UPDATE: Maybe the Rangers-FOX deal is not 20-years, $3 billion

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UPDATE: Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News hears that the Rangers’ deal with
FOX is actually worth $1.5-1.6 billion, not $3 billion
as reported by Bob Nightengale of USA Today, but that there are some incentives and escalators and stuff.  Even if it stays flat at $1.5 billion, however, that makes it, on average, a $75 million deal, which is over and above every team’s TV deal with a non-affiliated network of which I’m aware (remember: the Dodgers get $45 million; the Mariners are reported to get around $40 million). So, still a great deal for Texas, even at its lowest.

4:54 PM: I shoulda listened to those killjoys who go on about how things that sound too good to be true likely being too good to be true. A FOX spokesman tells Sports Business Journal that the figures reported by USA Today earlier this afternoon were “wildly inflated.”

Of course, the definition of “wildly inflated” matters here too. If the truth of the matter is that the deal is for, say, $50M a year over 20 years, sure, USA Today was out to lunch and this deal would represent a healthy, but not necessary crazy figure for the Rangers. If, on the other hand the truth is that the deal starts at $50M or $75 million but increases
every year and inflates until it’s still a $3 billion deal, then it’s
still kind of nuts
.  The devil is in the details, as they say.

By they way: I was chatting with Gleeman as this update came down a few minutes ago. He observed that it’s entirely possible that there will be no Rangers games on television at all in 20 years and, in fact, there may be no television. I think he meant that everything could go to some streaming internet or wireless kind of system that renders television as we know it obsolete. It’s possible, however, that he has inside information on an imminent nuclear war or zombie apocalypse.  Which, I don’t need to tell you, would totally be a buzzkill for Rangers baseball.

1:58 P.M.: It’s going to be hilarious when FOX executives realize that the contract they just signed was with the Rangers, not the Cowboys or Vivid Video or something else more marketable than baseball is thought to be:

The Texas Rangers, who clinched their first division title in 11
years over the weekend, just might start making this an annual routine
considering their giant financial windfall.

The Rangers,
cash-strapped for years with owner Tom Hicks, have signed a 20-year
extension with Fox Sports Southwest that will guarantee them $3 billion.

$150 million a year!  To put that in perspective, the Dodgers get about $ 45 million a year from FOX. The Yankees get less than $100 million from YES (though, obviously, they own a big chunk of the network so it’s not apples-apples). I doubt any team currently gets anything like $150 million from a non-affiliated network.

Two questions that immediately spring to mind in light of this deal:

  • Is it any wonder why so many people were willing to jump into protracted litigation to get a piece of this team? and
  • How bad a businessman is Tom Hicks if he couldn’t make the Rangers solvent with that kind of scratch available?

Whatever the case, with this TV deal, the Rangers shouldn’t be lumped in with the mid-market teams going forward. They should be considered a high-dollar player the moment the first check comes in.

Report: Rangers agree to six-year extension with Rougned Odor

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The Rangers have reportedly agreed to a six-year, $49.5 million extension for second baseman Rougned Odor, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports and Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The extension comes with a club option for a seventh year, Heyman adds.

It’s close to the six-year, $52.5 million extension Jason Kipnis netted with the Indians in 2014, a sum Odor was rumored to be seeking during contract negotiations over the last two years. Granted, the circumstances are a little different this time around. Both players signed extensions on the cusp of their fourth year in the major leagues, but at 27 years old, Kipnis was coming off of an All-Star campaign and a career-high 4.5 fWAR performance. Odor, meanwhile, saw mixed results in 2016, batting 33 home runs and putting up 2.0 fWAR while struggling to stay consistent at the plate and exhibiting poor defense.

According to MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan, Odor previously agreed to a $563,180 salary for 2017. Depending on when the extension kicks in, it should cover all three of Odor’s arbitration-eligible seasons and two seasons of potential free agency. The team has yet to confirm the extension.

2017 Preview: Minnesota Twins

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Minnesota Twins.

Which iteration of the Twins will we get in 2017? The second-place contenders of 2015, blazing their way through the standings with 83 wins and a handful of hot prospects? The burnouts of 2016, flopping to the bottom of the division with 103 losses and a lineup held in place by Brian Dozier and, well, Brian Dozier? Or something in between?

