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Lots of people want to buy in to MLBAM, but the owners aren’t selling

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Major League Baseball Advanced Media — the baseball subsidiary behind MLB.com. MLB.tv and a lot of stuff about which you have no idea — is a gold mine.  It, more than anything, has been responsible for the sharp increase in baseball revenues in recent years. And as an added bonus, the company just gets stuff right.  I can watch a Mariners-A’s game on a Tuesday night in Ohio if I want to, and I can do so relatively cheaply. And it works. As does most of the stuff they do. Viva MLBAM.

But when you get a money-making enterprise that folks like, other folks will want to invest in it. And as Business Insider reported the other day, lots of private equity groups want to invest in MLBAM.  But baseball is rejecting these overtures, preferring to forgo the instant liquidity in favor of keeping it the league and the owners’ very own private thing.  BI has some possible explanations for this:

A source close to the talks tells us the company gets “call a day” from private equity firms, but that the company isn’t looking to sell a stake for a few reasons:

  • It’s already loaded with cash.
  • Owners are already getting a huge dividend.
  • Selling a billion dollar stake in MLBAM any time soon would make it very hard for owners to argue that they’re broke in upcoming labor negotiations with players.
  • Selling a stake could further complicate the ownership stake and perhaps even force a dreaded shotgun IPO.

Those are all very plausible reasons. I’ll add another one:  The books of major league baseball owners are a thicket of self-dealing and chaos, and there’s no way in hell they want to open them up to anyone they don’t have to lest people see just how ugly they really are.  If you doubt this, just recall the fun stuff we saw when Frank McCourt and Tom Hicks were forced to open their books in litigation. Or when Deadspin reported on a bunch of leaked financials from the Pirates, Marlins and other teams.

It’s less the case than it used to be, but in a lot of ways baseball teams are multi-million dollar businesses being run like a small town auto dealership.  They make money to beat the band, but they’re not about to share that with the Wall Street crowd.

Report: Jeff Manship signs with NC Dinos

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 01:  Jeff Manship #53 of the Cleveland Indians throws a pitch during the sixth inning against the Chicago Cubs in Game Six of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 1, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Free agent right-hander Jeff Manship has reportedly signed with the NC Dinos of the Korea Baseball Organization, according to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The righty was non-tendered by the Indians in December.

Manship, 32, completed his second season with Cleveland in 2016. He delivered a 3.12 ERA, 4.6 BB/9 and 7.5 SO/9 rate over 43 1/3 innings, a slight decline after posting an 0.92 ERA with the club the year before. During eight years in the major leagues, Manship carries a 4.82 career ERA, 3.6 BB/9 and 6.4 SO/9 in multiple stints with the Twins, Rockies, Phillies and Indians.

The right-hander will be joined by fellow MLB transplants Eric Hacker and Xavier Scruggs, each of whom took one-year deals with the Dinos last month. Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors notes that each KBO team is allowed up to three foreign players, so Manship will round out the trio when he joins the roster. Any salary terms have yet to be disclosed.

Matt Wieters could draw interest from Reds

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 15: Matt Wieters #32 of the Baltimore Orioles looks on against the Tampa Bay Rays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 15, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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With the Braves on the cusp of formalizing their one-year deal with Kurt Suzuki, the market for free agent catcher Matt Wieters is dwindling. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick references an inside source that lists the Angels, Rockies and Reds as potential suitors for the 30-year-old’s services.

Wieters is coming off of an eight-year career with the Orioles. In 2016, he played through his first full year after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2014 and batted .243/.302/.409 with 17 home runs and a .711 OPS in 464 PA. A return to Baltimore in 2017 isn’t out of the question, Crasnick writes, citing some within the team that would be open to Wieters stepping into a DH role and catching platoon with Wellington Castillo. However, he also points out that the front office appears divided on the veteran catcher, and sees the Orioles as a long shot for the foreseeable future.

The Angels have already been tied to Wieters this offseason, while the Rockies and Reds don’t appear to have made any formal inquiries so far. Both could use a veteran presence behind the dish, as the Rockies are planning to platoon rookie catcher Tom Murphy with 24-year-old Tony Wolters in the spring. The Reds, meanwhile, are banking on a quick recovery for 28-year-old Devin Mesoraco, who missed most of the 2016 season after undergoing shoulder and hip surgery and forced the club to rely almost exclusively on back-up backstop Tucker Barnhart.