Hagerstown, Hearn put up a 2.79 ERA and a 39/13 K/BB ratio in 29 innings. He’s a long way away from the majors, so he’s essentially a lottery ticket for the Pirates.

The Nationals needed an upgrade at closer as Jonathan Papelbon has struggled this season. The right-hander has allowed runs in each of his last three appearances, ballooning his ERA up to 4.41 with a 30/13 K/BB ratio in 32 2/3 innings. It will be interesting to see how Papelbon, who has never made a habit of letting his feelings go unspoken, handles a demotion to the eighth inning.