Finishing dead last has its perks, namely a first-round draft pick and the feeling that things can’t be quite as bad as they were the year before. Unfortunately for the Twins, the only major preparation they made for the 2017 season came in the form of a front office shakeup. Derek Falvey assumed control of the club in October, bringing GM Thad Levine into the fold in November as the club assumed a more analytics-friendly approach toward the rebuilding movement.

When it came to roster revisions, however, there wasn’t much moving or shaking this winter. Third baseman Trevor Plouffe, catcher Kurt Suzuki and left-handers Tommy Milone and Pat Dean vacated their spots on the roster. Falvey avoided some of the bigger bats and bullpen arms in free agency and opted to sign backstop Jason Castro and journeyman reliever Ryan Vogelsong instead.

By and large, the core of the Twins’ roster remained the same. Center fielder Byron Buxton, infielder/outfielder Michael Sano and right-hander Jose Berrios still form the nucleus of the club’s top prospects. Middle infielder Brian Dozier will also return in 2017, though he appears to be on borrowed time with the Twins after putting up monster numbers in the second half of 2016. Ervin Santana will head the rotation again, accompanied by fellow veterans Hector Santiago, Kyle Gibson and Phil Hughes, while right-handed relievers Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Pressly and Matt Belisle and rehabbing lefty Glen Perkins attempt to prevent another bullpen collapse in 2017.

Without any major additions to the team (and, excepting the departure of Trevor Plouffe, any major subtractions), the Twins will look to their existing cadre of players for significant improvements in 2017. Miguel Sano is expected to take over third base in Plouffe’s absence, which will bring a welcome end to his short-lived and wholly unsuccessful experiment in right field. Brian Dozier, Jorge Polanco and Joe Mauer should round out the infield, with Byung Ho Park and Kennys Vargas currently vying for a spot as the team’s designated hitter.

The lineup is still four or five or six sluggers shy of formidable, but if Dozier can be counted on to repeat his 42-homer, 5.9 fWAR performance from 2016, there will be at least one Twin worth intentionally walking in 2017. Neither Miguel Sano nor Byron Buxton have quite found their footing against big league pitching yet, and another year spent struggling in the majors could mean another year of sub-optimal run production for the team as well. Jason Castro, who grades as an above-average defender behind the plate, is unlikely to provide any additional pop for the Twins at the plate after slashing just .210/.307/.377 through 376 PA with the Astros in 2016.

The pitching department also leaves a little to be desired in light of the league-worst 5.09 ERA they amassed last season. A veteran-heavy rotation could get a boost from the addition of fifth-starter candidate Jose Berrios, who is thought to be the favorite after fellow rotation candidate Trevor May underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this week. Right-hander Tyler Duffey and 23-year-old southpaw Adalberto Mejia are also waiting in the wings. Both have made convincing cases for their inclusion on the pitching staff this spring, but Duffey is coming off of a 6.43 ERA in 2016 and Mejia lacks some of the polish that Berrios offers. Still, stockpiling young pitching depth isn’t a bad thing, and could give the Twins a cushion in the event of injury or collapse down the stretch.

The bullpen outperformed the rotation in 2016, which is saying… something, though maybe not a lot. They still finished the year with a cumulative 4.63 ERA, good for last place among their American League rivals, and delivered just 2.1 fWAR while taking on the fourth-most innings in the league. The standout performer was 28-year-old righty Ryan Pressly, who worked a 3.70 ERA, 2.7 BB/9 and 8.0 SO/9 in 75 1/3 innings last year. In light of Ryan Vogelsong’s recent departure from the club, the Twins will round out their bullpen with left-hander Craig Breslow, who turned in a 4.50 ERA with the Marlins in 2016 and is looking for a bounce-back season of his own after reworking his delivery at age 36.

For now, it looks like Falvey and the Twins’ front office are taking a wait-and-see approach to the coming season, which bodes well for their long-term vision (assuming most of their young prospects pan out) and not so well for their chances of moving up in the division in the next year or so. That could change by the trade deadline if they can secure a worthwhile return for Dozier, though given the rumors of their understandably high asking price, it could take more than a few months to get a deal in place.

Even assuming that all the chips fall in the Twins’ favor in 2017 — prospects start hitting consistently, the rotation solidifies, and Falvey loosens the purse strings enough to net more established contenders — it’s difficult to imagine anything more than a fourth-place finish for the club as they continue to rebuild and regroup. Barring any major improvements on the inconsistent, if occasionally productive, lineup of 2016, another last-place finish feels imminent.

Prediction: Fifth place, AL Central.