Frank McCourt

The Dodgers file for bankruptcy


A mere three days before the payroll comes due — payroll that Frank McCourt can’t meet — the Dodgers have filed for bankruptcy, reports Richard Sandomir. With that, the legal game begins.

Obviously the situation is fluid, and more details will stream in as the morning and day progresses, but for the time being, this could buy McCourt some time. Why? because a bankruptcy filing puts a halt on all legal action with respect to the bankruptcy estate (i.e. the Dodgers).  McCourt will certainly argue that this will prevent a takeover from Major League Baseball, though the court may decide differently when it gets a chance to weigh in, likely in the next few days.

The problem for McCourt is that the kind of bankruptcy the Dodgers have certainly filed is designed to reorganize the financial house.  Frank McCourt, however, does not have a plan available to him to do such a thing or else he would have already done it.  The filing isn’t yet circulating (UPDATE: here it is) but my guess is that he’s going to ask the court to order that the Fox TV deal be executed — assuming Fox wants to still do it, which it has been reported it may not — thereby providing funding.

The problem with that, of course, is that the bankruptcy court won’t approve of anything that is not seen as in the best interests of the Dodgers the Dodgers’ creditors,* it’s obvious that Major League Baseball and others would come in and make a strong case that the Fox deal is not the best deal they could make.

If McCourt can do no better, the court may very well order a sale of the team. Perhaps auctioning it off, Texas Rangers-style. Which, by the way, would also put Major League Baseball in the same position it was in with respect to the Rangers: less-able to control who owns the team than it would otherwise be.  Mark Cuban bid on the Rangers, after all. If his or some other non-chosen person’s money looked green to the bankruptcy court in such a scenario, Bud Selig would be hard-pressed to stop them from participating in a team auction.

But let us not get ahead of ourselves. For now, we simply have Frank McCourt where he was inevitably headed: bankruptcy court. And some time has been bought. A little anyway. The end game for McCourt, however, doesn’t look all that better than it did before.

*As always, remember that I am kind of a moron, at least as far as lawyers go, when it comes to bankruptcy. We have a lot of people familiar with bankruptcy law who hang out in the comments, however, so by all means, explore them a bit if the subject interests you. I’ll do my best to update with better information when I screw up.

Braves and Jim Johnson reunite on a one-year contract

ATLANTA, GA - JULY 17: Jim Johnson #53 of the Atlanta Braves throws a ninth inning pitch against the Chicago Cubs at Turner Field on July 17, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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Jim Johnson enjoyed some success out of the Braves’ bullpen this season until a midseason trade to the Dodgers and Mark Bowman of reports that he has returned to Atlanta on a one-year contract. No word yet on the terms involved.

After an awful 2014 between the Athletics and Tigers, Johnson signed a one-year deal with the Braves last winter and bounced back to the tune of a 2.25 ERA and 33/14 K/BB ratio over 48 innings. He also saved nine games. However, things went south for him after a trade to the Dodgers in Los Angeles, as he put up an ugly 10.13 ERA in 23 appearances. He was left off the team’s roster for the NLDS against the Mets.

It’s unclear what role the Braves have in mind for Johnson, as Arodys Vizcaino finished the season as the closer, but they have made upgrading their bullpen a priority this winter.

Report: Barry Bonds under consideration to be the Marlins hitting coach

Barry Bonds

This shouldn’t cause any controversy, lead to a lot of people saying dumb things or provide fodder for jokes at all. Nope, none whatsoever:

In what promises to be a bombshell move, if executed, all-time great slugger Barry Bonds is under consideration to become Marlins hitting coach.

Team higherups have quietly been discussing this possibility for weeks.

That’s Jon Heyman, who reminds us that Bonds has worked with the Giants in the spring in recent years. And who, no matter what else you can say about him, was one of the greatest hitters the game has ever seen. Also worth remembering that despite his controversial past, that greatness came not just from physical gifts, naturally or artificially bestowed. It came from his approach, preparation and strategy at the plate. No one can teach a hitter to hit like Barry Bonds, but you’d think that hitters could be taught to try to approach an at bat the way Barry Bonds would. And who better to do it than Barry Bonds?

That is, if Bonds is willing to drop his seemingly ideal retired life in San Francisco, move to Miami and work for Jeff Loria for nine months a year. Which, eh, who knows? But the possibility of it is pretty fascinating to think about.

Yadier Molina’s new backup: Cardinals sign Brayan Pena to two-year deal

Brayan Pena Reds
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Veteran catcher Brayan Pena has agreed to a two-year, $5 million contract with the Cardinals, who’re investing much more than usual in their backup for Yadier Molina.

After bouncing around for a decade without getting even 250 plate appearances in a season Pena signed with the Reds and topped 350 plate appearances in both 2014 and 2015. His production didn’t improve any, as Pena hit .263 with five homers and a .652 OPS in 223 games as a regular.

Pena’s best skill is rarely striking out, which enables him to hit for a decent batting average, but he has very little power and swings at everything. He struggled to control the running game this season at age 33, but has a decent throw-out rate for his career.

Making a multi-year commitment to Pena suggests the Cardinals are no longer counting on Molina being the same type of workhorse behind the plate, which certainly makes sense given his age and injury history. Pena will replace Tony Cruz, who’s been Molina’s understudy since 2011 while hitting just .220 with five homers and a .572 OPS in 259 games.

While we wait for free agent signings: Andrew McCutchen stars in a one-act play

Andrew McCutchen
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It’s a pretty slow offseason so far. We’ve had a couple of minor signings. I guess Jordan Zimmermann is sort of a big deal. But it’s a lot more quiet so far this year than it was this time last year. I suppose there’s no real rhyme nor reason for it. Baseball offseason is long, there is no salary cap and thus there’s no rush to do things too quickly.

So, while we wait, here’s Andrew McCutchen doing his best to kill time until spring training starts: