Archive for February 2020

Those Dodger Deals

February 11, 2020

The dust has settled, and two of the three big Dodger deals have been completed.  The Bums get Mookie Betts, David Price and half of the $96M still owed to Price in exchange for Alex Verdugo and two prospects, middle infielder Jeter Downs and Connor Wong.  It seems to me like a modest price to pay for one season of Betts and three seasons of Price, particularly when the Dodgers are desperate to win a World Series.

I can’t help but feel that the whole purpose of this move from the Red Sox side of things was to get under the salary cap amount for a year in order to re-load in 2021 or 2022.  Don’t be surprised if the Red Sox are in the running to pay Betts a huge free agent contract next off-season, once the Red Sox have resolved their salary cap issue.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers also traded Kenta Maeda, $10M on Maeda’s remaining contractual guarantee, and 20 year old catching prospect Jair Camargo to the Twins for pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol, corner outfield prospect Luke Raley and the 67th pick in the 2020 draft.  In Graterol and the draft pick, the Dodgers will get some prospects to replace Downs and Wong, and the Twins will get a good major league pitcher for $650,000 a year plus significant bonuses that Maeda earns only if he pitches a lot of innings for the Twins.  Except for the loss of Graterol and the draft pick, it’s almost a no-lose proposition for a Twins team looking to go deep in the play-offs in 2020.

The Red Sox wouldn’t take Graterol despite the obvious talent, because he’s already had one major arm surgery and he’s overweight.  He has closer stuff, however.  Maeda was obviously expendable after the acquisition of Price, and the Dodgers could essentially buy a very good, if not great, draft pick from the Twins with money the Red Sox sent along with Price.  Don’t be surprised if the Dodgers pay half of the money they will owe Price in 2021 and/or 2022 in order to trade him off a year or two from now, when the Dodgers will trying to get under the salary cap for a season before re-loading again.

Reports have it that the Joc PedersonRoss StriplingAndy Pages for Luis Rengifo deal with the Angels has fallen apart, but why exactly no one seems to know.  If the Angels thought the deal would make them better a week ago, I’m not sure why they’d decide against it simply because they had to wait a week for the other Dodger machinations to play out.  Rumors have it that Angels owner Arte Moreno was upset about having this deal put on hold, and it wouldn’t be the first time Moreno has inserted himself into player acquisition issues to the detriment of the team, in that Moreno is supposed to have a major driver of the Albert Pujols deal that turned out to be a disaster for the Halos.

There have also been reports that the Dodgers nixed the Angels deal because the final pieces of the Betts-Price deal were different than expected.  This doesn’t make much sense either, as the Dodgers now have one highly-paid outfielder too many and could assumably still use another young middle infielder.  Maybe the fact that the Dodgers beat Pederson in arbitration, thereby saving $1.75M in 2020, is the reason trading Pederson no longer seemed like a great idea.  The Dodgers may also have realized that throwing in Andy Pages, who had a 1.049 OPS as an 18 year old rookie leaguer in 2019, was too much without a second legitimate prospect from the Angels in return.

All that said, it’s still quite possible that a variation of this deal centered around Pederson and Rengifo goes through before Spring Training starts.

Mike Bolsinger Sues Astros for Sign-Stealing

February 11, 2020

Mike Bolsinger is suing the Astros for lost earnings as a result of getting hammered and knocked out of the majors by a bad outing against the ‘Stros, with the garbage can banging away in the dugout.  His lawyers certainly found the right plaintiff, a pitcher who got knocked out and immediately sent down with recorded audio proof of the cheating.  MLB Trade Rumors’ Jeff Todd has a good piece which mentions some of the hurdles Bolsinger will face in order to get to discovery, at which point the Astros will probably settle for some several million dollars paid to Bolsinger and his lawyers in order to prevent all of the Astros’ dirty secrets from getting a fuller public airing.

I think it’s likely that the Astros will try to get the case kicked into arbitration, although Bolsinger may have an argument that cheating of this type isn’t covered by the Collective Bargaining Agreement and thus not arbitrable.  However, disputes as to arbitrability are usually left to the arbitrators themselves to decide — courts love kicking cases off to arbitration in these circumstances, because labor arbitrators have more experience in resolving collectively bargained contracts and issues than state court judges.  Kicking cases into binding arbitration, where both sides are well represented by competent legal counsel also conserves state court judicial resources.

An argument I would expect the Astros’ lawyers to raise is whether a California State Court in Los Angeles has personal jurisdiction to hear this dispute.  As I understand it, most of the sign-stealing cheating took place in Houston, although wikipedia’s description of the methods used suggest they could also have been used on the road so long as the Astros could get a live video-feed of the game.  In any event, the day that Bolsinger got hammered happened in Houston.

Thus, it may be necessary for Bolsinger’s lawyers either to find a California-based pitcher to add as a plaintiff and/or to prove that the Astros were stealing signs in Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco or Oakland.  The lawyers picked L.A. because it has a more liberal judiciary.  Orange County is more conservative, but Alameda County, where the A’s play, would probably have been a better choice, because it would probably be easier to prove the Astros cheated at the Oakland Coliseum than at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

A 2017 U.S. Supreme Court case, Bristol-Myers Squibb, holds that to establish specific personal jurisdiction, the conduct complained of in the lawsuit must arise out of or relate to the defendant’s activities in the forum state such that the forum state’s court may only adjudicate issues deriving from or connected with the present controversy that establishes jurisdiction.  This is why I think Bolsingers’ lawyers need to present evidence that the Astros cheated in California and thus that a pitcher in California was negatively affected by the cheating to establish personal jurisdiction.

As I said, if the lawsuit gets past the pleading stage to discovery, I expect the case to settle.  If it did go to trial, Bolsinger would have a hard time proving damages.  While the outing at issue got him knocked out of the majors, he had a 5.49 ERA going into that game.  He’s also likely to find it nearly impossible to prove he would have made more after he was sent down by the Blue Jays, because he made more money in Japan the last two seasons than he would likely have made in the U.S. even if he’d been able to last a little longer in MLB.

I’m doubtful that any major league team will sign Bolsinger in the future.  They might if he was younger and better, but given where he is in his career, I expect him to be effectively black listed by MLB teams for committing the cardinal sin of suing them.

The 2020 Giants Won’t Be Good, But They’ll Be Familiar

February 8, 2020

The SF Giants signed Hunter Pence for a reported $3M plus incentives, and they just brought back Pablo about a week ago.  We’ll see if Hunter has one more year in him, and while I’m not too excited about the Panda, I like the fact that the Gints signed all-around infielder Wilmer Flores for his age 28 and 29 seasons at a total of $6M.

Signing Flores is a good move, but it’s not a great move.  It’s more of a signing I’d expect to see from the Royals or the Marlins.  Makes the Giants just good enough not to lose 100, maybe.

I’m actually hoping the Dodgers complete the Mookie Betts, David Price deal.  Even without them, the 2020 and 2021 Giants aren’t likely to compete with the Dodgers the next two years.  In 2022, David Price will be two years older, and Mookie Betts will be gone or an extremely pricey part of the Dodgers’ salary cap considerations.  It’s a win now, pay later strategy, and the Giants won’t be any good until later.