Judge tosses all but two of the bankruptcy trustee’s claims against the Wilpons

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The judge has issued a ruling in the bankruptcy case involving the Fred Wilpon, Saul Katz and the Bernie Madoff fraud.  Full reports aren’t out yet, but it sounds like a bit of a mixed-bag, but generally good news for Wilpon and the Mets:

  • Good news for Wilpon and the Mets: all but two counts brought by the bankruptcy trustee, Irving Picard, have been dropped;
  • Bad news for Wilpon and the Mets: one of the two claims that remain — fraud — could, theoretically speaking, still leave them on the hook for a $1 billion liability, should the trustee prove his case;
  • Good news for Wilpon and the Mets: there appears to be a higher burden of proof placed on the trustee than he had originally sought in order to make such a recovery: he has to prove that “the defendants willfully blinded themselves to Madoff Securities’ fraud” as opposed to having to show that they could have been aware of it had they exercised good judgment.

There is still risk here, but the risk of the massive, Mets-killing award of $1 billion is much lower, because the trustee will have to show some serious bad acts on the Wilpons’ and Katz’s part in order to get there, not just that they were generally unaware.  And while, yes, there are many people who are skeptical that sophisticated business people like Wilpon and Katz had no reason to investigate Madoff’s investments further, there hasn’t been any suggestion that I’m aware of that they ignored actual evidence that a fraud was afoot and played the see-no-evil, hear-no-evil trick with respect to it.

So where does that leave things? Both sides seem to have risk here. The trustee has had most of his case blown away and, while there still exists the potential for a home run, it’s no sure thing at all. The Wilpons still have that giant potential liability there, but it’s not imminent. This is generally where parties to a big money suit take a step back and try to settle. It might be the best course for both parties here.

Report: Diamondbacks acquire Steven Souza from Rays; Yankees land Brandon Drury

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Update (6:35 PM ET): This is a three-team deal also involving the Diamondbacks, per Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. The Diamondbacks will receive outfielder Steven Souza from the Rays and second baseman Brandon Drury will head to the Yankees. Lefty reliever Anthony Banda will go to the Rays, Piecoro adds. The Diamondbacks will also receive prospect Taylor Widener from the Yankees, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post. MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert adds that the Rays will get two players to be named later from the D-Backs.

Souza, 28, is earning $3.55 million in his first of three years of arbitration eligibility, so the Rays are presumably saving money in moving him. Last season, Souza hit a productive .239/.351/.459 with 30 home runs, 78 RBI, 78 runs scored, and 16 stolen bases in 617 plate appearances. Souza’s arrival almost certainly pushes Yasmany Tomas out of a starting gig.

Drury, 25, has played a handful of positions in his brief major league career. Last year, he played second base in Arizona, batting .267/.317/.447 with 13 home runs and 63 RBI in 480 PA.

Banda, 24, made his major league debut last season, posting an ugly 5.96 ERA with a 25/10 K/BB ratio in 25 2/3 innings. The peripherals suggest he pitched better than his ERA indicated.

Widener, 23, was selected by the Yankees in the 12th round of the 2016 draft. This past season with High-A Tampa, he pitched 119 1/3 innings and posted a 3.39 ERA with a 129/50 K/BB ratio. MLB Pipeline rated Widener as the 14th-best prospect in the Yankees’ system.

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Robert Murray of FanRag Sports reports that the Rays will acquire second base prospect Nick Solak from the Yankees. The Yankees’ return is presently not known.

Solak, 23, was selected by the Yankees in the second round of the 2016 draft. He spent last season between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton, hitting a combined .297/.384/.452 with 12 home runs, 53 RBI, 72 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases.

MLB Pipeline ranked Solak as the eighth-best prospect in the Yankees’ system and the fifth-best second base prospect in baseball, praising him for his ability to hit line drives as well as his speed.