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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Could the Memphis Mets be in the future?

This past Tuesday, November 19, an invitation-only meeting was held at AutoZone Park in Memphis. The subject was the future of the ballpark and the Memphis Redbirds. The participants included key figures from the St. Louis Cardinals and the City of Memphis, along with the target audience, local business leaders.

The proposed set of transactions, which would seemingly resolve a tenuous financial situation, would be as follows. The Cardinals would acquire the Redbirds and the city would assume ownership of AutoZone Park, with the Cardinals leasing the ballpark from the city.

One challenge is that none of the parties have disclosed the specific financial terms, yet the City Council is going to be expected to weigh in on the matter just two weeks after the AZP meeting, on December 3.

A self-imposed deadline has been set for December 31, yet until now, it was not clear what might be behind it.

A new in-depth article in the Memphis Daily News helps shed some light on the immediacy of the situation.

Creating a sense of urgency seems important. Yet several City Council members quoted in the article are feeling rushed and remain concerned about the potential impact on city finances of issuing new bonds to fund the AZP purchase. One even wondered aloud if the price of the ballpark might go down later.

But what if another suitor emerged? Would it help push to get this deal done or could it be used against the proposal as a way to keep the city from assuming the risk associated with owning AutoZone Park?

As has been reported many times, back in 2010, Fundamental Advisors, a New York-based private equity firm, purchased the defaulted bonds issued for the construction of AutoZone Park. That put them in the financial drivers’ seat.

The reason the firm got involved seems simple – to turn a profit. Prior to the deal, they had no apparent connection to the city or to the Redbirds. They saw financial advantage in purchasing distressed assets.

While Fundamental Advisors has seemingly been content to allow the money-losing Memphis baseball operation to stabilize over the last four years, they may now be itching to get out – and could have a lever.

The Daily News article suggests the New York Mets, whose Triple-A franchise affiliation has been the equivalent of a baseball vagabond in recent years, approached Fundamental Advisors with interest in acquiring the Redbirds/AutoZone Park. The level of seriousness of the inquiry was not shared.

At this point, Lawrence Gottlieb is saying all the right things. Fundamental Advisors’ chairman and CEO made it clear his group is fully backing the Cardinals-City of Memphis deal. What was unspoken is how firm that support would remain if the decision time frame is extended into 2014 and/or the financials are adjusted.

We may soon learn if this Mets rumor will have any impact on the negotiations to close the current proposal, the details of which have yet to be divulged. What does remain clear is that the sale is not going to be a slam dunk.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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20 Responses to “Could the Memphis Mets be in the future?”

  1. Nutlaw says:

    I may be in the minority, but I’m happy that the Cards seem to be able to sign Peralta as it means that they will have been able to fill their holes without trading away anyone who was expected to contribute to the team. I understand that the young right handed pitching would make most sense to deal if needed, but if not, I’m glad that they’ll all be sticking around. This team is looking stacked.

    • Brian Walton says:

      Difficult to assess majority vs. minority opinion, but there seems to be more negatives on this deal than the Freese trade. Some of those opposed are worried about the PED issue, either morally or because of performance risk. Others are concerned about term and money (though not yet announced). Yet others apparently wanted Mo to acquire a younger SS with more upside where there apparently was not a deal to be made. The latter POV bothers me most – when people just assume just one willing side can magically make fair trades.

      • crdswmn says:

        I don’t assume anything, but if this deal had been made in January, or at least at the Winter Meetings, instead of 3 weeks into the offseason, I would be more willing to believe serious attempts had been made. Instead, the circumstances lend themselves to the idea that Mozeliak fully intended to go this route from the get go.

        And I wouId venture to say that the vast majority are in favor of this deal. I am on an island, where I tend to be sometimes. But then from the comments I’ve seen many would have accepted an axe murderer if he could play shortstop and hit better than Pete Kozma. (And I am not comparing Jhonny Peralta to an axe murderer, so no one needs to go there). But it is their team and well, that’s different, and you know, second chances and all that. Moral Relativism is alive and well. I bet they still hate ARod though.

        Anyway, I thought I might feel differently after I slept on it, but alas, I feel no better. The disappointment is still there. Maybe after the season starts it will go away. But the first time I hear a reference to “The Cardinal Way” I think I might lose it.

        • Brian Walton says:

          Funny that you view moving quickly as a negative and I see it as a positive. FWIW, I am pretty sure Scott Boras would agree with you. 😉

          • crdswmn says:

            I don’t view it as a negative necessarily, but I do view it as an indication that Mo had no intention of making a trade for a shortstop, so the idea that he tried and just couldn’t find a match is a little bogus in my mind.

