Baseball does not want you to know about its debt crisis

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There is an in-depth report at Forbes today about the debt crisis facing Major League Baseball that anyone who cares about the business of the game should read.

The story focuses primarily on the well-known financial problems facing the Mets and Dodgers, with a shout-out to the Tom Hicks Rangers, but it suggests that teams taking on too much debt is a widespread problem.  The trick comes via what Forbes says is owners’ circumvention of Major League Baseball’s often-cited, but rarely enforced debt ratio rules. Put your debt in a holding company like Tom Hicks did and, voila, you’re in compliance, even as you are being crushed by debt collectors.

One would think that such a charge would meet with a strong rebuke from Bud Selig, but he leaves that to his number two guy, Rob Manfred. And Manfred’s response is a bit unsettling:

“Nobody outside the game knows what was done or not done with respect to any individual club … I don’t think anyone outside the game is in a position to make a judgment as to how the debt-service rule has been administered.”

Really? No “you’re wrong,” or “baseball ownership is healthy?” Forbes comes to you and says that it’s writing a story about how teams routinely circumvent the debt ceiling rules and are doing so at tremendous risk and peril, and you’re really going with “how would you know?”

Yikes!

Free agent slugger José Abreu signs 3-year, $58.5M deal with Astros

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
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HOUSTON — Jose Abreu and the World Series champion Astros agreed to a three-year, $58.5 million contract, adding another powerful bat to Houston’s lineup.

Abreu, the 2020 AL MVP, gets $19.5 million in each of the next three seasons.

He spent his first nine major league seasons with the Chicago White Sox. The first baseman became a free agent after batting .304 with 15 home runs, 75 RBIs and an .824 OPS this year.

With the Astros, he replaces Yuli Gurriel at first base in a batting order that also features All-Star sluggers Yordan Alvarez, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker.

Gurriel became a free agent after Houston defeated the Philadelphia Phillies this month for its second World Series championship.

The 35-year-old Abreu becomes the biggest free agent to switch teams so far this offseason. Born in Cuba, the three-time All-Star and 2014 AL Rookie of the Year is a .292 career hitter in the majors with 243 homers, 863 RBIs and an .860 OPS.

The Astros announced the signing. Abreu was scheduled to be introduced in a news conference at Minute Maid Park.

He would get a $200,000 for winning an MVP award, $175,000 for finishing second in the voting, $150,000 for third, $125,000 for fourth and $100,000 for fifth. Abreu also would get $100,000 for earning World Series MVP and $75,000 for League Championship Series MVP, $75,000 for making the All-Star team and $75,000 for winning a Gold Glove or a Silver Slugger.

Abreu gets a hotel suite on road trips and the right to buy a luxury suite for all Astros home games.