21-year-old Yasiel Puig didn’t receive the same kind of hype as Yoenis Cespedes after defecting from Cuba. He did receive the same kind of money, though, mostly thanks to the new Dodgers ownership’s desire to flex its financial muscle.
According to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, the Dodgers signed Puig to a deal worth $42 million over seven years. It’s twice what most expected him to get and $6 million more than Cespedes received from the A’s this spring.
Puig is an interesting talent. In his second and final season in Cuba, he hit .330/.430/.581 with 17 homers and a 39/49 K/BB ratio in 327 at-bats. And he did that at age 19, which is pretty exceptional even given the high offensive levels in Cuba. He’s also said to have excellent speed.
Still, the Dodgers would seem to be taking a huge risk here. Puig didn’t play last year. He hit a modest .276/.371/.425 in his first season in Cuba. For all of his supposed speed, he was used primarily as a corner outfielder and he wasn’t much of a basestealer in Cuba, going 13-for-19 in his two seasons. There isn’t much in the way of scouting reports on him — unlike Cespedes, he never saw much action against international competition — but Baseball America doesn’t seem very impressed.
But then again, maybe huge risk is the wrong term. For the White Sox or Cubs — two teams that were considered quite interested in Puig — it certainly would be. The Dodgers, though, are flush with cash and can afford to roll the dice, even at such a lofty price. In a best-case scenario, their Puig-Matt Kemp-Andre Ethier outfield is the best in the NL come 2014. It’s also quite possible Puig flounders in the minors and proves to be a fourth or fifth outfielder. One thing that seems clear is that he’s going to need time; given that he hasn’t played in a year and a half and he doesn’t have all that much experience anyway, it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll make an impact in the majors before mid-2013 at the earliest.
And that’s what’s really scary; this is pretty much the baseball equivalent of a Vegas trip. One person might set themselves a $250 gambling limit for the weekend, another $1,000. The Dodgers, on the other hand, can afford to gamble with $40 million right now, a concept that should have free-agent-to-be Cole Hamels awfully excited.
Mark Sheldon of MLB.com reports that the Reds have signed catcher Tucker Barnhart to a four-year contract extension. The terms: $16 million total, with a $7.5 million club option for the 2022 season that has a $500,000 buyout. He also received a $1.75 million signing bonus.
The deal buys out all three of his arbitration years — he was going to be eligible for the first time this offseason — and the first year of his potential free agency. The club option buys a second. Barnhart made $575,000 this season.
Barnhart, 26, is finishing his second season as the Reds primary catcher. This year he’s hitting .272/.349/.399 with six homers and 42 RBI in 113 games. For his career he has a line of .257/.328/.366 in 330 major league games. His real value is defensive, however. He leads the National League in caught stealing percentage and number of base stealers caught (31-for-70, 44%) and leads all players at any position in the league in defensive WAR according to Baseball-Reference.com.
The Dodgers last owner, Frank McCourt, was a mainstay of the gossip pages. The new administration has been pretty drama free since taking over five years ago. That is, until now.
Multiple outlets, ranging from the New York Post to the Wall Street Journal, have been reporting on a scandal brewing at Guggenheim Partners, the multi-billion investment firm led by Mark Walter, its CEO. Walter is also the head of Guggenheim Baseball Management, the offshoot of the firm which owns the Dodgers. Walter is the Dodgers’ named owner — the “control person” — as far as Major League Baseball is concerned.
The scandal does not directly relate to the baseball team. Rather, it involves allegations that Walter bought a $13 million Pacific Palisades home for a younger female executive named Alexandra Court:
In the past 24 hours, the company has pushed back on multiple reports that CEO Mark Walter will step down; its chief investment officer has claimed on CNBC that there’s “no tumult” at the company; and Guggenheim has denied reports on a real-estate blog and in the New York Post that Walter bought a California mansion for a younger female executive at the company.
The denial regarding who bought the mansion is a bit too cute, though, as the company only denies that Walter bought it or owns it. In fact, the mansion is owned by a holding company that also bought Walter’s personal residence in Malibu. Billionaires don’t go to closings at title company offices, of course. They buy houses through companies and LLCs and trusts and stuff. As such, the claim that Walter didn’t buy the house may be technically and legally true but entirely misleading all the same. For what it’s worth, The Wall Street Journal has reported that Walter and Court have a “personal relationship.” Walter, who is married, and the company deny this. Court is on an extended leave of absence.
Walter and Guggenheim are denying that Walter is going to step down as CEO. That remains to be seen. The question for our purposes is whether, if he steps down from Guggenheim Partners, he would necessarily have to step down from Guggenheim Baseball Management and thus relinquish control of the Dodgers. I suspect not — they’re distinct legal entities, and his departure from Partners would be unrelated to stuff having to do with the baseball team — but you never know. It’s not like he put up $2 billion of his personal dollars for the team. There are likely a lot of strings attached and contingencies involved to the arrangement.
Something to watch.