Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Dollars, D'backs, Gunslinger

When the Padres signed Chris Young to a four-year, $14.5-million contract in April 2007, they also purchased disability insurance on the contract. So, conceivably, depending on how much of the contract was insured, the Padres could recoup a portion of Young's $6.5 million salary for this year because Young has missed most of the season and isn't due back anytime soon. Generally speaking, a player must miss at least half a season for a club to get any disability money. However, it's also fairly typical for clubs to insure long-term contracts in three-year chunks, so the Padres may have allowed Young's coverage to lapse entering this, the final guaranteed year of pact that includes an $8.5 million club option for 2011. Young had surgery on his shoulder last summer -- within the third year of the deal -- so even if the Padres were looking to extend their coverage, they may have been unable to do so.

Padres general manager Jed Hoyer was vague when I asked him if Young's contract was insured for this year. "We certainly have coverage on our players," he said, "but we're not going to disclose what coverage we have or how much we might be getting back."

In 2002, the Padres recouped several million dollars on the salaries of Trevor Hoffman and Phil Nevin, who each missed most of the season.

Any refund on Young's salary should go into the Adrian Gonzalez Fund, but club officials get pretty tight-lipped whenever I bring that up.

On another financial note, Padres CEO Jeff Moorad again told me that a dispute over the valuation of his shares in the Diamondbacks remains "on the path to resolution" but gave no timetable for when he expects millions of his dollars to become unfrozen. Officials with major league baseball have a complicated decision to make, MLB officials tell me. Moorad bought a stake of the Diamondbacks in 2004. He was allowed to buy a stake in the Padres in March 2009 although he hadn't divested his shares in the Diamondbacks. What are those shares worth now? That's a very tricky question to answer. In the midst of eating millions of dollars that the clubs owes to its former GM and manager, who recently were fired, the Diamondbacks are keenly interested to know MLB's decision. And perhaps saying there's no rush.

Ironically, the former GM of Arizona, Josh Byrnes, was hired by Moorad to the tune of an eight-year contract that runs through 2015. The Arizona-San Diego connection gets even thicker when you consider that a potential candidate to replace Byrnes is former Padres GM Kevin Towers. You remember him. Moorad fired him last October. As he works for Yankees GM Brian Cashman this year, the Gunslinger is drawing well over $1 million in outstanding salary from the Padres.

Back in the fall of 2005, shortly after the Padres reached the playoffs with an 82-80 record, Towers interviewed for Arizona's GM job. The man who arranged that interview? Moorad. But first, Moorad had to get permission from Padres CEO Sandy Alderson, who had just finished his first season with the club. Alderson told me then he wasn't going to stand in Towers' way if Towers wanted to leave. Believing it unwise to interview with a rival unless he was confident that he would get the job, Towers went to Phoenix and put his best foot forward. The interview with Moorad and other D'backs execs, at a posh hotel north of downtown, lasted nearly four hours.

Towers told friends afterward that Moorad was especially interested to know how he was so effective at moving bad player contracts. When Towers returned to San Diego, he told friends he figured the job would be his.

But the Diamondbacks instead hired Byrnes.

Given that history, my guess is that if Towers has any interest in becoming Arizona's GM this time around, he will go deep into the process only if he is all but certain that he will get the job. I doubt it gets that far. Given their financial constraints, I don't see the D'backs ponying up salaries that a veteran GM such as Towers would command. I see it as more likely that Arizona would hire one of two former Padres scouts, Damon Oppenheimer (Yankees) or Logan White (Dodgers).

I wrote in the spring that if the Cubs move Jim Hendry out of the GM job, Towers could be a fit there. I still see that as a possibility, but friends Hendry and Towers are fairly similar in style. Clubs often prefer a strong shift in personality type when replacing a GM or coach. Nor is it clear how Chicago's rookie ownership views Hendry, although the Cubs' dismal performance this year can't be helping the veteran GM.

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