            And I never wanted Stephen Drew either, so what Scott Boras thinks is irrelevant to me. His clients are not the only fish in the sea.

        • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

          How many tour de Frances did Armstrong take? A-Rod never tested out…… He was getting the good stuff…….in the right amounts….. JP didn’t test out…he took the 50 days and ran…avoiding any investigation….. Detroit had nice things to say maybe…… DeWitt have some other considerations? ….. that’s likely….. he can always trade this contract maybe taking a loss….that loss is likely covering aid considerations ……. to even imagine that you understand all the factors here would be adventuresome………

  2. Bw52 says:

    I have mixed feel;ings about signing Peralta. Peralta says that he made his mistake in spring 2012 and he regrets doing so.He has a good reputation with teammates and is supposed to be a decent family guy from sources I have read.In a perfect world the Cards would choose to go another route and stay above the conflict.Reality says Peralta screwed up and he paid his penalty and he surely realizes the penalty for another offense.Mozeliak has surely done plenty of checking about character especially when it involves a lot of his bosses money.If Mo feels Peralta can do the job and fit in and stay clean then why not sign him? Myself I would have preferred a young SS in trade but like Brian said it takes 2 to tango.

    • crdswmn says:

      See, my problem is the “he paid his penalty” part. Because the penalty is a joke. And this is more an indictment of the rules than the Cardinals themselves, but then no one put a gun to the Cardinals head to sign him either.

      No, instead we have a system where a player can cheat, get assessed a weak penalty, and then teams can wag their fingers while winking and exclaiming how the guy the deserves a second chance so we can now give him the GNP of a small foreign country as a reward for his second chance. No small wonder they cheat, what’s not to like?

      Yeah, I get that my opinion is not popular, and I get that we now have a shortstop that is better than Kozma without giving up talent, and hey isn’t it grand? So why do I feel like my best friend just told me she slept with my boyfriend? Is it because I believed all the talk that the Cardinals are a model organization and that “The Cardinal Way” included promoting players of good character? That somehow the Cardinals were forging some new and better way of doing things and now it looks like they were just putting lipstick on a pig?

      I think I just need to forget looking for light where there is none. In reality I think I conjured up an image and did this to myself. I have some re-evaluating to do.

      • Brian Walton says:

        You seem to be attaching your entire view of the organization on one issue, PEDs. Somehow this signing changes matters when in reality, the Cardinals stance on PEDs has been clear for years (McGwire, Franklin, Romero, etc.).

        I get that you believe penalties should be stronger. I tend to agree. So put the efforts toward changing the system.

        • crdswmn says:

          No, I am not singularizing the Cardinals to one issue. If I were doing that I would swear off the Cardinals entirely. I have no intention of doing that and making it that big of a deal.

          If their stance on PEDS is that they don’t care about it, then fine, but don’t turn around and declare to the world that your organization promotes “good character” in players. That tends to make people see you as hypocritical. When I have numerous people tell me that they think David Freese had to go because he is a party boy and that is not “The Cardinal Way” and then turn around and laud signing an admitted cheater to a multi multi million dollar contract, well I have to look askance at that just a little. And I am not saying the Cardinals traded Freese because of character issues, but if they did, well you can see why I am having moral dilemma issues.

          • Brian Walton says:

            You seem to be throwing opinions of random people on the internet (probably anonymous, too) and organizational action into one big pot, stirring it up without differentiation.

            My personal take, FWIW, is that Freese would still be a Cardinal had he had been better at baseball the last two seasons.

            In this context, “The Cardinal Way” is about as relevant as the talk about “The Best Fans in Baseball”.

            • crdswmn says:

              Actually, one of the persons who talked to me was not random and not anonymous but that is neither here nor there because I have no evidence that this person knows anything concrete.

              Whatever “The Cardinal Way” is or isn’t doesn’t matter anymore because as far as I am concerned it is a mirage.

  3. JumboShrimp says:

    I hoped Mo would go hard after Peralta. We have been in or near the World Series for 3 straight years. If you have a contending team, it makes sense to make it even more formidable.
    In both 2012 and 13, we ran out of offense late and are losing Beltran. Adding Bourjos, Peralta, Wong, Taveras will help the offense. Its also good to hold onto pitchers, since pitching is crucial to reaching the playoffs.
    Mo and DeWitt want to stay on top during 2014.
    A four year deal is not a big risk with Peralta, because even if he slows defensively at SS, he can shift to 3B or LF.

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