With the Cubs looking for ways to finance the Wrigley Field renovation effort and projects around the stadium, Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com reports that ownership is considering selling minority shares of the team.
No final decisions have been made yet, but the Ricketts family will not be selling off controlling interest in the team. It’s akin to what the Mets did a couple of years ago after the settlement in the Bernie Madoff scandal. Just some outside cash now to get the projects off the ground.
An industry source predicted the Cubs would be working from the latest Forbes valuation – $1.2 billion – that put the franchise behind only the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox at a time when commissioner Bud Selig estimated the sport’s revenues could top $9 billion this year.
That’s a 42-percent jump from the $845 million deal that finally closed in October 2009 and included a piece of Comcast SportsNet Chicago. The game’s rising tide hasn’t lifted the Cubs out of fifth place since the Ricketts family entered into that leveraged partnership with Zell’s Tribune Co., which demanded any buyer take on a debt-heavy structure that would create a shelter from huge capital-gains taxes.
The Cubs source said a sale wouldn’t impact the futures of team presidents Crane Kenney and Theo Epstein, who both have long-term contracts and run business and baseball operations without much interference from a hands-off ownership group.
MLB would have to approve any new owners. The Wrigleyville project is expected to cost around $500 million and will consist of renovations of the stadium itself and outside the stadium, including a hotel. In addition to trying to raise the money to fund it privately, Cubs ownership have run into some other issues along the way, including their contract with rooftop owners which runs through 2023. Plans for a jumbotron will block some of the views into the ballpark.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.