Remember: never believe a thing a team says about its finances

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Dan Le Batard has a takedown of the Marlins which pretty much squares with my view of things too.  This passage piqued my interest, however:

The Marlins last offseason were like a gluttonous fat man at the all-you-can-eat buffet, stacking the plate with his eyes and appetite without regard to practicality or the oncoming food coma. The team overspent assuming we’d fill the ballpark, which we didn’t, and that meant losing about $40 million in that calamity of a season. Even though management didn’t have to serial-killer slash the payroll, there were going to have to be cuts, so the team decided to take a wrecking ball to the blueprint and just start again.

I’m not sure what the source is for that $40 million loss, but it is worth remembering as we enter free agent season that a baseball team’s claims of profit and/or loss are almost always pure science fiction when compared to the numbers that are reported for most other types of businesses.

Baseball accounting is profoundly opaque, and the only glimpses we ever see into the finances of a baseball team are either wither accidental or are partial-truths released by the team in order to further some specific end such as either proving or disputing that the owners are broke, depending on whichever story suits their purposes at the time.  And even then, we almost never get much above the bottom line number (Team X lost $Y last year). A number which tells us nothing about how much the ownership group extracted from the team above the line.

For example, we’ve learned in the last year that Jeff Loria at one time and may still pay himself an annual salary of some $10 million. And that there is a team “managing general partner” called Double Play Company which takes $8.5 million more. Oh, Double Play Company is owned by Loria and its president is Marlins team president David Samson.  Do other teams have that kind of setup? Don’t know! Because no one ever gets to see the finances of baseball teams! Indeed, teams and the league go to great lengths to avoid ever having to release their finances to the public, be it under pressure from politicians, in the course of litigation or anything else. They DO NOT want you to see the books, folks.

So call me crazy or call me paranoid, but I will never take a team’s statement about its profits or losses unless and until they show me the books to prove it. And that goes for the $40 million-losing Marlins too.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.