Q & A: What’s next for the Dodgers?
Frank McCourt agreed late Tuesday to sell the Dodgers, ushering in an unusual season of the hot stove league in Los Angeles. Along with arguing over the merits of prospective free agents and trade candidates for their team, Dodgers fans can spend the coming winter comparing the merits of prospective owners.
As a primer for those debates, some questions and answers:
What was the best scouting report this year?
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross on Joseph Farnan, the court-appointed mediator for McCourt vs. Bud Selig: “Mr. Farnan, a recently retired U.S. District Court Judge, has the ideal skills, knowledge, experience and personality to succeed in assisting the parties.”
An accurate assessment. Farnan shepherded the settlement between Dodgers owner McCourt and baseball commissioner Selig, with negotiations in New York extending almost to midnight on Tuesday.
Selig got what he wanted out of the settlement — McCourt out of baseball. What did McCourt get out of the deal?
The highest price possible. Selig commonly brokers franchise sales, sometimes forging rival bidders into a preferred group, sometimes extending approval to a favored bid rather than the high one. McCourt saw that up close in 2001, when his hometown Boston Red Sox were steered to a favored bidder, prompting the Massachusetts attorney general to investigate.
In order to get McCourt to sell, Selig agreed that McCourt’s investment bankers could control the sale process.
Does Major League Baseball get a say in the bidding?
Yes. The league does not have to accept a particular bidder but has agreed to pre-approve potential buyers.
Under the usual process, the league grants preliminary approval to prospective bidders, then waits for a sale agreement to launch a comprehensive investigation into the proposed buyer. If the buyer is cleared, other owners must vote to approve him.
In this case, the league has agreed to expedite the process by completing all investigations and conducting voting on eligible bidders before an auction. That means the high bidder becomes the winning bidder, and McCourt gets his money faster.
Will the auction be public?
McCourt’s bankers have yet to propose their sale plan to the Bankruptcy Court. However, it appears more likely that the auction would be held behind closed doors rather than in open court.
Who is the leading candidate to buy the Dodgers?
There isn’t one, at least not right now. In the typical sale, you might look to bidders with ties to Major League Baseball. In this case, money is going to be the deciding factor, and no one can say how high the bidding might go. Forbes says Mark Cuban is worth $2.3 billion; Cuban says he won’t pay more than $1 billion for the Dodgers.
When might the Dodgers get a new owner?
The league hopes a new owner can be in place by opening day of next season. A deal could be done sooner, but almost certainly not soon enough to have an impact on free agency and trades this winter.
So the Dodgers can’t sign Prince Fielder?
They could, but McCourt controls the team for now, and it would not be in his best financial interest for the Dodgers to take on a nine-figure liability if his bankers say that might lower a potential sale price.
If the Dodgers do not make any major moves this winter, are they doomed next summer?
Of course not, so long as they remain in the National League West. The Arizona Diamondbacks lost 97 games last year. They won the division this year.
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